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New database aims to bolster university research on global scale

May 16, 2012

New tool measures research output globally 

A new global research database has hit the Web and provides an unprecedented way to measure the best university research programs in the world.

Called the Global Research Benchmarking System (GRBS), the database provides objective and free data to help universities benchmark their research activities in traditional subject areas, and in sustainable development, for the purpose of strengthening the quality and impact of their research.

The project, led by The Center for Measuring University Performance at Arizona State University and United Nations University International Institute for Software Technology (UNU-IIST), supports universities in determining their own research profile and identifying niche areas in which they can excel to make more rational strategic and resource allocation decisions. It also assists them in monitoring progress toward their research strategy, and in publicizing program strengths to attract top faculty, students and funding.

The Center for Measuring University Performance is well known for producing the Top American Research Universities Report.

According to Elizabeth D. Capaldi, executive vice president and provost at ASU and center co-founder, the GSBR expands upon those databases that attempt to capture a global perspective, namely the QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education World Rankings, by relying on strictly objective criteria and eliminating subjective elements like peer review and reputation surveys.

“The Global Research Benchmarking System evaluates a university’s true research strengths by measuring the output of research,” Capaldi said. “It measures total publications and citations in peer reviewed journals and conference proceedings, taking into consideration the percent of publications and citations in the most prestigious journals by field.”

“Citations are a good measure of the influence and impact of research findings, as other authors are referencing that work,” said Craig Abbey, research director and chief data officer for the center. “Where one gets published is equally important.”

The GRBS uses Elsevier’s Scopus database of nearly 25,000 source tiles of journals, conference proceedings and book series. The publication types include articles, reviews and conference papers.

The GRBS provides two functionalities: customized rating and benchmarking. The customized rating is available to all users, while the benchmarking is available to universities included in the system who register (free of charge).

The customized rating function permits users to rate universities either overall, in any of the 15 broad subject areas, or in any of 251 niche subject areas by selecting subject areas and indicators and setting weights according to their needs.

The benchmarking function permits universities covered by the system to compare their research performance with the performance of a benchmarking group of universities of their choosing, again either overall or in any of the subject areas.

“The database gives universities information they need to improve because they can see who are their peers, as well as where their aspirational peers are,” Capaldi said. The advantage compared to other rankings that are not free is the data are open and universities can check their own data as well as the data of their peers.

The GRBS is an open collaborative effort of the academic community. The governance structure includes an international advisory board providing expertise in university performance evaluation, bibliometrics, and sustainable development, and representing diverse regional and stakeholder perspectives.

To ensure continuous and ongoing academic community support and engagement, the GRBS website provides discussion forums on various aspects of university performance evaluation as a way to gather broad input and to foster discussion of these important issues.

Right now, GRBS includes 729 universities from the United States, Asia-Pacific and Canada. Expansion is ongoing, to include European universities by June.

Additional collaborating partners on the Global Research Benchmarking Database include ProSPER.Net (a network of several leading higher education institutions in Asia and the Pacific), Elsevier (the provider of Scopus, which supplies the citation data), and ISTIC, Ministry of S&T of China.

Visit the Global  Research Benchmarking Database at