Research: A Critical Contributor To Academic Rankings

Choosing the right academic institution is a tough decision for any student.  I can personally acknowledge this, having been in a dilemma twice – while choosing an engineering institute for undergraduate studies and subsequently a management school for graduate studies years back.  It took a lot of secondary research combined with a multitude of discussions with alumni and counseling from experts and family.  The decisions for me, and for many others in a similar situation, would have been much more efficient and effective had a comprehensive ranking been available to us.


Importance of Ranking

Academic institutional rankings are critical to the academic ecosystem.

Rankings serve as one of the many guidance tools that prospective students (picking an institution for further studies), funders (allocating funds for research and programs), and collaborators (finding partners for academic and research collaboration) can use in assessing an institution for their respective objectives. At the same time, rankings provide a structured report card for the management at academic institutions to introspect, prepare a development plan and take actions for excellence - both in academics and research.


Impact of Research on Rankings

Many national and global rankings are offered by various government and private organizations. Research performance emerges as the one of the key common criterion in a majority of them.

Clarivate Analytics supports the research-data analysis for a variety of academic rankings globally.  To mention a few: Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) by Shanghai Jiao Tong; CWTS Leiden Rankings; and Reuters Top 100 Innovative Universities. The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in India, is a recent, exciting addition to the list.

The more objective a ranking is, the greater is its credibility. Unlike some of the more subjective parameters – such as perception – research outcomes, being quantifiable, bring stronger objectivity to rankings.

In the NIRF rankings, announced by MHRD this week (April 3), the measure of Research and Professional Practice (RPP) constitutes 30% of the overall score.  For RPP, amongst other data points, NIRF takes into account the number of research publications in combination with qualitative metrics aiming to quantify the influence or impact of research based on citations.  This includes the total citation count and the number of highly cited papers in the top 25%.  Intellectual Property parameters have also been taken into account.  This includes the number of patents published and the number of patents granted.

In the journey towards research excellence, every research parameter forms a part of the success story. Academic organizations should not only look at the overall scores but also thoroughly evaluate their performance on individual research component scores. Based on such evaluation, they should ensure that while they continue to promote their own areas of strength, they should also develop strategies and action plans to uplift the parameters in which they are not as strong compared to peer institutions.

Some of the other additional research evaluation parameters considered in global rankings are number of highly cited researchers (ARWU), Category Normalized Citation Impact (CWTS) and Research collaboration across institutions and countries (CWTS). While these are not included in the NIRF ranking, organizations should keep this on their radar to ensure that they are aware of their standing on parameters relevant to the global ranking and that they continue to take actions to enhance their performance on these parameters, thereby improving the rankings.

Clarivate Analytics has contributed to the analysis of above parameters for NIRF and other rankings leveraging the data from the Web of Science (multi-disciplinary citation database), InCites (research benchmarking and evaluation tool) and Thomson Innovation (global patent database). For more information contact Anamika Chourasia.