2019-2024 Strategic Plan

Goal 2: Transformative Research

Elevate research and scholarly impact to address society’s critical issues and promote economic development in Alabama and beyond.

Elevating Auburn University’s research profile is imperative to earning our place among the most impactful universities that truly transform the world. Whether creative endeavors, such as artistic works and performances, or scholarly output, such as academic publications or inventions, we promote these activities because they prompt intellectual advancement and expand learning. However, to truly elevate our research and transformative impact, we will invest more in research and development programs that address society’s most challenging issues. And increasingly, we will measure impact by jobs created, lives saved, patents and licenses granted, companies recruited or started, new technologies and products introduced, and similar tangible measures of success.

Elevating the research enterprise advances the teaching mission by ensuring that faculty stay current in the leading developments in their fields of study and engage the community in their research. Enhancing research advances the service mission by creating greater opportunities to engage the community and by providing transformative solutions to both local and global problems. Six areas have been identified as essential to elevating Auburn University’s scholarly and research impact.

Faculty and Research-Engaged Students.
To elevate its research impact, Auburn University will increase its research capacity through the hiring of additional faculty. This faculty recruitment effort will impact most elements of the research enterprise by allowing resources to better align with research priorities through targeted hiring in specific areas of research.

Increasing and strengthening Auburn’s research-intensive student population, specifically in PhD and professional programs, is a further prerequisite to elevating our impact. Graduate and post-graduate researchers are needed to support research-oriented faculty. We will implement new recruitment strategies and target top graduate school candidates from across the nation and world. We will adjust our international recruitment efforts to align with anticipated enrollment trends while continuing to place a strategic focus on the recruitment of students from the US. We will continue to enhance graduate fellowship programs.

Strengthening the research culture and career-long research engagement are essential to propelling Auburn to the top ranks of research universities. Research distinction and continued research engagement is the expectation. Areas of excellence must expand to the entire research enterprise and be enhanced by collaboration across disciplines. Achieving this cross-university excellence requires changing incentives, support mechanisms, and organizational structure. This includes carving out specific time for faculty to conduct research. It also includes ensuring faculty are appropriately recognized and rewarded for their accomplishments. Raising our visibility is critical to changing our research culture and to our ability to recruit. Continued success will require less risk aversion and pursuing opportunities with more deliberate speed. As we work to increase our research capacity, the hiring of new faculty presents an opportunity to facilitate and accelerate a culture and paradigm shift in our research enterprise.

Process and Capabilties.
Well-defined, efficient, and streamlined institutional processes and capabilities foster transformational research and characterize the best research enterprises. Auburn University will more deeply inculcate these traits in our research. First, we will be more strategic in our program development and product differentiation. Second, policies and procedures will be streamlined, more efficient, and appropriately risk-tolerant. Simplified administrative processes and policies are important to promote research engagement. Third, continuity in the transformative research process—beginning with basic research and ending with start-up incubation/acceleration—is our aim. We will demonstrate university-wide, end-to-end capability to efficiently and effectively translate basic research into practical solutions with broad market uptake. Fourth, research administration, as incentivized partners, will be more closely connected with research success. Where appropriate, technology will be applied to better enable the traits described above.

Partnering is an especially important component of, and opportunity for, our research enterprise. Auburn University must become easier to work with. We will better leverage Auburn relationships with federal, state, and local governments and with industry, particularly advanced manufacturing firms. The paths to these partnerships should be easy, characterized by simple and practical 2 9 agreements. For key research partners, we will establish goals and engagement plans.

Auburn University’s research will have a more discernable and transformative impact. Our research must grow our recognition and reputation, contribute to the body of knowledge, or solve practical problems—ideally, all three. To receive funding, research increasingly must be directly linked to stakeholder benefits that are clearly communicated and link back to the tripartite mission of education, research, and service. Auburn University is increasingly focusing on research and technology transition that aligns with customer and market needs. Such opportunities require we engage in basic research with tangible and identified translational impact. They also require that we better leverage favorable socio-political factors in Alabama and the Southeast, including population growth; transformational research needs; flourishing space, defense, biotechnology and manufacturing industries; and strong economic growth. Our university is increasingly a launchpad for entrepreneurs, industry leaders, government officials, and others, as we improve quality of life and create economic opportunities. Such approaches allow us to more easily tap business and capital markets for funding research and development. Offering many research advantages, Auburn University is being sought out by partners whose research efforts are often hampered by high overhead costs and institutional inertia. Moreover, our research-active students address our partners’ critical workforce development needs that undergird true innovation. We have many great research success stories to tell, but we need more. We also must tell our research success stories better. Glaring examples of Auburn University’s research success must be broadly disseminated so that the visibility and stature of our research enterprise can further propel our efforts.

Auburn University currently possesses much of the infrastructure—laboratories and equipment—required for world-class research. In the future, we will better leverage and synchronize these existing assets, expand critical technical and equipment support infrastructure, and work more closely with local entities and initiatives. Assessing and planning for equipment and infrastructure upgrades, including identifying opportunities to share resources across schools and colleges, is a priority.

Auburn University is nationally and internationally recognized and respected for strength in certain research areas. These bases of expertise are serving as a platform for extending our research enterprise. Research strengths need to intersect with those areas with the highest demand for research. These high-demand research areas often closely correlate with the Grand Challenges as described by the NSF, NIH and other major federal government funding agencies. In the case of industry, our focus is on innovation (i.e., commercialization of intellectual property) and high economic-multiplier manufacturing jobs. Auburn University must attain enough momentum in enough areas to maintain research sustainability and further elevate its research profile.

6-year graduation rate and First year retentation rate
Total research expenditures Federally financed research expenditures
2015-16 $152,381 $54,751
2016-17 $190,340 $55,700
2017-18 $212,925 $58,488
2018-19 $231,619 $64,333
2019-20 $255,400* $73,500*

* Projected estimates; final figures available Nov. 2020

Journal articles per year**
2015-16 1,297
2016-17 1,411
2017-18 1,538
2018-19 1,512
2019-20 1,634

** Average journal articles per year using a 4-year rolling window, per Academic Analytics Comparativie Data Portal (projected)

Citations per year ***
2015-16 8,430
2016-17 10,489
2017-18 12,306
2018-19 14,756
2019-20 16,279

*** Average citations per year using a 5-year rolling window, per Academic Analytics Cmparative Data Portal (projected)

Licensing and commercialization Revenue
2015-16 $1,215,376
2016-17 $1,414,816
2017-18 $1,266,524
2018-19 $1,388,742
2019-20 $4,610,567
Total research expenditures ($1,000s) $260,997 $287,097 $315,806 $347,387
Federally financed research expenditures ($1,000s) $65,773 $69,062 $75,968 $83,565
Journal articles per year** 1,832 1,942 2,059 2,183
Citations per year*** 17,289 19,364 21,688 24,290
Revenue ($) from licensing and commercialization $1,502,452 $1,577,574 $1,735,332 $1,908,865

*Projected estimates; final figures available November 2020.

**Average journal articles per year using a 4-year rolling window, per Academic Analytics Comparative Data Portal (projected).

**Average citations per year using a 5-year rolling window, per Academic Analytics Comparative Data Portal (projected).

Last updated: April 15, 2021