strategic plan goal 4 strengthen research enterprise

Perform life-changing, interdisciplinary research and scholarship that is supported by world-class infrastructure and conducted by highly motivated researchers addressing the community and society’s greatest challenges.

The University of Memphis has steadily increased its research and scholarship profile. Our growing research strength has been acknowledged by our recent designation as a Carnegie R1 (first tier) doctoral research University engaged in very high research activity — a designation that has to be earned every three years. Reflecting the great team efforts by our faculty, staff and students; our R1 distinction requires continuing to meet or exceed a rigorous, objective set of metrics. Our R1 designation positions us to further improve our standing as a University and to achieve other important goals, including attracting high quality faculty and staff; expanding and deepening partnerships; and engaging in even higher levels of research. However, R1 is not a life-time distinction; it must continue to be earned. Thus, we cannot be complacent in our achievement. Instead, we must use our research momentum to create a stronger, self-sustaining research enterprise.


Increased and Enhanced Research Capacity.

Our objective is to increase and enhance our research capacity through thoughtful people strategies that focus on front-line researchers and support staff and external partnerships. Our efforts begin with recruiting and retaining junior and seasoned faculty, with strong research aptitude and passion, particularly in fields that generate significant external funding, such as STEM+H. Growth of our undergraduate programs is critical because more students enable hiring of more research faculty, particularly in the STEM fields. We are also growing our graduate research population. To catalyze this graduate student growth, we are evaluating and adjusting compensation and benefits for our graduate students. The production of humanity PhDs and professional degrees, one of the metrics that contributes to R1 status, is important. At the undergraduate level, we will offer more research opportunities to create excitement in conducting research through innovation and exploring new ideas, which will increase overall research capacity. Additional research capacity is also being accomplished through external partnerships — e.g., realizing opportunities to partner, share capacity, jointly invest and engage in other forms of collaboration.


Improved and Expanded Research Infrastructure.

Our objective is to enhance and more efficiently utilize (through consolidation and better coordination) existing infrastructure, while investing in additional capacity, particularly for high impact/potential research focus areas. To these ends, we are modernizing laboratories, including installing advanced climate control where needed. Instrumentation is also being updated or replaced, accompanied by funded sustainment/sharing plans that include technical support, scheduled maintenance/replacement and shared access protocols. In some cases, research space is being renovated, reconfigured and consolidated to maximally support multi-uses and higher utilization. We are upgrading our data analytic capabilities through additions of advanced, well-supported, expandable, highperformance computing capacity supplemented by a well-resourced statistical consulting service.


Re-Engineered Research Processes.

Our objective is to create efficient, service-driven, compliant/secure research systems that maximize our research investment. To these ends, we are re-engineering our research processes — including pre-award, grant writing, post-award, hiring, procurement, accounting, compliance/reporting and legal counsel — to make them seamless, and more complementary and supportive of research endeavors. This includes upgrading the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to ensure we have good protocols for protecting the rights and welfare of humans participating as subjects in the research (e.g., safeguarding subjects’ data while allowing sharing of this data). These improvements are part of a broader effort, including clearer delineation of responsibility, to ensure all reporting and compliance requirements are met.


Empowered and Enthused Leadership, Culture and Organization.

Our objective is to create a research culture and organization that supports, values and incentivizes consistent research accomplishment, especially collaborative, high-impact research. Creating such a culture begins with developing a shared organizational understanding of what our R1 designation means and entails. This includes a common appreciation for a much stronger emphasis on research funding, such as STEM+H, and the role of research funding in elevating all elements of the University. Patience will be required, especially in financial matters, as we transition to a more intensive and sustainable research model. It also requires much more interdisciplinary and interprofessional cooperation that we are catalyzing through a systemic approach that includes redesigned incentives, more recognition, organizational realignment, collaborative spaces for joint innovation and collaborative events and activities. Recognizing that not all fields have access to extramural funding, it is important to emphasize that a healthy research culture extends well beyond the STEM+H fields and external funding to include creative endeavors, such as art and literary works, inventions and publications; non-STEM+H scholars are important to translating research (e.g., through policy development) to maximize its impact. It is also important to recognize the importance of a strong and pervasive research culture to the sustainability of a strong student body. Overall, we are promoting an abundance (vs. zero-sum) mindset. We are committed to eliminating barriers to collaboration (e.g., sharing data while ensuring its protection) to facilitate alignment of unit goals with the University goals.


Purposeful and Impactful Research Centers and Institutes.

