About ASU Knowledge Enterprise
A knowledge enterprise is an organization whose primary products are ideas and information. As a knowledge enterprise, Arizona State University is in the business of creating new knowledge and of synthesizing and distributing that knowledge for the benefit of society. This happens through research and scholarship, teaching, publishing, technology transfer and community outreach.
Knowledge Enterprise is composed of operational units that support ASU researchers and innovators, as well as universitywide institutes and initiatives focused on global grand challenges. Learn more about our units, institutes and initiatives.
Yes! Students contribute to research projects in every college and discipline across the university. This is one of the many ways students gain hands-on experience while making a difference in their fields, communities and the world. Learn more about undergraduate opportunities.
ASU’s 5,000+ faculty members study a dizzying array of topics in the natural sciences, social sciences, engineering, arts and humanities. ASU’s design aspirations charge our scientists and scholars to conduct use-inspired research — research that has purpose and impact. Over 170 research centers and institutes across the university explore key challenges in planetary health, human health and societal well-being. Knowledge Enterprise stays abreast of the key priorities in our community, state, nation and world and actively advances research that addresses the most critical issues. Learn about our current focus areas.
University research funding comes from a variety of sources, including:
- Federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, among others.
- State and local governments.
- Foundations and individual philanthropists.
- For-profit and nonprofit companies.
- International development organizations and NGOs.
- The university itself.
Typically, researchers write proposals to request funding for their work. Proposals provide a detailed plan for why the study is important, how it will be conducted, how much money is needed and how it will be used. Funders may have additional requirements for the researchers, such as regular reports on the study’s progress or outreach activities to share the findings with the public.
Research expenditures are the funds (from all sources) spent each year to conduct research. Research expenditures are the commonly accepted way of measuring an institution’s research enterprise and comparing research funding among different institutions.
Different research awards span different lengths of time. For example, the NSF might award a project $2 million over five years, while a foundation might award $500,000 over two years. This makes it difficult to calculate awards on a yearly basis. In addition, if researchers don’t need to spend the full amount of the award to complete their project, the remaining money is typically returned to the funder. Therefore, research expenditures are the most accurate metric for showing how much research funding actually flows through the university.
F&A refers to facilities and administrative costs involved in research. These are costs that are not specific to a single research project, but are essential for conducting research overall. F&A costs include:
- Construction and operation of research facilities.
- IT and telecommunications.
- Safety and security of research facilities.
- Federal and state regulatory compliance.
- Shared equipment, such as electron microscopes and library collections.
A small amount of each research grant goes toward F&A expenses. F&A funding is never used for non-research-related expenses.
The research process
Research is a systematic process for answering questions and testing assumptions about the universe around us. It involves collecting and analyzing data using a set of methods that have been rigorously tested and refined to ensure the best possible results.
Research is the starting point for solutions to the problems we face today. It helps us make key discoveries about how nature works. It allows us to test out fresh ideas for how we can apply those discoveries to solve problems and improve our lives. Research leads us to new medicines, methods for sustainable energy, more powerful microchips, opportunities in space, improved national security, thriving businesses, healthier communities and other developments.
Different fields of study use different research methods. For example, medical research often involves randomized, controlled trials. Participants are randomly assigned to either receive a treatment or a placebo, and then the results are compared. Social science research might involve conducting surveys to learn about people’s opinions on a topic. Surveys are carefully designed to avoid confusing or biasing the respondents.
Once the data has been collected, statistical analysis helps determine how likely it is that the results are meaningful (significant) instead of due to coincidence. Typically, researchers publish their research findings in scientific journals, including all of the methods they used so that other scientists can repeat the studies and see if they get the same results.
When a researcher submits a study for publication in an academic or scientific journal, the journal will have other experts in the field (peers) review the researcher’s work. This helps ensure the scientific quality of the study before it is published.
Yes, faculty at ASU engage in teaching, research, scholarship and/or creative activities. Some faculty members only teach, but all tenured and tenure-track faculty also conduct research, scholarship or creative activities, depending on their field. Research faculty may be hired as part of a project grant or to lead a specific area of research, in which case they may do research without teaching. However, these research faculty may still interact with student research assistants who help with projects.
Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches are both used to address complex problems and bridge gaps between different disciplines. While they share some similarities, there are distinct differences between the two.
Interdisciplinary research involves integrating knowledge, methods and perspectives from different disciplines to solve problems. For example, biologists, geographers and sociologists might collaborate to understand how the heat in Phoenix affects residents’ health and well-being.
Transdisciplinary goes beyond disciplines, involving input from non-academic stakeholders to gain diverse perspectives and apply research findings out in the world. ASU emphasizes transdisciplinary approaches through engagement with communities, partnerships and integrating solutions into societal contexts.
ASU’s Office of Research Integrity and Assurance is a resource for investigators and the university to uphold ethical principles and comply with federal, state and university regulations governing research. This unit provides support for the responsible conduct of research in areas including human subjects, animals, biosafety and conflicts of interest.
Entrepreneurship and innovation
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “innovation” as “a new idea, method or device” or “the introduction of something new.” At ASU, we embody innovation by breaking away from traditional problem-solving approaches, cultivating fresh perspectives and experimenting with new methods to solve the complex issues facing our communities today.
Several different definitions of entrepreneurship exist, and many of them focus only on starting a business and making money. ASU views entrepreneurship more broadly. Tracey Dodenhoff, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at ASU, says, “I have always defined entrepreneurship as a mindset of finding the opportunity in the challenge. Problems/challenges are where there is the greatest potential for impact, and an entrepreneurial mindset seeks to uncover these opportunities. It doesn’t end there, though; there is a commitment to persistence, and an understanding that it may take multiple attempts to achieve success as defined by the challenge being addressed. This persistence and the cycle of testing/failing/learning/proving is the innovation part of the entrepreneurial equation.”
Technology transfer is the process of moving intellectual property — ideas and inventions — into the marketplace. This is a critical process that brings scientific discoveries out of the lab and into society, transforming them into goods and services that improve people’s lives. Tech transfer includes licensing patented technologies to existing companies and launching startup companies that can commercialize the IP themselves.
ASU researchers work with experts at Skysong Innovations, ASU’s exclusive intellectual property management and technology transfer organization, to apply for patents. Researchers must disclose their inventions to Skysong Innovations to begin the process. If the team determines that a disclosed invention has commercial potential and meets other requirements, Skysong Innovations’ team will apply for a U.S. patent on ASU’s behalf. Researchers who qualify as inventors under U.S. patent law are named as inventors in patent office records and on the cover of the published patent application. Once the patent application is filed, Skysong Innovations can help identify companies (including newly formed startups) that might want to license the technology and negotiate a licensing agreement.