ASU in top tier in social sciences world rankings

By

Skip Derra

Arizona State University is ranked 23rd in the world when it comes to social sciences, according to the Center for World-Class Universities, a ranking compiled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

In the social sciences category, ASU is flanked by Pennsylvania State University, at no. 22, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, at no. 24. The top three universities in social sciences are Harvard, University of Chicago and MIT.

Overall, ASU ranked 78th in the Academic Rankings of World Universities (ARWU) by Shanghai Jiao Tong University. A subset of that ranking is devoted to the social sciences.

As opposed to other lists that predominantly measure average SAT scores of incoming freshmen, selectivity, average faculty compensation or student to faculty ratio, the ARWU rankings measure outcomes – the achievements of alumni and faculty.

In the social sciences, ARWU uses several objective indicators to rank world universities, including the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes in economics; number of highly cited researchers in the categories of social sciences in general, and in economics and business; number of articles indexed in the social science citation index; and the number of papers published in the top 20 percent of journals covering the social sciences fields.

Arizona State has consistently ranked high in the social sciences by ARWU. This is due in part to the structural changes instituted by ASU to make its educational and research entities more relevant to today’s students and to society in general.

For social sciences, these changes include breaking down the traditional walls between departments and reforming them into transdisciplinary schools focused on the challenges of our times. New entities, such as the School of Social and Family Dynamics, the School of Politics and Social Studies, and the School of Social Transformation have been established.

“ASU’s social sciences leadership team within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences takes a transdisciplinary approach to decision making,” said Linda Lederman, ASU dean of social sciences. “We are committed to the belief that the best decisions emerge from collaborating with one another, sharing our strengths and experiences, and working together to address the complex questions that face us as leaders.”

The schools are complemented by several new cross-disciplinary institutes and centers focusing on current social challenges, said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, ASU senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development.

“For example, the Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity leverages the emerging field of complex systems to foster interdisciplinary research on fundamental questions of societal life, and the Center for Nanotechnology in Society studies the societal implications of an emerging scientific field,” he explained.

In addition to this ranking of the social sciences, ASU has bolstered its efforts to attract research funding for the social sciences. A survey by the National Science Foundation listed ASU in the top 20 for federal research dollars attracted by non-science and engineering programs. In FY2009, for example, ASU ranked 17th by this measure, with $30 million for non-S&E related research.