GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Despite facing a pandemic in 2020, UF/IFAS researchers were markedly productive, reaching new highs in the number of studies published over the calendar year. Altogether, UF/IFAS research posted 2,150 publications in 2020.
“Our refereed publications in 2020 greatly exceeded our previous records in UF/IFAS,” said Robert Gilbert, dean for UF/IFAS Research and director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station. “These numbers are a full 15% higher than in any other year in the organization’s history and 19% greater than last year. Natural progression would indicate we might go up by 3 or 4%, but this was an impressive accomplishment by our faculty.”
Gilbert acknowledged that this year’s accomplishments could be hard to beat in years to come. Twenty-two UF/IFAS research units, which include academic departments and research and education centers (RECs) throughout the state, topped their totals from last year, with half of those setting publication records for their departments.
“This is a great reflection of the work ethic of our faculty under very difficult conditions during the pandemic,” Gilbert said. “When the pandemic hit, research paused and we quickly developed a system to ensure we could safely resume this critical work, prioritizing projects that would place irrecoverable resources at risk. Our faculty were very ambitious and professional and took advantage of those early weeks of uncertainty to work on their grants and publications.”
Within months,many of the ongoing UF/IFAS research projects were resumed.
“At the same time,” Gilbert continued, “I recognize that even those whose accomplishments are not reflected in these publication numbers were still able to face the challenges with extraordinary resilience and made strides elsewhere.”
- Scott Angle, the UF vice president for agriculture and natural resources and the leader of UF/IFAS, recognizes that the value of scientific research goes beyond the publications.
“Teaching, research and Extension are integrated at the University of Florida,” Angle said, noting that UF/IFAS faculty appointments often encompass all three. “We have great research faculty, who also teach and work with Extension agents to get that information out to farmers and foresters and so on. It’s the original concept of the land-grant mission, and I think it’s alive here at UF/IFAS more than anywhere else in the country.”
Among the year’s top performers was the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department, which set a department record for refereed publications and topped last year’s figure by 67%.
“While I do attribute some of the publication successes of 2020 to the increase we saw in grant funding in 2018 – plus the pandemic restrictions being conducive to writing – there’s really something to be said about the hard work our faculty have put into the past several years to make this possible,” said Sue Percival, professor and department chair. “It is our overall success with garnering awards in food safety, nutritional sciences and the science of food that provides the data for all of these great publications.”
UF/IFAS grant award totals are currently 6% higher than they were at the same point last fiscal year, indicating that successful grant proposals may also see a banner year. Earlier this month, the university shared that research spending university-wide hit a record $942.2 million in fiscal year 2020.
“I’m so proud of our faculty, and they should be really proud of themselves for what they’ve been able to achieve under such difficult conditions,” Gilbert said. “To see all of this great work being captured for posterity, to better science and society, it’s really something to celebrate.”
–Kirsten Romaguera, UF/IFAS