Forgot your password?
Education Science

MIT Leads in Revolutionary Science, Harvard Declines 121

Posted by Hemos
from the the-slow-down dept.
Bruce G Charlton writes "In three studies looking at the best institutions for 'revolutionary' science, MIT emerged as best in the world. This contrasts with 'normal science' which incrementally-extends science in pre established directions." If you're interested in reading more about how this was determined, read more below.

"My approach has been to look at trends in the award of science Nobel prizes (Physics, Chemistry, Medicine/ Physiology and Economics — the Nobel metric) — then to expand this Nobel metric by including some similar awards. The NFLT metric adds-in Fields medal (mathematics), Lasker award for clinical medicine and the Turing award for computing science. The NLG metric is specifically aimed at measuring revolutionary biomedical science and uses the Nobel medicine, the Lasker clinical medicine and the Gairdner International award for biomedicine. MIT currently tops the tables for all three metrics: the Nobel prizes, the NFLT and the NLG. There seems little doubt it has been the premier institution of revolutionary science in the world over recent years. Also very highly ranked are Stanford, Columbia, Chicago, Caltech, Berkeley, Princeton and — in biomedicine — University of Washington at Seattle and UCSF. The big surprise is that Harvard has declined from being the top Nobel prizewinners from 1947-1986, to sixth place for Nobels; seventh for NFLT, and Harvard doesn't even reach the threshold of three awards for the biomedical NLG metric! This is despite Harvard massively dominating most of the 'normal science' research metrics (eg. number of publications and number of citations per year) — and probably implies that Harvard may have achieved very high production of scientific research at the expense of quality at the top-end."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

MIT Leads in Revolutionary Science, Harvard Declines

Comments Filter:
  • by P(0)(!P(k)+P(k+1)) (1012109) <> on Monday January 15, 2007 @09:38AM (#17612594) Homepage Journal

    From TFS:

    Harvard may have achieved very high production of scientific research at the expense of quality at the top-end.

    I attended Harvard for Ph.D. work, and can say that there has been a feminization of science; which is characterized, above all, by a gatherer-mentality (quantity over quality).

    My peers at MIT, I remember, were doing risky and testosterone-laden work; they are the hunters.

    • by heroofhyr (777687) on Monday January 15, 2007 @09:42AM (#17612626)
      I see they didn't offer too many Gender Studies classes at either university when you were there.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Lemmy Caution (8378)
        And you seem to have taken no classes in dry humor. It's clearly tongue-in-cheek. What's worrisome is that no one else seems to have caught that.
        • I didn't get that impression at all. It is not so obvious that it was tongue-in-cheek (if that is even that case). Why, then, should it be worrisome?
        • It's not that we didn't catch it, it's just that we were unimpressed.

        • The man is clearly prone to gender essentialism, and is probably something like a "Men's Movement" member. He talks about the supposed bitterness of women raised by "castrai" - a code word for (presumably weak, pathetic) men who have failed to defend their machismo. I think he speaks very earnestly when discussing feminization, though neither humorlessly nor unintelligently.
          • by gardyloo (512791)
            The man is clearly prone to gender essentialism, and is probably something like a "Men's Movement" member.

            I think that saying someone is clearly prone to some behavior or another, based on their slashdot posts, is probably a hasty diagnosis based on very little evidence. People tend to post things similar to what have got good responses in the past. Saying that this will inform their opinions, or that the posts accurately reflect their opinions is (to me) a specious argument. I'd have
          • I read it as the opposite: a snide parody of crude gender essentiallism in the form of a sideways shot at the Larry Summers' remarks. Only the author can clear that up.

            Dry wit is dying art, so I shouldn't be surprised to see such literal reactions.
          • OK, I have read his other posts.

            I'm almost certain he's English. His tongue is firmly in cheek, and most people with exposure to English people with his level of education would recognize it at an instant. And he is happily indifferent to being misinterpreted, if his posting history is any indication.
            • His lexical choices are highly evocative of "Men's Movement" type speech, and my experience is that members of the misogynist wing* thereof - if they're halfway intelligent, and the guy seems so to me - learn to use ambiguity so that they can later redeploy it as a defense. "That's not what I was saying at all!" they self-exculpate when subject to criticism, in a technique learned from the Postmodernists. Sadly, they can have their tongue in cheek even while they're promulgating ideas that they in some se
      • by ZuG (13394)
        No kidding. Thank you for that.

