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25 Schools responsible for the greatest advances in Science

VeryLuckyParentVeryLuckyParent Registered User Posts: 504 Member
Found this article along with a detailed spreadsheet. Thought I should share, since others may find it interesting as well.

http://qz.com/498534/these-25-schools-are-responsible-for-the-greatest-advances-in-science/

Top Ten on the Prestigious Awards list
1. California Institute of Technology
2. Harvard University
3. University of Chicago
4. Swarthmore College
5. Columbia University
6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
7. Yale University
8. Amherst College
9. CUNY - City College of New York
10. Carnegie Mellon University
Top Ten on the Prestigious Membership List
1. California Institute of Technology
2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
3. Harvard University
4. Swarthmore College
5. Princeton University
6. Amherst College
7. Yale University
8. University of Chicago
9. Stanford University
10. Haverford College

Here are some interesting quotes according to the authors
Yet, we know of no evaluations of colleges based on lasting contributions to society. Of course, such contributions are difficult to judge. In the analysis below, we focus primarily on STEM (science, technology, engineering and medicine/mathematics) contributions, which are arguably the least subjective to evaluate, and increasingly more valued in today’s workforce
The top schools on our lists tend to be private, with significant financial resources. However, the top public university, UC Berkeley, is ranked highly on both lists: #13 on the Nobel/Fields/Turing and #31 on the National Academies. Perhaps surprisingly, many elite liberal arts colleges, even those not focused on STEM education, such as Swarthmore and Amherst, rose to the top
One intriguing result is the strong correlation (r ~ 0.5) between our ranking (over all universities) and the average SAT score of each student population, which suggests that cognitive ability, as measured by standardized tests, likely has something to do with great contributions later in life. By selecting heavily on measurable characteristics such as cognitive ability, an institution obtains a student body with a much higher likelihood of achievement
While admission to one of the colleges on the lists above is no guarantee of important achievements later in life, the probability is much higher for these select matriculants
Our findings identify schools that excel at producing impact, and our method introduces a new way of thinking about and evaluating what makes a college or university great. Perhaps college rankings should be less subjective and more focused on objective real world achievements of graduates
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Replies to: 25 Schools responsible for the greatest advances in Science

  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 11,824 Senior Member
    Interesting addition to the "rankings" canon.
  • jademasterjademaster Registered User Posts: 32 Junior Member
    I don't know why the authors found it surprising that liberal arts colleges show up high on their lists. Liberal arts has always included the maths and sciences, and liberal arts colleges have always been slanted towards academia.
  • VeryLuckyParentVeryLuckyParent Registered User Posts: 504 Member
    @jademaster If someone had asked me to guess which schools would be on this list, I would of course have picked some of the major private research universities, but would have completely overlooked the impact that LAC 's have had on science. I would have picked some of the larger state schools over them. So I am glad the authors actually showed us with data the impact of the LAC's. That list certainly taught me a thing or two and for that I am thankful to the authors
  • ZinheadZinhead Registered User Posts: 2,610 Senior Member
    edited June 2016
    So I am glad the authors actually showed us with data the impact of the LAC's.

    The methodology is based on the number of awards divided by the size of the student body. This is a significant bias which helps schools with smaller student bodies and disadvantages large research universities.

    An alternative methodology would be to look at the total amount of R&D spending on science.

    https://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/profiles/site?method=rankingBySource&ds=herd

    Amherst (ranked #405), Swarthmore (ranked #429) and Haverford (ranked #472) do poorly by this method.
  • jademasterjademaster Registered User Posts: 32 Junior Member
    @Zinhead I don't think they're interested in which universities do ground breaking research, but where exceptional scientists studied as undergrad. Otherwise I would expect to see the UCs and Michigan ranked highly. Instead, they're working off the assumption that undergrad education influence the formation of scientists, and who knows, it might. Or maybe exceptionally bright would-be scientists gravitate towards a certain set of schools. I personally think it's both.

