Silly survey

The Chinese survey ranking the world’s top universities has received some coverage recently. It’s nonsense: just for starters, only the craziest partisan would rank Caltech above Oxford, or put LSE below Birmingham.

As the examples above might suggest, the survey’s science bias is bordering on the silly. 70% of the marks are awarded for Nobel prizes, articles published in the Nature and Science journals, and articles in the Science and Social Science Citation Indices. Various UK-specific rankings often have a similar bias, sometimes because they look at spending per student (under which, the best measure of performance is ‘the number of medicine students enrolled’).

I’m not sure why this is: it wouldn’t be beyond the wit of a team compiling such a survey to include scores for articles in humanities and law journals; to look at alumni who went on to become important in non-scientific fields; and so on.

Of couse, it might be because only a research team with a heavily quantitative focus would bother carrying out such a survey in the first place…

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5 thoughts on “Silly survey

  1. Yeah, I hear that terrorists are like the conjectured Feynmann electron. There’s only one of him, but he goes back and forwards through time, sometimes appearing as an anti-terrorist or dressing up as a woman.

  2. Either Chris has confused this post with the one below it, I’ve utterly broken my comments system, or If We Conduct Dodgy Surveys Then The Terrorists Have Already Won.

    Based on the procedure adopted by the right-wing blogosphere, the suggestion that receives the most comments in its favour will be regarded as true.

  3. I’m sure the conjectured Feynmann electron was actually the idea of Murray Gell-Mann. The electron had to appear as an anti-electron, because a positron is just an electron travelling back through time. (No, really, I’m not making that up.) I don’t remember electrons ever dressing up as women. Maybe that’s because (or even why) I dropped out of physics.

  4. heh. I was sure it was a Feynmannism — I thought it was an observation that struck him after he invented Feynmann diagrams as a means to solve problems in QED. BICBW, and I’m too lazy to look it up

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