Disturbing the Universe

David L Clements, science and science fiction

An Open Letter to the Times Higher World University Rankers

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Insightful comment on the latest THES university rankings. Their changed methodology tacitly eliminates most experimental particle physics papers for no apparent reason.

More generally we’re so obsessed with rankings – of universities, schools, grant proposals – that we don’t check consistency of methods or worry about uncertainties in the rankings.

In the Dark

Dear Rankers,

Having perused your latest set of league tables along with the published methodology, a couple of things puzzle me.

First, I note that you have made significant changes to your methodology for combining metrics this year. How, then, can you justify making statements such as

US continues to lose its grip as institutions in Europe up their game

when it appears that any changes could well be explained not by changes in performance, as gauged by the metrics you use,  but in the way they are combined?

I assume, as intelligent and responsible people, that you did the obvious test for this effect, i.e. to construct a parallel set of league tables, with this year’s input data but last year’s methodology, which would make it easy to isolate changes in methodology from changes in the performance indicators.  Your failure to publish such a set, to illustrate how…

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Author: davecl

Astronomy, science, science fiction

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