Joint Research Enterprise Takes on Major Challenges
Published 2/2/21 in Maryland Today
Scientists, scholars, doctors and engineers from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) and University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) have collaborated for years to create futuristic approaches to medical training, fight human trafficking, advance unmanned flight and much more. Now, this sustained teamwork is being recognized in a key measure of academic research activity—the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) survey—which for the first time links the institutions as a single research enterprise with expenditures of $1.1 billion.
Widely recognized as the preeminent measure for higher education institutions engaged in sponsored research, the HERD ranking pushes the University of Maryland into an elite tier in terms of funding—eighth in research and development spending among public institutions and 14th among all U.S. universities in fiscal year 2019. For 2018, UMD and UMB ranked 47th and 55th respectively.
The societal impact of University of Maryland research has expanded in recent years, thanks to a strategic partnership made possible by the late Maryland Senate President Emeritus Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr. ’64, Gov. Larry Hogan, Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson and the full Maryland General Assembly: The MPowering the State (MPower) initiative since 2012 has paved the way for UMB and UMCP to combine their research offices, aligning research initiatives and leadership under Vice President for Research Laurie E. Locascio, who has overseen the joint enterprise since 2018.
“Through the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership, the University of Maryland has become a world-class research enterprise—one with the power, depth and reach to discover knowledge, innovations and technologies,” said University of Maryland, College Park President Darryll J. Pines. “These advances are vital to meeting the challenges facing our world, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and racial, economic and health care injustice.”
Among the challenges the joint research enterprise has addressed are racial equity in law enforcement, with a program to help police recognize when they experience unconscious bias toward some citizens; the opioid epidemic, with a program to combat its ravages in neighborhoods and towns around the state; and human trafficking, with a center designed to assist victims of exploitation, conduct research to better understand the problem and promote political advocacy to end human trafficking.
In the realms of science, technology and medicine, the University of Maryland has developed groundbreaking therapeutic and other medical uses for virtual and augmented reality; established a center to study brain health and human performance based on the latest neuroscience research; and partnered in an institute to accelerate the development of advanced biomedical devices.
And since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, University of Maryland scientists and scholars have been at the forefront of the response, creating multidisciplinary teams in medicine, engineering, pharmaceuticals and social and behavioral science. Together, they are working to improve acceptance of vaccines among underserved minority communities, develop new rapid testing methods and better understand the virus itself.
“The speed with which we have established collaborative research teams to address challenges imposed by the coronavirus pandemic is a powerful statement about the effectiveness and impact of our joint research enterprise,” said UMB President Bruce E. Jarrell. “We are leveraging the expertise of virologists, physicians and pharmacologists in Baltimore with computer scientists, epidemiologists and molecular biologists in College Park.”
With this new ranking, the state of Maryland joins an elite group of six states with more than one research university conducting research at or above $1 billion per year, along with California, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
“Our University of Maryland research enterprise provides the opportunity for us to engage in exciting new areas of research that combine the strengths of experts in Baltimore and College Park to take on the world’s greatest challenges,” Locascio said. “This ranking reflects our status as a thriving and powerful research engine.”