LONDON—Two biologists from Sheffield University have applied citation analysis to rebut departmental rankings developed by the University Grants Committee as a basis for future funding. The Grants Committee has consistently refused to explain the basis of its rankings, although they are thought to rest on peer review and the size of grants obtained from such sources as the Science and Engineering Research Council.
“It is astonishing that the costs of production should largely determine perceived excellence,” A.W. Rogers and Thomas Scratcherd wrote in the Times Higher Education Supplement. “This has not been the government's approach to other nationalized industries.”
Counting papers from anatomy and physiology departments from 1983 through 1985, they found that the top three departments were the same in both rankings—Cambridge, Oxford and University College London. But there was much variation among the remaining 17 institutions. Sheffield ranked seventh in their calculations although the Grants Committee had labeled it “below average,” and Nottingham was at the bottom of the list although the Committee felt it was “above average.”
Academic research could be strengthened by thinking more and doing less.