Relationship to Research OutputBack to Table of Contents | Back to Findings
- Number of research grants and total US patents issued have a strong correlation with news coverage at public universities, with a slightly weaker correlation at private institutions. Total number of faculty has a strong correlation at both institutional types.
Institutions with larger research budgets attract greater media coverage, but the proportion of an institution's budget devoted to research does not have a measurable impact on news volume. Universities with larger student bodies and especially larger graduate populations also enjoy enhanced coverage. This suggests that research stature may play a critical role in attracting news coverage. While research "stature" itself would be difficult to quantify, three measures are used to assess characteristics of potentially high-productivity institutions: grant funding, patent output, and faculty size.
All National Science Foundation awards between 1979 and 2008 were compiled and crosswalked into the IPEDS institutional universe (NSF awards are sometimes granted to a subunit of an institution such as a research center or college, rather than the institution itself). NSF funding accounts for just one federal funding source, but is the primary granting agency for engineering and the social sciences, which would be highly represented at research extensive institutions. This underrepresents funding to medically-oriented institutions, which rely on the National Institute of Health and does not account for those schools which have strong industry-funded programs, but does serve to capture a cross-section of funding over a 29-year period. All United States patents awarded to research universities between 1979 and 2005 were similarly compiled from the United States Patent Office and crosswalked into the IPEDs universe. Patents may be used as a proxy measure for one aspect of the commercialization pipeline and have become an integral component of education's role in economic development. (Mowery & Sampat, 2001) Finally, the total number of FY2007 full-time faculty, both tenured and untenured, yields the universe of potential soundbites for today's New York Times.
Public institutions appear to have strong correlations on all three categories with r=0.88 for number of NSF grants, r=0.87 for combined dollar amount of all NSF grants, r=0.87 for number of patents, and r=0.80 for faculty. For private institutions, these factors seem to matter significantly less, with r=0.53 for NSF grants, r=0.43 for NSF dollar amount, r=0.29 for patents, and r=0.58 for faculty.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office prepared an extremely detailed report in 2007 summarizing major trends in patenting activity in higher education titled US Colleges and Universites: Utility Patent Grants, Calendar Years 1969-2005.
- National Science Foundation. Award Database. Extracted July 30, 2009.
- Mowery, David C. & Sampat, Bhaven N. (2001). University Patents and Patent Policy Debates in the USA, 1925-1980. Industrial and Corporate Change. 10(3). pp. 781-814.