NAU achieves top 100 in national research rankings

Ecological Restoration Institute student research project

Northern Arizona University hit the top 100 for the first time, moving to No. 96 in the National Science Foundation’s latest national research rankings of universities without a medical school. NAU also moved to No. 201 for all universities in the United States, a new high for the university, up from No. 213 in 2016.

The NSF’s annual ranking of U.S. universities by level of research activity, released in late November, looks at research expenditures, types of research, expenses and the number of personnel who participate in research and development at universities. NAU’s fiscal year 2017 research expenditures totaled $46.2 million.

NAU research contributes to the overall $2.5 billion in economic impact generated by the university and also provides critical answers to statewide and community issues such as forest health, water quality and supply, health solutions and access to care, education best practices and astronomy.

The ranking reflects the achievements of NAU’s world-class faculty, dedicated research and support staff and talented graduate and undergraduate students. It also reflects President Rita Cheng’s vision for continued research and innovation in partnership with education and workforce development as a strong central contributor to NAU’s ongoing success.

“This impressive recognition is a direct result of the efforts of so many individuals within our campus community, and I congratulate everyone on our success,” Cheng said. “I would like to recognize our faculty, center directors, chairs, deans, vice president for research (VPR) David Schultz and his team and former VPR William Grabe for the determination and vision that have helped us move within one place of our goal of being in the top 200 research universities in the nation.”

This success stems from NAU’s historical core strengths in ecology, microbiology, environmental sciences, forest health and land management. It also reflects a deep bench of expertise across disciplines and a focus on top-tier research, including increased research activities in emerging fields such as cyber systems and informatics, health equity, planetary sciences, bioengineering and material science.

On the strength of a 14.5 percent increase in reportable research expenditures in 2018 over 2017, NAU anticipates another step up in NSF’s ranking next year, amid significant competition from NSF survey peer institutions.

The NSF’s annual compilation of data for higher education research and development expenditures surveys results from 600-800 U.S. universities regarding the areas of research, annual expenditures from sources such as federal agencies, foundations and institutional resources and other demographic data.

Detailed information regarding the annual survey results may be found at


NAU Communications