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OU Sets Research Record: Expenditures Increase 22.19% Despite COVID-19 Challenges

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May 4, 2021

OU Sets Research Record: Expenditures Increase 22.19% Despite COVID-19 Challenges

NORMAN, OKLA. – In spite of challenges posed by the pandemic, University of Oklahoma research expenditures hit record levels in fiscal year 2020 – up 22.19% over the previous fiscal year to a record-high total of $377.6 million – providing a critical boost to Oklahoma’s economy during COVID-19.

The total, which accounts for research expenditures on OU’s three campuses in Norman, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, eclipses any in the university’s history and is a key contributor to OU’s overall $2.6 billion annual statewide economic impact.

“These exceptional achievements underscore the remarkable momentum of the OU research enterprise,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr.  “As Oklahoma’s flagship institution, one of our most important obligations to our state is to fuel its economic growth and foster new discoveries, and this tremendous growth in research is evidence of this commitment.”

The university saw increased expenditures in several research areas outlined in OU’s Strategic Plan for the Norman campus, “Lead On, University,” including aerospace, defense and global security; environment, energy and sustainability; the future of health; and society and community transformation. These strategic research verticals – which are detailed on the Vice President for Research and Partnerships website – leverage key areas of OU’s academic strength to help solve some of the biggest challenges facing society today.  

“The continued growth of sponsored research at OU is testament to the creativity, innovation and hard work of our faculty and to the quality of the research being conducted,” said OU Vice President for Research and Partnerships Tomás Díaz de la Rubia.

In FY2020, OU’s largest category of research expenditures were federal agencies ($191.2 million), particularly the U.S. Department of Commerce/the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, NASA, the U.S. Department of Education and others. Other major funders included state government and local agencies ($61.3 million), the business sector ($17.8 million) and nonprofit organizations ($10.1 million).

“Researchers at the OU Health Sciences Center are discovering new therapies for diseases, and improving health outcomes for Oklahomans,” said Jason Sanders, M.D., MBA, senior vice president and provost of the OU Health Sciences Center and acting chair of the board of OU Medicine. “The National Institutes of Health (NIH) invest significant funding in OU because it is a leading academic health system, where patients receive exceptional care that is driven by innovative research.”

The pandemic presented researchers with significant challenges, including global travel restrictions that forced many scholars to adjust research plans, particularly for international research. When COVID-19 hit, OU quickly established COVID-19 guidelines for research for the safe continuation of the majority of its research operations and worked to reopen labs as early as May 2020.

“OU faculty’s commitment to health and safety helped ensure graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, whose research is so critical to their academic careers, were able to return to campus quickly and safely,” Díaz de la Rubia said. “Now, with the challenges of the past year beginning to ease, we look forward to what we can accomplish next.”