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DRI maintains top tier ranking in latest National Science Foundation survey

RENO\LAS VEGAS – Despite a nationwide trend in declining federal research support, Nevada’s Desert Research Institute (DRI) has maintained its top tier status in the latest survey from the National Science Foundation (NSF), based on annual research and development expenditures in the environmental sciences.

Released in late 2015, the NSF’s Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey ranked the DRI in the top 10 percent (26th out of 416) of colleges and universities in the United States reporting federally financed environmental sciences research and development expenditures in four main categories – atmospheric sciences, earth sciences, oceanography, and environmental sciences other.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the University of Washington, Seattle, and the University of Colorado, Boulder topped out the list of more than 400 institutions.

“For more than a decade we (DRI) have ranked among the top 30 institutions competing for and spending federal research dollars in the environmental sciences,” stated Dr. Stephen G. Wells, DRI President. “Although there have been several challenging issues with the level of federal R&D funding in recent years, our faculty have remained extremely competitive. We have continued to secure critical federal research dollars and maintained DRI's role as a world scientific leader investigating the effects of natural and human-induced environmental change and applying advanced technologies aimed at assessing our changing planet.”

More than 80 percent of DRI’s total research grants and contracts revenue in FY 2014 came from federal sources, with approximately 22% from the Department of Energy and 15% from the Department of Defense, explained Dr. Alan Gertler, DRI Vice President for Research and Chief Science Officer.

DRI does work for over a dozen federal agencies and has on average more than 400 research projects underway across Nevada and around the world, added Gertler.

Three Nevada System of Higher Education institutions ranked in the top 75 of the NSF HERD Survey category for federally financed environmental sciences R&D expenditures, with the University of Nevada, Reno ranked 63rd and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas ranked 70th.

Federal funding of higher education research and development failed to outpace inflation for the third straight year, according the NSF’s summary report of the HERD data released with the survey. When adjusted for inflation, federal funding for higher education R&D declined by 5.1 percent between FY 2013 and FY 2014 and has fallen over 11 percent since its peak in FY 2011. This is the longest multiyear decline in federal funding for academic R&D since the beginning of the annually collected data series in FY 1972, according to the summary report.

The National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development Survey is the primary source of information on R&D expenditures within higher education institutions in the United States and outlying areas.

To view the NSF federally financed higher education R&D expenditures in the environmental sciences, ranked by all FY 2014 environmental sciences please visit -

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