Changes to research criteria may bolster GW rankings

The University will likely see a boost in its research-based rankings for 2010, after a leading foundation updated its ranking criteria to include the humanities and other social sciences – areas where GW boasts high levels of research.

The National Science Foundation previously based its ranking on federal money spent solely on science and engineering. The foundation’s ranking for 2010 research expenditures of all Universities will be released in the fall and will reflect the inclusion of federal money earmarked to universities for research in the humanities, law, education and the arts.

“A great deal of what we do is educational research, legal research, business research that, in the past, would not have counted, and now it’s going to count,” Anne Hirschfield, associate vice president for health research at GW, said.

Hirschfield added that the NSF is, in essence, broadening its definition of how it classifies research. The NSF also clarified its instructions for reporting expenditures, making the group’s requirements much clearer.

Vice President for Research Leo Chalupa said he is optimistic that GW will earn a higher spot when the NSF releases its compiled 2010 data this fall, but added that it is impossible to predict rankings, as the most competitive schools are always improving.

“I hope [the change in criteria] will result in an increase in our ranking, but we won’t know until those rankings actually come out,” Chalupa said. “Our numbers have gone up significantly, but I don’t know how [New York University] or how Duke [University] is going to be affected, for example.”

The NSF ranked GW as No. 92 in its top research universities list in 2007, the most recent year available. Last year, Chalupa announced his goal of making GW a top 80 research university within five years.

Boosting the University’s research status has been one of University President Steven Knapp’s focuses since he came to GW from Johns Hopkins University in 2007. The Innovation Task Force was launched in part to provide additional funds for research. Knapp appointed Chalupa to the newly-created position of vice president for research in 2009. The Science and Engineering Complex – a project that was in the works before Knapp’s tenure began – is expected to improve research, as it will provide more physical space to conduct research that the University hopes will be used for top-tier studies.

Chalupa said a potential ranking change would not have a large effect on the type of research conducted at GW. Faculty carry out research and consult the Office of Institutional Research and other University administrators, but they have the final say as to what type of research they will perform.

“We want to increase in our ranking in every way, not just in research, but in terms of student selectivity, student scores,” Chalupa said. “If we were happy where we are, we’re not going to improve.”

This article was updated Oct. 9, 2011 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly called the National Science Foundation, the National Science Federation.

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