Baylor Continues Illuminate Progress, Research Growth in 2020

January 28, 2021

Throughout a year that presented many unexpected challenges, Baylor University faculty and administration remained focused on meaningful research. Their work continues to advance Baylor’s compelling research vision and the pursuit of Tier 1/R1 research status. A variety of research metrics and external honors, staff additions, new programs and more demonstrate progress on the roadmap of Illuminate, the University’s strategic plan.

More immediately, that growth addresses global challenges, engages students and advances Baylor’s mission through the form of faculty research marked by quality, visibility and impact.

“Over the past year, Baylor faculty have arguably been asked to do more than they’ve had to do at any point in the past, and they have risen to the challenge,” Kevin Chambliss, Ph.D., vice provost for research, said. “They have not only maintained a high level of productivity going into the pandemic, they’ve increased it. And that, to me, speaks of how dedicated they’ve been to the cause we’re moving forward, growing Baylor’s vision of preeminence as a Christian research university.”

Annual Benchmarks

After the adoption of Illuminate by Baylor University’s Board of Regents in 2018, the University developed detailed plans, internal and external benchmarks, and targeted areas of growth to provide the infrastructure needed to support R1 research.

“Each year, President Livingstone, Kevin Chambliss and I discuss our goals for research metrics—where we’ve been and where we want to go,” Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D., said, “and we simply model it out. From there, we work with the deans who are responsible for bringing in research funding that will add up to the overall university goal. A key part of the success is that no one person owns these metrics, but everyone is working and moving in the same direction.”

These internal goals provide a framework to meet the benchmarks of an R1 research university, as defined by The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The University has met and exceeded stretch goals designed to accelerate Baylor’s research output and impact in the past year. At the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year, Baylor University President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., shared with the Board the news of substantial annual growth in research expenditures, submitted research proposals and research awards.

Research Metrics

At the halfway mark of the 2021 fiscal year (through quarter two), a period marked by global and local focus on COVID-19, Baylor has sustained meaningful growth in annual research metrics.

Cindy Todd, OVPR Director of Data Analysis and Planning, reports that Baylor:

-Is ahead of last year’s total for research awards and research expenditures. Awards are up 41 percent relative to the prior year. Research expenditures grew nine percent.

-Remains on track to exceed goals and reach stretch goals for research awards and research expenditures. At the halfway mark of the fiscal year, research awards are at 49 percent of the University’s annual stretch goal, with expenditures at 48 percent of the annual stretch goal.

--Is on track to maintain a substantial increase in proposal submissions from the fiscal year 2020. After a 31 percent increase in proposal submissions from 2019 to 2020, Baylor is poised to maintain that total this fiscal year.

“Baylor faculty knocked it out of the park this year; I don’t know of a better way of saying it,” Brickhouse said. “Even under very challenging circumstances, they are incredibly productive in terms of moving towards these goals and conducting meaningful research. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be at Baylor.”

Career Development Awards Benchmark

Five Baylor faculty members received Career Development Awards in 2020, setting a new university-high total in a calendar year. Four professors earned a National Science Foundation CAREER Award:

-Kenneth Befus, Ph.D., assistant professor of geosciences
-Elyssia Gallagher, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry
-Stanley Ling, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering
-Michael Scullin, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience

Leigh Greathouse, Ph.D., assistant professor in human sciences and design, earned a Career Development Award from the Department of Defense. This year’s record class brings the University’s overall total of faculty who have earned career development awards to 13.

Career Development Awards embody the growth of external research funding, but are just one aspect of that progress. Baylor faculty earned a variety of research grants in 2020 across numerous disciplines, representing each strategic initiative of Illuminate.

New Graduate Programs, Post-graduate Enrollment Growth

The addition of new graduate programs will be a key aspect of Baylor’s sustained research growth. In 2020, Baylor announced new PhD. programs in Anthropology, Communication Sciences & Disorders and School Psychology and a dual-track Master of Arts in School Leadership.

Baylor continued to welcome new Ph.D. students to the University, growing from 1,480 doctoral students in 2019 to 1,995 in 2020—nearly a 35 percent increase. Likewise, the number of students pursuing their Master’s at Baylor grew nearly 29 percent in the last year—from 1,606 in 2019 to 2,070 in 2020.

OVPR Infrastructure Growth

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) supports faculty members from all academic units in their research and scholarship. The office grew in 2020 and restructured the responsibilities of the Associate Vice Provost for Research (AVPR) position. The AVPR position will enhance continuities and increase efficiencies across the various functions that comprise research administration, while freeing OVPR leadership to invest more time in Baylor’s rapidly expanding research vision.

“The position of associate vice provost for research is a position that is going to focus on the business operations,” Brickhouse said. “The benefits extend throughout our operation, allowing Kevin to focus more on being strategic--helping me and Baylor’s deans think about strategic hiring areas of excellence that we can really build around. And it’s a position that makes the business side run so that scientists can spend more time thinking about science as opposed to management.”

Susan Stearsman was named AVPR at Baylor in January 2021, after filling the position in an interim role the previous year. She leads a comprehensive grants and contracts team that spans pre-award, post-award, research compliance, and data analytics, and will oversee many of the day-to-day operations that are critical to growing and sustaining a large research enterprise.

Additionally, Baylor OVPR adopted new procedures to better facilitate a growing research enterprise, including new proposal submission deadlines to meet the growing demand for pre-award services. University Research Administrators (URA) support faculty throughout the submission process, providing services that help faculty navigate deadlines, budget and compliance issues, administrative burdens and more to facilitate the highest level of award submissions.

Moving Forward

As Baylor moves into the latter portion of the fiscal year, faculty and leadership are poised to build on the past year’s growth. One way is through the creation of newly endowed faculty positions, funded through the Baylor Academic Challenge. The hiring process for five chair positions is underway.

“Our faculty have continually risen to the challenge and helped us reach this point,” Chambliss said. “We will continue to work together towards those annual performance goals in the new year. There’s also movement around our academic challenge initiative, and the Baylor donor base has really rallied around these endowed chairs.

“I think we all hope that 2021 is a year where we begin to move back towards some sense of normalcy, but our future is bright and we have many people doing their part to help us grow the research vision as we move forward.”