Auburn University climbs in NSF’s ranking of research institutions

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Auburn University has risen in the rankings of research universities nationwide, according to the National Science Foundation’s recently released Higher Education Research and Development, or HERD, survey.

Auburn rose from No. 110 to the No. 105 position with $232 million reported in research expenditures for fiscal year 2019. The performance contributes to Auburn’s continued ranking as an R1 research institution with “very high research activity” in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

NSF’s HERD survey rankings are published a year behind data collection, explained Martha Taylor, Auburn assistant vice president for research.

“Given our position in fiscal 2019 rankings, our estimates for fiscal 2020 and the average growth over time of some of our peers, we hope to move into the top 100 with the next HERD data release, which will not be available until late in calendar year 2021,” Taylor said.

In fiscal 2019, Auburn moved ahead of a number of universities that previously ranked higher nationally, and, among its 14 peer universities in the Southeastern Conference, Auburn is among six that rose in the rankings, with six dropping and two remaining where they were.

“When comparing Auburn to peer institutions in the HERD rankings, it is important to consider the differences in total expenditures related to medical school research,” Taylor said. “If you remove the medical school expenditure data, Auburn comes in at No. 68 in the national rankings. This viewpoint shows Auburn as the highest ranked university in the state of Alabama.”

“We are very encouraged by Auburn’s continuing upward climb in the NSF HERD rankings,” said James Weyhenmeyer, Auburn vice president for research and economic development. “At No. 105, Auburn is the second highest ranked institution in the state of Alabama. This is truly a testament to the Auburn faculty who have continued to respond with cutting-edge research during what has been by any measure a very challenging year.”

The HERD data allows university leadership to compare the institution to its regional or aspirational peers using common metrics. Auburn has participated in the HERD survey for more than 30 years and has moved up and down the rankings. However, over the past five years, Auburn has consistently shown an average 10 percent growth annually and holds the third highest growth rate in 2019 among its SEC peer institutions in research expenditures. Auburn consistently performs well in the life sciences and engineering fields and maintains consistency in several other reporting categories.

HERD is the primary source of information on research and development expenditures at U.S. colleges and universities. The survey collects information on research and development expenditures by field of research and source of funds, and also gathers information on types of research, expenses and numbers of personnel involved in research and development activities at these institutions.

(Written by Mitch Emmons)

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.