    It's funny how research expenditure doesn't predict how successful Amherst, Swarthmore and Haverford alumni do in science. Nobel prizes may be a crap shoot and meaningless measurement in the end, but membership in the NAS is quite commendable.
  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan Registered User Posts: 11,754 Senior Member
    edited June 2016
    @jademaster, in absolute numbers, the number of exceptional scientists who studied at good publics as an undergrad still overwhelms those from LACs.

    One other problem with a per capita comparison (besides the fact that at most top publics, there's going to be a greater diversity of abilities than at top LACs) is that publics offer a ton of preprofessional majors while LACs offer only majors in arts and science. I don't think anyone expects a journalism, nutrition, or education major to aim for, much less win a science Nobel, yet in studies like this, they still contribute to the denominator. And those numbers don't tell you how someone with some ability will actually fare after school.

    Anyway, I do believe that top LACs deserve some spotlight (I rank some highly in my tiers:http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-search-selection/1893105-ivy-equivalents-ranking-based-on-alumni-outcomes-take-2-1.html), but be aware of methodology as well.
  • merc81merc81 Registered User Posts: 8,623 Senior Member
    edited June 2016
    The analysis addresses the extremely relevant aspect of over versus underperformance. From the authors, "For comparison, very good research universities . . . are outperformed by (Caltech) by 600 to 900 times."
  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan Registered User Posts: 11,754 Senior Member
    edited June 2016
    @merc81, you may draw a conclusion on over/underperformance only if the overall quality of the entering students at ASU and Caltech are the same, but we know that that isn't true.

    So what conclusions could you draw on over/underperformance if only a handful of students at ASU could even get in to Caltech? If you are in that handful, this study doesn't tell you which place you would be more likely to succeed.
  • merc81merc81 Registered User Posts: 8,623 Senior Member
    Re #8, That might be true, in that the analysis does not provide an answer to that question. However, institutions themselves can over or underperform, and that is reflected in the study.
  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan Registered User Posts: 11,754 Senior Member
    @merc81, how is that reflected in the study?

    Caltech is given a set of inputs.
    ASU is given a different set of inputs (the vast majority of whom are nowhere near Caltech's inputs' quality).

    They both produce outputs. Some of Caltech's outputs are among the best in science. Very few of ASU's are.

    Which institution over/underperformed?
  • merc81merc81 Registered User Posts: 8,623 Senior Member
    It's easier to address the question of LAC v. research university/over-performance vs. underperformance with a study that investigated the topic directly: "How the instructional and learning environments of liberal arts colleges [vs. research and regional universities] enhance cognitive development" (Pascarella, Wong, Trolian and Blaich). Quite literally, liberal arts colleges make their students smarter.
  • ZinheadZinhead Registered User Posts: 2,610 Senior Member
    They both produce outputs. Some of Caltech's outputs are among the best in science. Very few of ASU's are.

    Which institution over/underperformed?

    If one wanted to become a Medical Doctor, which one would be an easier path to medical school?
  • saillakeeriesaillakeerie Registered User Posts: 2,036 Senior Member
    Yet another attempt at making the subjective objective. And not surprisingly, folks who like the results like the attempt and those who don't attack it.
  • merc81merc81 Registered User Posts: 8,623 Senior Member
    edited June 2016
    "folks who like the results like the attempt and those who don't attack it" (#13)

    Many on the forum are choosing colleges for themselves or helping family members choose. Whenever quality studies are available, they should be accessed for what they have to offer.

    The study referenced in post 11 seems particularly relevant, in that it relates to the very purpose of higher education.
  • saillakeeriesaillakeerie Registered User Posts: 2,036 Senior Member
    edited June 2016
    One, my post was not directed specifically to you but rather to the thread in general. Two, you are still trying to take something subjective (which is the "best" college) and make it appear objective by creating a numbered list based on some type of largely arbitrary calculation. Create different methods of calculation and you likely get a differently ordered list. So which one is better? In my experience, the answer to that question will depend on whether you agree with the second list over the first. If you agree with the second list, you will tend to find the second calculation method to be better. In the end, all we really know is the lists are different. Three, you have added another subjective determination (that the very purpose of higher education is to make students smarter -- or do you think that determination is objective as well?).
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