A fitting database for THE world rankings

Thomson Reuters starts to build global resource of 'unprecedented sophistication'. Phil Baty reports

Research-metrics company Thomson Reuters has begun work with thousands of universities across the globe to build a database that will be used to create the annual Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

THE announced in November that it had begun work with the firm to create a more rigorous and transparent version of its influential rankings to meet concerns about weaknesses in its old methodology, used between 2004 and 2009.

This week, Thomson Reuters launched its Global Institutional Profiles Project, which will create "data-driven portraits of globally significant research institutions".

It will gather information "combining peer review, scholarly outputs, citation patterns, funding levels and faculty characteristics in one comprehensive database".

Keith MacGregor, executive vice-president of Thomson Reuters, said: "There's a need for robust, dynamic and, above all, transparent and verifiable data on scholarly performance to reshape ... institutional comparisons. Thomson Reuters has a proven history of bibliometric expertise and analysis to provide the foundational data and consultative elements needed to create this tool."

THE has commissioned a bespoke dataset from the database that will be used to create its World University Rankings.

The magazine is working closely with Thomson Reuters and the international academic community to develop a methodology that will deliver a more sophisticated and balanced picture of the top 200 universities than anything previously available.

Ann Mroz, editor of THE, said: "The fact that Thomson Reuters is investing serious resources into the global profiling project to build a database of unprecedented scale and sophistication gives us great confidence that the 2010 THE World University Rankings will be based on the most accurate, rigorous, detailed and balanced data available.

"As we said in November, because our rankings have become so influential - used by students, academics, managers, policymakers and governments - we want to create a ranking that is accepted, understood and respected: a serious tool for the sector, not just an annual curiosity. This shows that we are well on our way to achieving that."

THE has already confirmed that the "peer-review" element of its rankings will be improved. The old rankings featured an opinion survey of scholars that made up 40 per cent of the final scores. But responses were low - fewer than 4,000 academics worldwide took part in 2009.

For 2010, the opinion poll will be carried out by Ipsos Mori, a world-leading polling firm, with a target for at least 25,000 responses.

Ms Mroz said: "By participating, universities will ensure that they will be included in the rankings for 2010 and beyond. Previous data collected by our old rankings partner, QS, will no longer be used."

phil.baty@tsleducation.com

For further info:

• Visit the Global Institutional Profiles Project website

• Read the open letter from Thomson Reuters to university administrators

• Join the effort for more accurate and comprehensive institutional assessment by passing on our postcard

• University heads wishing to join the survey platform group should email Phil Baty

• Help shape the future of the World University Rankings by joining Times Higher Education’s rankings discussion forum and completing the survey

• Keep up to date with all the rankings news on Twitter: THEWorldUniRank

• Join THE’s World University Rankings Facebook group

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