Social Sciences Faculty Ranked Fifth in Nation for Sharing Research With Media, Public

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A new national ranking system puts University of Arkansas social sciences departments and faculty near the top in their fields, 5th place overall, when it comes to sharing their research and expertise with the public through the news media. The system was developed by the Faculty Media Impact Project at Hawaii Pacific University and ranks faculty in 94 research universities.

The rankings are based on news media appearances by faculty members and the level of federal funding received for their research. The project researchers searched the Google News archive from 2006 to 2011, looking for how many times the faculty members were cited in any of 6,000 news sources. The average number of citations for a school was then divided by the percentage of National Science Foundation funding the institution received. Individual departments in political science, anthropology, psychology, economics and sociology were also ranked, using the same system.

 “The project’s rankings allow readers to compare specific scholars, departments and schools in respect to both their media citations and, importantly, the degree to which those who draw on public funding participate in public conversations in return,” said Rob Borofsky, professor of anthropology at Hawaii Pacific University and director of its Center for a Public Anthropology, which is running the project. “The project’s rankings strive to give credit where credit is due – to the faculty, departments and schools that share their work with the broader public. These groups widen our world; they enrich our understandings. They deserve to be recognized.”

The University of Arkansas ranked ahead of all schools in the Southeastern Conference, and was ranked behind only Rice University, Southern Methodist University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Texas, San Antonio. A reason for the U of A’s high ranking is that it had the lowest percentage of federal funding of any of the 94 institutions, while its faculty were cited more often in the news media than 24 other institutions working with higher levels of federal funding.

“This ranking system is another reminder of the quality and variety of the research our faculty do at the University of Arkansas,” said Sharon Gaber, provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs. “The Carnegie Foundation has recognized our ‘very high research activity,’ while this ranking shines a light on the important work that our social sciences faculty do and share, with minimal federal support. It reminds us that sharing our knowledge and expertise with the people of Arkansas and beyond is a crucial part of our mission.”

Professor Janine Parry, associate professor Andrew Dowdle – both from political science -- and anthropology professor Peter Ungar were the top three U of A faculty members, in terms of media citations. Parry, who is also chair of the Faculty Senate, said that a faculty member’s field plays a part in media interest.

“Clearly, political science is a field that’s in the news a lot. It’s also one about which much is said, but more could be known. So, responding – thoughtfully and in a timely fashion – is important,” she said. “But this is something that potentially everyone can, and should, do. I’m fascinated by my colleagues’ research on this campus and in many cases I think there is public interest, as well.

“I think this ranking system is a useful tool, and I hope it catches on,” Parry added. “Scholars, especially those employed by land grant institutions, shouldn’t be content to work in a vacuum. Sharing what we know with a broader public is important, and satisfying.”

The ranking system has had a mixed reception in academic circles, with some criticizing the method that the researchers use. Borofsky has described the system as “a first step.” 


Barbara Jaquish, science and research communications
University Relations

Steve Voorhies, manager of media relations
University Relations

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