New online global university research benchmarking system

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  • 2011•11•23     Macao

    A groundbreaking international university research benchmarking initiative, the Global Research Benchmarking System (GRBS), has been launched, and is now online at

    The GRBS initiative, first announced in October 2010 at UN Headquarters, in New York, is a joint effort of the United Nations University International Institute for Software Technology (UNU-IIST) in Macao, China, and the US-based Center for Measuring University Performance.

    The GRBS seeks to provide insight that supports the diversity of university research by analysing research performance at a finer level of detail than any previous international ranking or evaluation system. In addition to broad subject categories, such as Engineering or Medicine, the GRBS includes detailed subject categories like Aerospace Engineering and Cardiology. By highlighting the performance of universities with particular niche strengths, the GRBS is able to expand focus beyond the largest and most comprehensive institutions.

    The GRBS also is the first research evaluation system that attempts to evaluate the research landscape in Sustainable Development. Initial coverage focuses on Renewable Energy (including Solar Power, Wind Power, Hydro Power, and Biofuels and Biomass Energy); additional areas, such as Climate Change and Biodiversity Conservation, will be added in the coming months.

    “We must not reduce the richness of universities’ contributions to a single number published in a league table, as is common in today’s ranking systems”, said Prof. Peter Haddawy, Director of UNU-IIST. “The GRBS is an open, collaborative effort of the academic community that seeks broad input and promotes discussion of the important issues in promoting excellence in higher education.”

    The GRBS uses verifiable data to measure the quality, impact and internationality of scientific research. Rather than endorsing a particular university profile by fixing weights on indicators, as typical ranking systems do, the GRBS provides flexible analytical tools that allow each user to choose specific indicators and set their weights, so as to focus on those aspects of university research performance most relevant to his/her needs.

    The GRBS provides a unique benchmarking function to allows comparison of a university’s research performance with the performance of user-defined peer and aspiration benchmarking groups of universities, either overall or in a broad or niche subject area.

    The overall university rating provides a measure of the comprehensiveness of research strengths across the 15 level-one categories. These can then be further investigated by using the subject rating and benchmarking functions across (or within a specified subset of) the 15 broad areas and in 251 fine-grained subject areas.

    The new approach supports each university to determine its own research profile, and identify niche areas in which it can excel; to make more rational strategic and resource allocation decisions; to identify potential partners with complementary strengths; and to publicize its programme strengths.

    The primary data source for the GRBS is the SciVerse Scopus, Elsevier’s abstract and citation database which offers broad coverage of high-quality international peer-reviewed research literature.

    The first GRBS results cover over 700 universities in North America and Asia-Pacific. Universities in other parts of the world will be added within the coming months, beginning with universities in the European Union in the first quarter of 2012.