15=6+8+22

No, its not the title of Chetan Bhagat’s next novel (though it could well be). A colleague in the School of Life Sciences pointed me to a new site, Nature Index, “A global indicator of high-quality research” that “tracks the affiliations of high-quality scientific articles. Updated monthly, the Nature Index presents recent research outputs by institution and country.”

niThe 15 in the title above, is the overall ranking of the UoH, relative to all Indian institutions, based on our publications in all scientific fields, with 6, 8, and 22 being the rankings separately in Chemistry, Life Sciences and Physics. This is for the year 1 September 2013 to 31 August 2014, and presumably other time periods can be queried on the NI site as well.

There is reason to be pleased. We are the highest ranked University overall, and above us are only institutes like TIFR, RRI, IISc and consortia like the entire IIT system or all the CSIR laboratories put together. And this has happened in spite of the poor funding for science in the country, and for Universities in particular. As we are painfully aware, the real level of funding that we have to contend with has been very very meagre…

The ranking is based on the Article Count, namely the number of articles published from the institution. More formally, “a count of one is assigned to an institution or country if one or more authors of the research article are from that institution or country, regardless of how many co-authors there are from outside that institution or country” in computing the AC. There are other measures that can make us look even better such as the Fractional Count (FC), “that takes into account the percentage of authors from that institution (or country) and the number of affiliated institutions per article. For calculation of the FC, all authors are considered to have contributed equally to the article”, and the equation in the title then becomes, if we use the FC, 8=6+11+19. And to normalize, the corresponding equation for another Central University with which we share many similarities is 18=22+3+29.

In all these lists, there are no Universities that are ranked above us in Chemistry, one in the Life Sciences, and very few in Physics, so these country specific rankings say as much about us as about the funding patterns, the focus on research, and on infrastructure and support. Nevertheless, if anyone out there is looking, its pretty clear which among the Central Universities really is a University of Excellence.

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REPUTAT10N

THE
The big news for us in the past few days is of course that we are No. 10 in the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings of Academic Institutions in India. Just so that it is clear as to what this means, I went to the THE website and learned that this ranking is from data compiled by Thomson Reuters. The ranking is based on responses from around 16,300 leading peer-reviewed academics from across the world who were asked to nominate no more than 15 of the best institutions in their field of expertise.

39% of responses were from the Americas, 26% from Europe, 25% from Asia Pacific and 12%  from the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia; 18% of the respondents were from the physical sciences, 21.3% from engineering and technology, 22.1% from the social sciences, 15.4% from clinical subjects, 12.7% from life sciences and 10.5% from the arts and humanities.

UntitledWho were the other 9 in the top 10? IISc, five of the IITs (Bombay, Kanpur, Delhi, Madras, Kharagpur). AIIMS. Along with us, the other universities are Delhi and Aligarh. One can critique methodology, analysis and inference all one wants, but still its nice to be up there in the list, although most of the others in the top 10 are so different from the UoH, one wonders about the nature of the ranking…  Reputation is such a tenuous (and ephemeral) thing, and as Iago realized, so valuable.

And value it, we do. What we seem to do with much less felicity, though, is to ask the right questions (as the THE people seem to have!) and when (or if) asked, our answers are often wanting…  I had actually started on this post a while ago, sparked by some concern on the poor flow of information on campus, almost as if we have an informal DADT (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell!) policy on all issues. But that’s really for another post.

Which finally brings me to what makes a ranking that is based on the opinion that other academics have of us.  In no specific order, this would probably have to include

  • Research papers, which is where most others read about our work
  • Books that our faculty and students publish
  • Seminars and Conferences, where they may have participated…
  • Scholars on campus, who they have heard of
  • Alumni, our best ambassadors
  • Visitors to our campus who talk about us…

There doubtless are many other factors, of course, but like I said it’s good to be on the short list… And it also gives us an idea of what we need to work on to get higher up there…