USC Annenberg increases research funding by 85 percent in fiscal year 2009

Faculty at USC Annenberg received a record amount of research funding in the 2009 fiscal year, sparked in part by major health communication grants.

The Annenberg School received $10.6 million in grants in fiscal year 2009, up from $5.7 million in 2008 and $4.4 million in 2007. The growth was aided in part by a jump in research proposals submitted, from 49 in 2008 to 68 in 2009.

“We’ve been on a rising trajectory for a number of years, but this year we increased our funding dramatically,” said Margaret McLaughlin, communication professor and associate dean for faculty affairs and research. “More and more, we are harnessing the talent of our researchers to help people live productive and healthy lives.”

Major funding in fiscal year 2009 included a $3.475 million National Institute of Mental Health grant to communication professor Lynn Miller and her team to develop a video game designed to reduce risky behavior that can lead to acquiring HIV, and a $568,000 National Science Foundation grant to communication professor Janet Fulk and alumna Yu Connie Yuan to study systems and networks of knowledge. Communication professor Dmitri Williams has received multiple grants to study group behavior by analyzing video game data, including a $176,000 grant from the NSF in fiscal year 2009.

McLaughlin said Dean Ernest J. Wilson III has been the driving force behind the rise of research grants at USC Annenberg, pointing to his appointment of staff dedicated to working with faculty to obtain funding. Ralph Wipfli came in January as the School’s first sponsored research coordinator. In his role, Wipfli works closely with contracts and grants coordinator Carolyn Bryant, assistant dean for finance Bruce Missaggia, associate dean McLaughlin, and assistant dean for development and alumni relations Francesca De Marco.

“Dean Wilson has provided additional support that has helped faculty navigate the complex and time-consuming process of submitting a grant,” she said. “Faculty can now focus on ideas for research and have all the help they need to turn their ideas into grants. Few other schools on campus have a dedicated sponsored research coordinator, and it gives us an advantage.”

Wipfli said Dean Wilson’s strategic direction has created an environment that allows and encourages faculty to pursue their research ideas.

“I see more and more faculty contacting me about their research needs and looking for information about what’s going on in the world of research. They’re asking about research happening in other schools and searching for possible partnerships.”

Fiscal year 2010 is already off to a fast start. A $3.285 million grant from the California HealthCare Foundation created the California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, directed by journalism professor Michael Parks. A $3.075 million grant from the National Institutes of Health aims to increase cancer awareness through narratives (communication professor Sheila Murphy is the principal investigator). McLaughlin partnered with USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering as the co-principal investigator on a 4-year $2.2 million National Science Foundation grant to improve bilingual and bicultural communication at medical facilities.

“Research and research grants are fundamentally important to any college or university, and a top priority for us at USC Annenberg,” Dean Wilson said. “I will continue to stress the importance of faculty making a difference by researching ways to contribute to the good of society.”

More on Miller's grant 
Fulk's grant
Murphy's grant 
Parks' grant 
McLaughlin's grant