Last week I had the great pleasure of announcing that Swinburne had again been ranked in the Shanghai Jiao Tong top 500 Universities in the world. I thought I should explain a little more how this list is compiled and what the ranking means. This ranking system attempts to measure the research performance of Universities around the world. It does this by measuring six quantities for each university: Alumni who have won Nobel prizes (10%), Staff who have won Nobel prizes (20%), Staff who are HiCi researchers (i.e. in top 0.5% in their field) (20%), Number of publications in the journals Nature and Science (20%), Number of journal publication indexed in the Science and Social Science Citation Index (20%), All of these quantities weighted by the number of staff of the institution (10%).
A number of features of the system are immediately apparent. Firstly, it pays to have a long history. Nobel prize winners don't come along very often, so a long history is an advantage. Secondly, size is an advantage. With the exception of the final 10% ranking, a good big university will beat a good small university in this system. Neither of these features helps Swinburne. As a university we are relatively young and, by world standards, we are relatively small. In the overall rankings we are in the mid 400s, having risen about 40 places from last year. If, however, we were ranked purely on the size corrected measure, we would be in the mid 200s. I think that is a very impressive statistic, and one in which we can take great pride.
In the next version of our strategic vision, Swinburne in 2015, we will be setting ourselves a target of being placed in the top 400 by 2015. To achieve this, the easiest of the measures to change is the number of publications we produce in the Science and Social Science Citation Index. Although these indexes do not cover publications across all disciplines, the coverage is becoming quite broad. Progressively, we will be encouraging staff to publish in such quality outlets. Naturally, this will help our ranking. More importantly, it will also assist staff building an academic career. As the sector moves more towards systems which measure research quality, the publication outlets we select will become more important.