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Ball State touted for research even as funding drops

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Ball State University is enjoying a growing reputation as a research university even as it finds the competition for funding to maintain that work getting tougher.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has classified Ball State as a "high research university" for the first time, elevating it to a status shared in Indiana only by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. But university officials say the recession and increasing competition for funding have made it more difficult to obtain the money needed to sustain such research.

"Our country has gone through difficult economic times, including Washington, and they're the ones who dole out the dollars," said Robert Morris, a chemist and associate provost for research and dean of the graduate school.

Ball State saw a nearly $4 million drop in external money received for research, public service, instruction, academic support and institutional support during 2010. The decline came after a record year in 2009 brought in $26.1 million.

Morris told The Star Press that university officials aren't worried. Ball State faculty submitted more than 650 proposals for external funding in 2010.

"Ball State is an exciting place to be," he said. "We expect continued, strong performance. This is not an institution that gets depressed or discouraged. This institution does not do that. People here think positively."

But he acknowledged that the lagging economy will make it difficult for Ball State to reach a goal of $45.2 million in external funding by 2012.

Nearly 100 schools nationwide are classified as high research universities.

Three Indiana schools — Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame — are among the nation's 108 "very high research" universities, according to the Carnegie Foundation.

Mei Zhao, who directs the classifications, said they allow researchers to compare institutions. They do not rank the quality or importance of the research being done, she said.

Ball State's research in 2010 included work to preserve an ecosystem in the Mojave Desert that is home to an endangered fish called the Devil's Hole pupfish, an effort to reduce high rates of shin splints among military recruits and work to improve higher education in Iraq.

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