Who's at the front of the research pack? It depends who you ask.

By Debra Goodell

One of our members' primary concerns is how to grow the research enterprise. But to effectively achieve this, or any other research goal, vice provosts for research (VPRs) need an assessment of their operation that is accurate, complete, and up-to-date.

The first place VPRs typically look when they benchmark a research enterprise is funding—the dollars that the university spends on research activity each year. While research funding data is readily available and facilitates a simple, quantitative comparison between schools, it doesn't tell the whole story of a research enterprise's strengths and weaknesses.

Research excellence is about more than just money; it refers to the overall quality and insight of the research that is undertaken and completed by the university. Indeed, deans are asked to evaluate primary investigators and research faculty by the impact of their work—not the amount of money that is directed to their research. Both funding and impact are important components of academic research, and they both contribute to the growth and prestige of the research enterprise, despite the fact that neither metric presents a complete picture of the health of the research enterprise at a university.

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