By Amber Kennedy

Old Dominion University earned the Research 1 Classification, indicating “very high research activity,” from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, placing it among the highest level of research institutions in the United States. The Carnegie Classification® has been the leading measure of research activities at U.S. colleges and institutions for more than half a century.

The University joins a group of just 137, or 5%, of four-year research institutions with the R1 classification in the nation. The classification, produced this year by the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University, is published every three years. Previously, ODU was ranked as a Research 2 institution for doctoral institutions with “high research activity.”

The Research 1 designation represents a key step in recruiting high-quality faculty and students, obtaining prestigious and larger research grants, and attracting industry and government agency partners.

“This is a significant milestone for our campus community and a historic moment in our research efforts,” said President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. “ODU is truly honored to join the elite ranks of the nation’s top-producing research institutions, which comprise less than 5% of all institutions. Our faculty are so deserving of this prestigious honor and the limitless opportunities and well-deserved recognition that come with it!”

Governor Ralph Northam, a Norfolk resident, celebrated the University’s designation, stating, “I’m so excited to move back home and live next door to a leading research university. Congratulations to the whole ODU team – this is an important achievement!”

The Carnegie Commission on Higher Education developed the Carnegie Classification® in 1970 to support its program of research and policy analysis. The classification is considered the leading framework for describing the diversity of U.S. colleges and universities. The tool informs research, grant-making and funding decisions, and annual rankings, including those by U.S. News & World Report.

Universities with the R1 classification engage in the highest levels of research activity. To be considered R1, universities must meet benchmarks across 10 indicators, including research doctorates awarded, total research expenditures, the aggregate level of research activity and the number of research staff.

“ODU’s designation as an R1 institution demonstrates its national standing as a top-tier research university,” Virginia Secretary of Education Fran Bradford said. “I am pleased that ODU has become the latest Virginia member of that elite academic club and thankful for all that ODU does for innovation and workforce development in Hampton Roads and the commonwealth.”

Over the past decade, the number of scientific publications from ODU faculty has doubled, and over the past five years external funding for applied research projects has tripled, contributing to $69 million annually in overall research expenditures. More than half of ODU faculty have been involved in externally funded research projects, which have grown by 22% in total expenditures in the last decade. In the same period, ODU doubled the size of its nonfaculty Ph.D. research staff.

ODU has nationally known research strengths in coastal resilience, modeling and simulation, bioelectrics, port logistics and maritime engineering, and cybersecurity. ODU is a key academic partner for the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab), NASA Langley Research Center, NASA Wallops Flight Facility, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Defense, among other agencies.

“ODU’s strategy has been to focus on research that is meaningful to people living and working in Hampton Roads that also is applicable globally, such as in maritime domains,” Vice President for Research Morris Foster said. “R1 designation recognizes the national significance of that local strategy.”

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Austin Agho noted the classification could be attributed to the hard work and dedication of the ODU community.

“This accomplishment represents the collective efforts of our faculty, scientists, students and staff to further ODU’s mission as a leading public doctoral research institution,” he said. “Being named a Research 1 institution signals ODU is well-positioned to support research faculty, provide robust opportunities to undergraduates and graduate students, and work with partners to find innovative answers to complex and challenging questions.”

The new classification, released Dec. 15, is undergoing a review and comment period that concludes at the end of January, when the classifications become official. The 2021 update will be the final administered by the IU Center for Postsecondary Research, now transferring responsibility to Albion College in Michigan.