Our objective is to better utilize centers and institutes to bring together University and external resources to address the most challenging research problems. Centers generally address narrower research areas, reside in a single college or school and require few dedicated resources. Institutes generally address wider interdisciplinary research areas and involve significant dedicated research support and infrastructure. Institutes will often host multiple centers (sometimes serving as an incubator of centers and spin-offs) and act as the public partner in Public-Private Partnerships. Both centers and institutes act as catalysts for research by connecting with community organizations and citizens or creating a channel for private industry to approach and engage our University. They bring together and leverage strengths from multiple departments or colleges.


Key Research Focus Areas.

Our objective is to concentrate on high-impact interdisciplinary research that leverages current (or potential) University and local market strengths, and has important regional, state or national implications. Sometimes referred to as Grand Challenge areas by NIH, NSF and other federal funding agencies; these designated research areas address some of society’s biggest problems and generate great positive impact on our world. To determine our focus areas (e.g., our Grand Challenge areas), we are analyzing external research funding allocation and trends. We are also creating a competency (e.g., a team and plan/approach) for generating interdisciplinary Big Ideas. Our aim is to identify five to seven cross-disciplinary, high-potential/growth areas that leverage our strengths, will attract generous external funding and fit our local and regional economic profile. In addition to standard state and federal funding, universities are increasingly relying on the private sector to fund key research initiatives; given our location, this may prove to be a great opportunity.


Catalyzed Economic Development.

Our objective is to strengthen engagement with both the public and private sectors, so that the University of Memphis becomes a first resource for addressing critical social, economic, environmental and employment issues; thereby accelerating the economic growth of the Memphis metropolitan area, Tennessee and the Mid-South region. Achieving this objective begins with expanding and deepening local, state and regional partnerships with businesses, non-profits and government; with a focus on value creation resulting from both innovation and employment. We care about social mobility, especially the creation of high-skilled, well-paying, durable employment in our state and region. We intend to document our economic impact on both individuals and the economy. We are also increasing our involvement in attracting new industries and businesses to our region, working with local and state government and their corporate partners, such as utility providers; we aspire to provide on-going support to these new employers, including manufacturing assistance, workforce development and technology development/transfer. Our workforce development efforts will apply our University’s deep expertise not only in STEM, but also in business and the social sciences. Our economic development efforts will also employ public-private partnerships and better leverage our deans.


Enlarged and Diversified Funding.

Our objective is to increase and diversify extramural funding, particularly federal funding, but also funding from our state government and the private sector, including non-profits and foundations; and to direct that funding to areas of highest impact that will foster self-sustainment of our research enterprise. We are supplanting institutional research funding with diversified external funding, with an aim to reach typical R1 levels. We are aligning this funding approach with our research focus areas. We are looking for creative ways to defray costs and stretch research dollars through leasing, borrowing and contribution of equipment and services from external partners. To this end, we are also establishing better processes to review research spending to ensure a high benefit-to-cost ratio.


Greater Research Visibility.

Our objective is to elevate our research profile through better external promotion that focuses on societal impact so that we gain the national and international recognition that we deserve for our research accomplishments. Increasing our research distinction begins with publicizing our research accomplishments, including raising expectations for faculty publishing. We must better relate our University’s impact on our community, state, nation and the world. Given the importance of our University to the city, we will highlight research that directly benefits the community to showcase our important role as an urban research institution. We will liaise with state government officials so they understand the value our University produces for the state through our research. And we will engage our representatives in Washington, D.C., to inform our congressional delegation about returns on investments made in the University of Memphis and how we are advancing the federal agenda in the Grand Challenge areas.

Goal 4

Historical Data Targets
Fall 2018 Fall 2019 Fall 2020 Fall 2021 Fall 2022 Fall 2023 Fall 2024 Fall 2025 Fall 2026 Fall 2027
Total Research Expenditures^ $52.3 M $54.6 M $62.6 M $59.7 M $61.4 M $63.1 M $72.6 M $83.5 M $96 M $110.4 M
Total Extramural Funding                    
Federal Research Awards $22.4 M $21 M $30.1 M $36.8 M $35.1 M $40.4 M $46.4 M $53.4 M $61.4 M $70.6 M
Non-Federal Research Awards $9.1 M $15.3 M $9.5 M $14.2 M $14.2 M $17 M $19.6 M $22.5 M $25.9 M $29.7 M
Total Journal Publications 1,023 944 1,080 1,118 1,049 1,100 1,150 1,200 1,250 1,300
Total Citations* 35,257 38,369 42,324 48,627 53,872 58,000 61,000 64,000 68,000 75,000
Percentage of Faculty Seeking Funded Research 27% 30% 30% 28% 31% 31% 32% 33% 34% 35%

^ = Represents number of dollars rounded to nearest hundred thousandth

* = Represents number of citations for publications published in that specific year

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