Texas A&M AgriLife Research was ranked No. 1 in agricultural sciences expenditures for fiscal year 2012, the latest year for which figures are available, according to the National Science Foundation.
The agency, part of the Texas A&M University System, accounted for more than $176.4 million of the nearly $3.3 billion spent on agricultural research by more than 30 U.S. universities, surpassing the University of Florida, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, University of California-Davis and Purdue University in the top five positions.
In the past four years, AgriLife Research had totaled the third or fourth highest expenditures.
“This ranking is not about being No. 1 just to be No. 1,” said Dr. Craig Nessler, AgriLife Research director. “It’s about positively impacting the lives of Texans, our fellow citizens across the nation and people worldwide with important scientific discoveries in agriculture.”
Nessler said the gains also are important because research budgets had a 17.5 percent cut and lost millions of dollars in earmark funding in recent years.
The National Science Foundation – created in 1950 by Congress “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense” – annually measures the total research spending in several categories, including agriculture.
“AgriLife Research is a leader not only in advanced scientific discovery but in its innovative approach to finding funds that enable our scientists to concentrate on their projects,” said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “I’m continuously amazed by the breadth and depth of efforts by AgriLife professionals to make our world a better place.”
AgriLife Research officials said the increased funding, up almost $53 million from the previous year, is due mostly to an increase in international projects and the efforts of Corporate Relations, the agency’s unit that seeks and coordinates major sponsored research opportunities for scientists.
Not only did AgriLife Research achieve the No.1 spot in the expenditures list, but its total was more than $25 million higher than any other of the top five universities in the last four years.
“The increase in research expenditures is important because it means faculty researchers have additional opportunities to do top-level scientific studies,” Nessler said. “A scientist’s passion for research shouldn’t have to be interrupted to search for funds in a shrinking economy.”