Exploring the 2014 National Taiwan University Rankings
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Exploring the 2014 National Taiwan University Rankings

A fresh and unique perspective on scientific research papers has been in evidence since 2007 in the guise of the National Taiwan University’s Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers (hereafter NTU Ranking), sometimes known as the HEEACT ranking. The Chinese-governed, East Asian state is arguably ideally situated to provide an, if not entirely objective, counterbalance to existing measurements of scientific accomplishment in university-sector education.

NTU Ranking aims to reflect the short-term objectives and the long-term contribution made by international universities to testing the limits of received knowledge. Differing from existing regional rankings by downgrading data usually held in high esteem, such as the prevalence of highly-cited scholars and Nobel laureates, the research coming out annually from NTU goes a long way to question the subjectivity of certain world university rankings by partially addressing one sizeable field of academic knowledge.

Through a bibliometric analysis of over 4000 research institutions, NTU Rankings selected the pleasantly uneven number of 903 universities to subject to their rigorous methodology. Comprised of eight different indictors relating to the performance of scientific papers, these tables manage to reflect the productivity of research achieved by papers, the impact of the research conducted, and the academic excellence of the content. The latter, ‘research excellence’ makes up the majority of the percentage weighting with 40%, with ‘research impact’ allocated 35%, and ‘research productivity’ taking the other 25%.

The lead researcher for the NTU Rankings themselves, Dr Mu-Hsuan Huang, is a prominent voice in information science and has published widely on H-indexing and research evaluation at university level. It would be cynical to view the exercise as merely a practical application of Huang’s measurement procedures, instead the initiative seems to be reflective of an emerging paradigm in quantifying and identifying subfields of existing and future study. Split up into a dizzyingly array of scientific disciplines and sub-disciplines, the definition of what constitutes a scientific paper is often markedly ambiguous. No doubt many will call into question the slippery overlap of the NTU Rankings’ ‘social sciences/general’ category with that of the humanities.

While research students will most likely be familiar with the names in the Top 10, those willing to navigate the field, continent, national, and subject headings will be rewarded with a rich insight into the scale of the contributions made by university staff and students to the circulation of knowledge and research. Dominating the top of the table are institutions known for their commitment to research excellence:

  • Harvard University
  • John Hopkins University
  • Stanford University
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Washington – Seattle
  • University of California – Los Angeles
  • University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
  • University of California – Berkeley
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • University of Oxford

A noticeable bias accepted by the research host Dr Huang is the obvious slant towards English-speaking institutions, as the majority of the journals sourced and cited are published solely in English. Yet the hegemony of the language of business and research shows signs of abating. Since the NTU Rankings were first conducted in 2007, English-speaking countries have begun to fall out of the top 500, and all signs point to a shift, not only in how research excellence is quantified, but also its linguistic spread.