STAGE 3 - Institutional data collection
The objective of the data collection stage is to gather factual information about a university’s activities, from faculty and enrolment statistics to research income. This data can be combined with other data sources to create new indicators of performance and more complete institutional profiles. Our specifications are not limited to ranking initiatives but are rooted in the desire to create more rich and meaningful institutional profiles.
To facilitate deeper insights into worldwide university knowledge exchange, we need to expand traditional data parameters. We understand that with all data reporting, an added burden is placed on universities—but we strongly believe that better data, in more targeted areas, will ultimately prove more inclusive for institutions of all size, shape, and region. Where the reputational survey helps capture qualitative assessments within institutional profiles, the data collection integrates a quantitative backbone whereby profiles can pivot on context and custom specifications. The profiles become more agile and the community is better able to answer, and even ask, highly-specified questions of the profile dataset.
BUILDING A DATA COLLECTION TOOL
We designed and built a web-based data tool to facilitate the easy collection and validation of data by the institutions themselves. Our primary objectives are to keep the institution’s reporting burden to a minimum and reduce the number of mistakes. We incorporated usability testing in the design process and genuine users offered valuable feedback on enhancing the design interface and curbing potential problems.
We also worked closely with our advisors, known as the Platform Group, comprised of university experts from around the world with interest in our profiles project and advancing institutional profiles more generally. The group was instrumental in fine-tuning the data definitions and descriptions toward greater international acceptance and clarity. We were also able to use Platform Group feedback to enhance our ongoing support structure throughout the data collection process.
The tool is available in multiple languages, including Spanish, German, French, Chinese, and English.
CREATING SUPPORT MATERIALS
Parallel to the Data Collection Tool design, we have developed a support structure to help institutions input the appropriate data. We have data editors available to answer questions and provide timely support for the three major geographical regions: Europe, Middle East, & Africa; the Americas; and Asia-Pacific. We have also created various support materials around the task, including a guidebook, Frequently Asked Questions (continuously updated), and an on-line tutorial.
SHORTLISTING OF INSTITUTIONS
Although there is no intention on Thomson Reuters’ part to exclude institutions from our Profiles Project, or to even create any selection process for that matter, there is a need to prioritize work in ways that will advance the project’s ability to succeed and thereby grow, adapt, and ultimately reach more institutions. Therefore we shortlist and target those institutions we believe bring the most value to the project as a whole. We short listed institutions for data collection in the following way:
We initially use bibliometric analysis to look at the top institutions, by publications and citation count for the past ten years, in each of the project’s six broad categories—Arts & Humanities; Clinical, Pre-clinical & Health; Engineering & Technology; Life Sciences; Physical Sciences; and Social Sciences.
Secondly, we looked at the preliminary results of our Academic Reputation Survey to identify those institutions that performed well.