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Chaos & Complex Systems Seminar
Changes in excellence among United States research universities
Date: Tuesday, September 25th
Time: 12:05 pm
Place: 4274 Chamberlin (refreshments will be served)
Speaker: Rogers Hollingsworth, UW Departments of Sociology and History
Abstract: What are the explanations for changes in excellence in American research universities? The classic answers to this problem were variations on Robert Merton’s elaboration of the “Matthew” effect in science – those who have abundance will accumulate advantage and those who have not will continue to be disadvantaged. Numerous analysts have addressed the Matthew effect when explaining inequality in research excellence among individual scientists as well as universities. This presentation demonstrates that the Mertonian explanation is not correct when analyzing long-term changes in recognition of excellence among American research universities. It focuses on the considerable instability in the ranking of excellence in the basic biological sciences over many decades. It demonstrates that recognition for excellence of research universities is distributed into six patterns, the analysis and explanation of which is the major focus of the presentation. It is a small part of the study of changes over many decades in research excellence among universities in France, Great Britain, the United States, and Germany with soft comparisons to universities in Sweden and Japan. The data for the presentation is based on re-analysis of data collected at various time points by the American Council of Education, the National Research Council, and citation indices by ISI-Thompson Reuters. The data are also based on 596 in-depth interviews of scientists by Hollingsworth in the six named countries over thirty years (some scientists were interviewed on multiple occasions for a total of 913 interviews). See for the names, exact dates, and places of the interviews. Data sources and methodology for rankings are available at
Host: Clint Sprott
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