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WVU retains coveted R1 research designation

Article written by Mike Nolting for MetroNews
February 5, 2022

According to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, WVU has kept its status as an R1 institution.

WVU Vice President of research Fred King said the R1 distinction is shared by only 146 other schools.

“In 2021 we had approximately $180 million in research expenditures from a variety of sources,” King said. “The largest source being the federal government.”

Carnegie looked at more than 3,900 institutions for the R1 classification. Programs are evaluated on factors like reach of research and teaching programs and the number of doctoral degrees awarded and how much economic activity is generated.

“The research we do at the university has to have impact,” King said. “One of the primary measures of impact is the extent of which what we do at the university can help the state diversify the economy.”

The R1 designation is very difficult to earn, but it’s also a class of program that students and professionals will work very hard to be a part of. The university first earned the honor in 2016.

“It also helps the university in terms of attracting talented students and talented faculty,” King said. “Because they like to be at an institution that’s working on the cutting edge of the disciplines.”

King said research efforts that have resulted in gravitation wave discoveries of a $10-million USDA-funded project to revitalize and reinvent marginalized lands in the Mid-Atlantic with biomass.

Rare Earth Element research created value out of acid mine drainage. Part of the WVU Energy Institute, The West Virginia Water Research Institute found a way to extract elements used to make phones, batteries, TVs and used in medical and defense applications from mine waste. The program is especially important because currently China produces 80 percent of the world’s rare earth elements.

“The Rare Earth Element work is a very nice example of something that started out as an academic research experience and from there you really found something that was highly valuable,” King said.

The R1 honor puts them in the same class as schools like Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Johns Hopkins. However, research programs at WVU span all disciplines.

“There are really only four other similar universities, Michigan State, Louisiana State, Colorado State and the University of Iowa,” King said.

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