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Quick Fact The Research Division/Office of the Vice Provost for Research consists of approximately 1,000 academic and nonacademic staff.

Aggregating Excellence

The Foundation of Cornell’s Preeminence In Research

Cornell University Robert Buhrman

The basis of Cornell’s leadership in research is a commitment to excellence in diverse and collaborative research. Cornell’s amazing breadth of research includes large-scale projects that will help improve the well-being of our national and global societies, smaller ingenious projects that will lead to breakthroughs in many areas, and scholarly work that supports and enhances the spirit of humanity.

To continue to lead, we must also continue to renew our faculty. Our excellent cadre of young faculty who won many national awards over the past year, including a notable number of National Science Foundation Early Career Development awards, strongly confirms the success of Cornell’s recent efforts at renewal.

Cornell faculty continue to increase the university’s external funding for top-flight research and to secure our leadership position in academic research. In FY 2009 Cornell was second among the nation’s research universities in total National Science Foundation (NSF) research funding. Prior to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus funding, Cornell had a 5 percent increase in research funding on the Ithaca campus for FY 2009, with a marked increase in nonprofit and foundation funding. A Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s award of $26.8 million established a Cornell global partnership to fight stem rust, a lethal wheat disease that threatens global food security. The NSF’s renewal and increase in funding for the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN) for the next five years confirms the impact of this network led by Cornell.

By the end of 2009, Cornell researchers on the Ithaca and New York City campuses had received more than $140 million in stimulus funding, garnering exceptional success across areas with the immediate potential to address some of the nation’s urgent needs. We received $17.5 million from the Department of Energy, along with additional funds from New York State, for an Energy Frontier Research Center: the Energy Materials Center at Cornell (EMC2). Cornell’s Ithaca campus and Weill Cornell Medical College, partnering with the University of Buffalo, received $13 million from the National Cancer Institute to fund the Center for the Microenvironment and Metastasis, which brings physicians and engineers together to gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of cancer. NSF’s yearlong review of the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source and Energy Recovery Linac R&D program culminated in NSF’s National Science Board approving up to $125 million in funding for CHESS and ERL over the next four years.

Cornell continues to lead in research and technology development, including advanced materials, computer and information sciences, and nanoscience and nanotechnology—which are rapidly evolving fields that are now playing a fast-growing role in medical technology. Cornell leads in research on personal decision making and lifestyle in human health, including such issues as obesity and smoking, which extract steep personal and societal costs. The impact of Cornell’s work in genomics touches on all areas of the life sciences. Analysis of genetic information that was unattainable 10 years ago—now available at ever-decreasing costs—is yielding knowledge and insights that will reshape biology in coming decades.

Endorsing Excellence

We recognize that Cornell has excellent strengths across the campus—and it’s exciting. We want to support all of our strengths, based on our ability to make strategic investments and attain external resources in areas where available; advance in areas where Cornell has strong potential; and excel in areas of current strength. By recognizing and supporting excellence, Cornell has been, and still is, at the forefront of trends where we can make significant contributions to meeting societal needs and enriching humanity. I aim to extend our support of excellence and to ensure, to the extent possible, that Cornell faculty have the facilities, particularly shared facilities, and tools they need to excel.

To Reimagine
As we look toward Cornell’s future, our vision for Cornell research is straightforward. We want the Cornell research enterprise to have
  • Tactics and actions that will enhance our research productivity and enable Cornell to excel in emerging, breakthrough areas defined by the faculty;
  • Mechanisms by which new initiatives of the faculty with the prospect of expanding Cornell’s research leadership, yielding a strong impact, and winning external funding in the appropriate areas can be addressed as they as they emerge;
  • A Way to Use the resources we have—which are limited—as effectively and efficiently as possible, taking our best practices in organizing shared facilities, administrating research, and stimulating and supporting interdisciplinary initiatives and implementing these successfully and appropriately across campus; and
  • A Strategy to identify Cornell’s best areas and determine how to make those areas even better, without detracting from other areas.
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