        I love slashdot but I hate the sexism I see here from time to time. Difficult to be an IT professional and a feminist, I guess.
        • Just as difficult to be an IT professional and a male who cannot even make a joke involving women without four jumping down his throat for it.

          And before you go off on another tirade... I worked in an office of ten where I was the only male for a year and had to listen to CONSTANT man bashing, jokes about men etc... FAR worse than I have ever heard from men about women.

          It was an environment any woman would have sued over and won millions, but as I guy I had to just take it. Equality? I don't think so. I want
    • by antiaktiv (848995) on Monday January 15, 2007 @09:42AM (#17612634)
      And yet MIT scientists and Harvard scientists get laid just as seldom.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mdsolar (1045926)
      A counter example is Harvard's failure to promote Mageret Geller. 5443/1277?ck=nck []

      True, astronomy does not come into the prize metric, but her work
      on dark matter is revolutionary despite requiring a lot of gathering,
    • Surely, in both pre-human hominid creatures and ancient prehistoric human beings, the males did the gathering while the female role was a home-based domestic one? I'm not sure what the appropriate analog of that role would be within scientific re-search though.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mdsolar (1045926)
        There is a whole lot of lore about this but I think you've missed the main theme. Hunters go on expeditions and by working in groups can handle big game like buffalo.

        Gathers harvest non-agricultural materials, wild berries and bark fibers and such.

        I think you are thinking of post-resource-aquisition fabrication.

        The gender breakdown of hunters and gathers is not exclusive and fabrication is even murkier.
    • by Otter (3800) on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:21AM (#17613034) Journal
      I'd say that given that these "studies" (I'm not sure how they count three of them) are basically counting Nobel prizes, the trend simply reflects changes in what wins Nobels. When the awards were dominated by traditional medicine and physiology, Harvard Med School owned them, and MIT and some of the other competitors mentioned don't even have med schools.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by flyingsquid (813711)
        I'd guess that part of the problem could be that the past success of Harvard is working against them. Harvard currently has more name recognition, and more of a perception of success, than any other university in the U.S., so it's bound to attract a lot of people on the basis of reputation alone, on the basis of image rather than substance. In other words, it's going to draw a lot of people in, simply because that's where successful people have gone in the past.

        But that's exactly the opposite of what you n

    • by timeOday (582209)
      I thought Harvard was more of a law / business oriented place anyways?
    • by Soldrinero (789891) on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:32AM (#17613152)
      Larry Summers, is that you?
    • I disagree (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm currently a (male) course 8 grad student at MIT, working in the Media Lab. My group is very much a counterexample to this theory. We're roughly 50% women, and we're doing bleeding edge stuff that will either fall on its face or change the world. One interesting thing to note is that the women in the group aren't testosterone-laden, cut-throat man-wannabe's, either. They're intelligent women with the courage to try something that might fail. I watched a lot of men walk away from this incredible oppo
      • It's the old Yin/Yang thing. Once you break the stereotypes, you realise that much of what is "male" or "female" is learnt. Using terms such as Yin and Yang, rather than feminine and masculine could reasonably be used to reference the qualities without referring to sex.

        It is of course an irony that promoting "Yin" over "Yang" has become part of the agenda of many who wish to strengthen the role of women, and this appears to have come at the expense of science, and other beneficial risk-taking throughou
        • by Gospodin (547743)

          Once you break the stereotypes, you realise that much of what is "male" or "female" is learnt.

          Turns out you couldn't be more wrong. Much of what is male or female (hopefully you realize that these terms do not require quotes) is biological, not learned. Men's brains are more specialized compared to women's (this does not necessarily confer an advantage one way or another, but it does help, for example, to protect women from the effects of strokes). Women have better hearing. Men have better spatial vision

          • And I should know better; I have a diagnosis for Aspergers. With this misplaced sentence, I distracted from my entire point, which is simply that we shouldn't be prejudiced against any individual, but we should also be weary of "feminising science".

