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The new numbers are out, and our physics department is (still) ranked as the top university in the US in terms of impact factor:

UCSC ranks first in nation for research impact in physics

"In a new analysis of research publications from top U.S. universities, the University of California, Santa Cruz, ranked first for the impact of its faculty in the field of physics and fifth in the field of space sciences."

I saw this statistic when I first heard about UCSC in 2002, and it made me wonder why I'd never heard much about it. After checking the websites of the professors to read about the research they were doing, it was enough to convince me to apply. The other big reason I applied was that at the time we were also ranked #1 in terms of "graduate student satisfation". That was based on 2001 numbers so I don't know if it's still true (and from reading this article I gather it's probably not or he would have mentioned it) but I can attest that it's a hella fun environment to work in, and I've been extremely satisfied. I must say, though, that it's still surprising to me to see that we have such a high impact factor, considering there are a lot of schools I could name who I think of as "better" in terms of research, depending on what specific area of physics you're talking about. And whenever I visit Stanford, I notice that the grad students there seem a lot smarter (or maybe they just appear that way because they dress all preppy and stuff :)... j/k). But maybe the issue is just that we're comparatively small. We do a few things really well, like particle physics, astrophysics, and condensed matter physics, and don't have a huge amount of professors, but their publications get read a lot. At any rate, it's nice to see we're holding strong at #1. GO SLUGS!

Update [2/16/07]: Here are the actual rankings and citation numbers from ScienceWatch. As suspected (see comments), being small had a lot to do with us getting the number one slot, as we had the fewest number of total papers published out of those in the top ten.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 11th, 2007 02:34 am (UTC)
The press release seems to indicate that the impact ratings are done by comparing average-citations-per-paper to the average impact of all papers in the field. So, while "more" good research might be done elsewhere, it seems that each ucsc paper must be quite good!

Is there anything like the Philosophical Gourmet report for physics? That method of rankings compares large numbers of evaluator's opinions of the relative strength of each department, judged by the faculty at the department (so its less quantitative, perhaps, than the average-paper-citation-score method, and is more a measure of perceived faculty strength)? It would be interesting if there was, and what the differences would be between this science watch score and the score based upon views of profs about other departments.
Feb. 11th, 2007 04:05 am (UTC)
I don't know... I just searched on the web and this is the closest I could find:


Unfortunately, the data is from 1994. It says at the top of the page that new data will come out in Dec 2007, though so that should be interesting to see. If I weight everything equally, then we end up at around 23rd according to this. They have a category for citations/faculty, and by the 1994 numbers we were not in the top ten. But that may also be slightly different than (citations/paper)/faculty which is what it looks like this #1 ranking is based on. At any rate, I'm sure if you did a survey of perceived prestige, we would not be anywhere near as good as our citation index would indicate. I'm not sure what that means though.
Feb. 11th, 2007 09:41 am (UTC)
huh, interesting. that is too bad that the data is somewhat dated, but it would be fun to see what they say for the next one. In any case, what I think it would say, would be: if you know pretty precisely what you want to concentrate in, then you should go to a school like UCSC if they are good in one of the areas you want to concentrate in. if you have no idea, you should probably go to one of the bigger schools which are good in general. would that sound right?
Feb. 12th, 2007 06:20 pm (UTC)
Yeah... that sounds right. Although I'm still scratching my head about a few things, like how we could rank so much lower for faculty prestige and yet be so high on impact factor... the two seem like they should be correlated more, since for the most part (I would assume) the success of faculty is judged by their impact factor. Maybe it's that the past impact of our professors was not that great, but currently it's awesome? Or maybe some of the top schools hire professors that were great in the past, but no longer do much central work and instead just sit and think about more speculative, tangential ideas? I can't quite figure it out.
Feb. 12th, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)
I guess if you view faculty prestige as more of an aggregate of all faculty members, and UCSC was pretty small, then you could have a high impact factor (since that is measured per-paper-published) without having a necessarily high faculty prestige (which might be more analogous to most citations in general).

I mean, the way it appears to be measured, if you took the exact same faculty you guys have now, and hired 5 more profs with slightly lower average-citations-per-paper, then your "impact factor" would actually go down. However, it could certainly be the case that your department would be considered "more prestigious" or "better in general" if it was your current faculty plus five more pretty good profs, right? Maybe something like that helps explain what is going on.
Feb. 13th, 2007 02:04 am (UTC)
Ah yes, smallness might actually be the biggest factor here. Or it could be a combination.
Mar. 1st, 2007 05:07 am (UTC)

Meet Dave.

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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