Cornell's Departments of Food Science, Information Science, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering are No. 1 in the country in their fields, according to the latest Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index, based on data from 2005.
"We're delighted, absolutely thrilled," said Kathryn Boor, professor and chair of food science. "This is evidence of a vibrant and lively food science department at Cornell."
Clif Pollock, the Ilda and Charles Lee Professor of Engineering and director of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, agreed. "I thought it was pretty neat. To be number one is not a big deal unless other good schools are there, and the big guys are on that list," he said.
Both said that this particular rating will be more important to prospective graduate students and faculty members than to parents or prospective undergraduates. The index compiles faculty publications (books and journal articles), citations of those publications by others, federal research funding, and awards and honors.
"It's new, we don't know quite what it means yet," said Robert Constable, dean of computing and information science. "We know information science [at Cornell] is very strong, and we know that from many sources," he added, citing high ratings in the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings, where computer science is the highest-ranked department at Cornell and three of its "sub-areas" are in the top 10 nationally.
Although still somewhat controversial, the Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index has been welcomed for its objectivity. It uses Scopus, a database that compiles journal publication and citation data from more than 15,000 journals, and counts books using Amazon.com. Grant data is collected from federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities (but not the Department of Defense, since it does not release data on grants to individuals). Information on honors and awards comes from the Web sites of 55 organizations, including the Nobel and MacArthur Foundations.
Faculty lists are collected from university Web sites, which has raised some criticism, since not all sites are kept up-to-date. This partly explains why Cornell received separate rankings for electrical engineering and computer engineering, Pollock said. The index probably tagged faculty members in each of those areas, rather than going by any department's list of faculty, he suggested.
The index is published yearly, which enables department heads to see, for example, how new hires affect a department's standing. The alternative is the National Research Council's rankings of doctoral programs, last released in 1995 with a new version in process. Those rankings also include a program's reputation, which some say is unfair to new programs that have not had time to acquire one.
The new index is partly financed by the State University of New York at Stony Brook and produced by Academic Analytics, a company formed to exploit a methodology created after a decade of study of faculty productivity by Lawrence B. Martin, graduate dean at Stony Brook, who owns 15 percent of the company. The company has publicly released only lists of top-ranking programs. Universities that subscribe to the service for fees of $10,000 to $30,000 a year receive detailed data. So far, Cornell does not subscribe.