Novel new higher ed rankings system tracks public investment and media engagement

October 08, 2013

HONOLULU – Federal and state governments invest billions of dollars annually in research and scholarship at U.S. universities, but how good a job do those campuses do in sharing research findings and results with taxpayers through engagement with the public media?

That question is the core of a new university ranking effort from the Center for a Public Anthropology, directed by Professor Robert Borofsky, a Hawai‘i Pacific University anthropologist and author of multiple books.

“The Faculty Media Impact Project” uses the Google News search engine to assess how successfully the nation’s top research universities engage lay media for coverage of their scholarly efforts in the social sciences. The project involved more than 50,000 search queries focusing on more than 12,000 social sciences faculty at 94 universities.

Campuses were chosen based on National Research Council criteria. Data relative to media coverage of work in economics, political science, psychology, sociology and anthropology were compiled over a six-year period. Each university’s ranking page allows users to look within the disciplines to see how various departments and individual faculty ranked in terms of their media citations.

“For many faculty, academic citations – the degree to which they are referred to in academic journals – is a significant status marker and standard for promotion. The Faculty Media Impact Project reframes the question of citations. It asks: Why focus only on citations in academic journals,” says Borofsky as part of a statement explaining the rankings approach and methodology. “Given that much, perhaps most, of this research is publicly funded, the media citations draw attention to the scholars who work to make their findings available to the public through interaction with lay media.”

While names of older, well-established universities are present high in the rankings, many younger institutions with consistent media outreach efforts are there, as well. Rice University and Southern Methodist University, both in Texas, ranked first and second, respectively, in the overall assessment of the 94 universities included in the listings, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology coming in third.

In individual disciplines, Washington University of St. Louis topped the Anthropology list, the University of Nevado-Reno came in first in Economics, and Yale led the Political Science rankings.

Oregon State University topped the Psychology listings, and Princeton led the Sociology rankings.

For a complete look at the rankings and underlying methodology visit the Center for a Public Anthropology project site at http://facultyimpact.publicanthropology.org/.

User name:          facultyimpact
Password:             rankings2013

Borofsky is quick to acknowledge that this look at faculty and media is narrowly focused and one of many ways to assess university impact. While the Center plans to issue a second generation of the rankings in two years, Borofsky encourages those are interested to use the Center’s methodology to conduct their own searches using the Google News archive.

“Ranking universities is often an imperfect art – but to paraphrase Voltaire, the perfect can be the enemy of the good,” said Borofsky. “These rankings strive to give credit where credit is due to the faculty, departments and schools, who having acquired public funding, participate in public conversations in return.”

About the Center for a Public Anthropology: Founded in 2001 in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, the Center encourages academics to move beyond the traditional “do no harm” ethos of funded research to one that focuses on helping others. It is currently involved in projects aimed at encouraging student activism, offering a positive model for change within the Anthropology profession and drawing on political forces beyond the discipline to foster change within.

About Hawai‘i Pacific University: HPU is the state’s largest private university with 7,500 students from the United States and more than 80 foreign nations. HPU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Council on Social Work Education and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.