The Business of Ranking, Publishing, and Data Analytics

21st April 2022 : 14:00 - 15:00

Category: Webinar

Speaker: Ellen Hazelkorn, Technological University Dublin; Leslie Chan, University of Toronto Scarborough; George Chen, Harvard University

Location: Zoom webinar, registration required

Audience: Public

Webinar attendees will receive a 40% off discount code for the book, Research Handbook on University Rankings. Theory, Methodology, Influence and Impact

The rise, use and misuse of rankings has been the focus of the collective attention of policymakers and higher education leaders, academics and students since the first global university rankings emerged in 2003. Global rankings captured the zeitgeist of accelerating globalisation and the global competition for talent, and increased policy and public focus on performance, quality and accountability. On the eve of their 20th anniversary, the Research Handbook on University Rankings. Theory, Methodology, Influence and Impact provides a comprehensive review and analysis of their influence and impact.

Until recently, too little attention has focused on rankings as a business – and especially on growing corporate integration and economic concentration between rankings, publishing and big data. Three chapters in the Research Handbook discuss aspects of this issue.

In this webinar, Leslie Chan and George Chen examine the way in which university rankings, owned and operated by commercial entities, have become evaluation tools utilised by a multitude of stakeholders beyond the university. To compete on such rankings, universities have faced reinforcing pressure to out-perform one another on bibliometric indicators — a form of competition that involves both academic publishers, which are also data analytics firms.

Using Elsevier as a case study, their research explores the creation and promotion of university rankings by academic publishers / data analytics firms. They show how the support of university rankings is a strategy that complements the firm’s existing acquisition of academic research infrastructure, all being a part of the rent-seeking behaviour to generate increasing dependencies from universities.

They emphasize the business value of rankings and data analytics through a description of mergers, spinoffs, and acquisitions in the field. They also demonstrate through a review of Elsevier’s marketing, press materials, services support, etc., that Elsevier promotes an explicit marketing narrative regarding “research intelligence” and rankings improvement while providing bibliometric data to the two largest commercial rankers. Analyzing the combination of rankings support and research infrastructure acquisition through the lens of platform capitalism and algorithmic governance, they explore the potential impact of such powerful decision-making tools on the public missions of the university.

This webinar is part of the free public seminar programme hosted by the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE).