The University of Nebraska-Lincoln released a research fiscal report in early November, which shows Nebraska Research has set new records, with $320 million in total research expenditures.

“The goal of this publication is to highlight the breadth and depth of research happening at UNL,” Ashley Washburn, director of research communications, said in an email.

The report states that 1,948 jobs were created through research at UNL, Nebraska Innovation Campus had a $372 million economic impact and created $6.84 million in licensing revenue. The report also includes many examples of current research being done across UNL’s campus.

According to Washburn, UNL is classified as a Carnegie R1 Doctoral Research University, which means the university is at the “highest level of research activity” that a university can conduct.

“Research is part of UNL’s land-grant mission to serve the state of Nebraska through teaching, research and outreach,” Washburn said.

There are also multiple costs associated with research, and Washburn explained that funding can come from a number of different avenues, such as federal and state agencies, foundations and industry partners. Faculty at UNL can also attempt to get internal funding from the university to kick-start their research.

“High-quality research — the kind that makes an impact on our state, country and world — depends on specialized equipment, facilities, and personnel,” Washburn said.

One example of said high-quality research is being conducted by Troy Smith, assistant professor of management, who is studying how employers will respond to employees suggesting ideas that challenge the status quo. Smith explained that while the College of Business provides $4,000 per year to assistant professors for research purposes, it is up to the professor on how it is used.

“As a survey-based researcher, I typically don't use those funds for my personal development, rather I opt to use them to incentivize subjects to participate in my research studies,” Smith said in an email.

Smith also explained the additional benefit of adjusting his scheduled classes to maximize his time doing research.

“My department helps me personally by allowing me to stack my teaching in a way that permits me to teach all of my classes in one semester, thus enabling me to focus on research for the rest of the academic year,” Smith said.

When asked to justify the $320 million for research, Washburn stated there are many checks to ensure funding is used appropriately.

“Funded research projects have budgets to make sure funding is spent responsibly and with proper oversight,” Washburn said. “In addition to our internal processes at UNL, many federal agencies have annual reporting requirements to ensure research investments are spent wisely.”

Washburn said research is exciting because it can have an impact on everyone involved, including students who get to learn from pioneers.

“Students at UNL benefit from taking courses with faculty members who are doing leading research in their disciplines and can bring that knowledge back to their students,” Washburn said. 

Bottom line is, research being done at UNL is intended to build a better future for Nebraskans, she said.

“Nebraskans should know that UNL faculty are working hard to expand knowledge in their fields, and deliver on our university's promise to Nebraskans to conduct research, teaching, and engagement activities that positively impact our future,” Washburn said.