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Discovery September 1999

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Grant Dollars at MSU Hold Steady


by Annette Trinity-Stevens

Grant dollars at MSU-Bozeman totalled just under $50 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

The final tally--$49.7 million--is less that last year's total of $51.9 million, said MSU vice president for research Tom McCoy. But two large projects temporarily inflated last year's total by about $7 million, he said.

Grant Dollars Larger graph available here

The now-complete Ag/Bioscience Center had $5.6 million in construction grants last year, and expenditures related to the "green building" project added another $1.2 million.

Without those two projects, last year's total would have been closer to $45 million, making this another year of growth for research and teaching projects funded by non-university sources, McCoy said.

Most of the grants--about 66 percent--are funded by federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. The rest of the funds come from state agencies and private foundations.

Faculty compete for the funds by submitting their ideas for research, teaching or service projects to the granting agencies. If a grant is awarded, most of the money pays for the salaries for the faculty, staff and students who work on the projects.

Each year about $5 million pays for student scholarships, fellowships and employment as research or teaching assistants. Almost all of the campus' research facilities and equipment--such as a new Silicon Graphics supercomputer--have been bought with grant funds.

State money is required each year to match a cluster of federal grants tied to economic development and student training. The 1999 Legislature approved House Bill 260, which would set aside about $5-million for research and development projects through a new coal producers license tax.

The bill, however, is being challenged on constitutional grounds for changing the way taxes are levied on coal extraction. The state Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in the case Oct. 12, McCoy said.

Last year's grant-funded projects included:

  • About $3.8 million for studies on bacterial slime, now recognized as the culprit behind many nagging infections that plague children and adults.
  • Studies on infectious diseases in humans and animals, the biological control of weeds, rural transportation issues, contaminated mine sites and alternative agricultural crops.
  • Ongoing studies on whirling disease, now known to cause the highest infection rates among fish aged 0 to 2 months.
  • Technical assistance to the state's manufacturers through the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center.
  • A survey documenting low pay and high turnover among the state's childcare providers and recommendations on how to improve them;
  • A mathematics institute for K-6 teachers to sharpen their teaching skills.

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