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Do Rankings Reflect Research Quality?

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  • Bruno S. Frey
  • Katja Rost

Abstract

Publication and citation rankings have become major indicators of the scientific worth of universities and countries, and determine to a large extent the career of individual scholars. We argue that such rankings do not effectively measure research quality, which should be the essence of evaluation. For that reason, an alternative ranking is developed as a quality indicator, based on membership on academic editorial boards of professional journals. It turns out that especially the ranking of individual scholars is far from objective. The results differ markedly, depending on whether research quantity or research quality is considered. Even quantity rankings are not objective; two citation rankings, based on different samples, produce entirely different results. It follows that any career decisions based on rankings are dominated by chance and do not reflect research quality. Instead of propagating a ranking based on board membership as the gold standard, we suggest that committees make use of this quality indicator to find members who, in turn, evaluate the research quality of individual scholars.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruno S. Frey & Katja Rost, 2008. "Do Rankings Reflect Research Quality?," IEW - Working Papers 390, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:390
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Rankings; Universities; Scholars; Publications; Citations;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • O38 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Government Policy

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