A new, sophisticated analysis of research productivity at leading institutions across the country -- one that accounts for differences in institutional size -- places the University of Rochester twelfth among private universities.
This finding is contained in The Rise of American Research Universities by Hugh Davis Graham, a Vanderbilt University professor, and Nancy Diamond, an administrator at Goucher College, published this year by Johns Hopkins Press.
The authors used a number of criteria to measure research productivity -- including publications, fellowships, and federal research and development obligations -- across the disciplines in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Subjective reputational survey data was not used.
The size of the nation's private and public universities then was factored in. "Controlling for institutional size, this study highlighted the exemplary performance of faculty at a number of previously overlooked smaller institutions," the authors said.
Many national rankings have been based on subjective reputational surveys, and these have been "biased toward large programs and prestigious institutions," the authors noted.
A central premise of The Rise of American Research Universities is that "new research universities did emerge after 1945 to successfully challenge the hierarchy of traditional elites." The University of Rochester is identified as second among the "rising" private institutions identified through the authors' methodology.
"The University of Rochester historically has been one of the smallest national universities, and we know that our compact size -- in which we see some truly outstanding features for our students and faculty -- also has worked against us in rankings," said President Thomas H. Jackson. "That's inevitable, and we live with it because the benefits we gain from our size are invaluable. But it's nice to see a study that takes size into account."
Jackson noted, as another example, that a recent article in PS: Political Science and Politics had also found that size skews rankings. The University's political science department, ranked eleventh in a National Research Council ranking of doctoral programs, came out first when the article's authors controlled for size.