            By using terms that are one removed from gender, it becomes easier to achieve both ends. The term describes a trait (much as Aspergers does), and despite a strong tendency to asymetrical expression between the sexes, is not exclusive to the respective sex, s

          • You know, there are also biological differences between races but we've managed (mostly) to recognize that none of them are meaningful outside the very narrowest cases.
            • by Gospodin (547743)

              I can't really speak to differences between the "races", since race is a very slippery term in the first place. But sex is much less so, since it is clearly identifiable genetically (in almost all cases, I'll add to cover the odd hermaphrodite here and there).

              The differences between the sexes may have nothing to do with potentialities - I don't think there's enough data to keep anything but an open mind about this - but it has a lot to do with how we educate. Should classes be coed or unisex? If unisex, s

              • Your restatement is more clearly that against which I'd wanted to argue. Not because it's a worse argument, but rather because it's a good argument that I think gets abused unless it's treated carefully.

                Humans invariably characterize categories using metrics less complicated and varied than the real phenomenology of that being categorized - something of a truism, since otherwise categories fill no conceptual role except enumeration. Humans also have strong inborn desires to gender identify* - perhaps one
    • by droptone (798379)
      What is interesting about your analogy is that there is solid evidence (if you really desire the actual studies I could find them given some time) that the hunters in a group did not provide the majority of the caloric intake of a group. I vaguely remember the success rate for hunting groups to be below 10%. So to be true to your analogy, the guys ('guys' in a non-gender way, of course) at MIT are not actually providing enough support for the scientific community and necessarily require the other (lesser-kn
      • by tbo (35008)
        What is interesting about your analogy is that there is solid evidence (if you really desire the actual studies I could find them given some time) that the hunters in a group did not provide the majority of the caloric intake of a group.

        That really depends on where you're talking about. For a particularly entertaining example, I suggest you visit Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump [] in Alberta, Canada. Yes, there is really a place with that name; I've been to the interpretive visitor centre there (the whole experie
  • by ehack (115197) on Monday January 15, 2007 @09:52AM (#17612734) Journal
    I remember an article in the NY Times about Tim Berners Lee:

    Time Berner's Lee, a physicist at MIT who invented the world-wide-web ...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 15, 2007 @09:55AM (#17612766)
    ...go to MIT.

    On the other hand, if you want to design a cannon that will destroy the moon, go to Caltech.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dinsdale3 (579466)
      On the other hand, if you want to design a cannon that will destroy the moon, go to Caltech.

      Or just go to MIT and steal it from Caltech []
  • Caltech (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:03AM (#17612868)

    I might also consider per capita - Caltech competes very favorably despite having a much smaller pool than many of these other institutions. They've had 3 Chemistry Nobel prizes since 1990 - pretty damned good for a department of about 30 full-time faculty.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rucs_hack (784150)
      It's somewhat easier to do well when funding is high. I wonder what the ratio of funding to Nobel Prizes is.
  • by SnowZero (92219) on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:06AM (#17612896)
    This "study" is at best a crude approximation, and even then it isn't complete in terms of data. They left off my school, for example. I'm sure some others probably got stiffed too. Of course, I don't think you can fit a reliable trend to three data points anyway -- especially for something highly time delayed such as Nobel prizes.

    Carnegie Mellon University
    1947-1966: 0
    1967-1986: 3
    1987-2006: 7
    • Washington University in St. Louis . . .
      1947-1966: 2
      1967-1986: 8
      1987-2006: 4
      • by SnowZero (92219)
        Hm, that's too bad. The author of the study would now say that your university is in dire straits now, after a formerly being world class research institution. Isn't it fun to play with sparse sample sizes? It's almost like reading tarot cards.
    • by Fyz (581804)
      I'd say it's even worse than that. The study concludes that the US is the only real contender in this race for Nobel Prizes. Of course, the only way that a nation even gets its institutes considered is by winning at least three Nobels in a given period(which BTW seem pretty arbitrary). Well, last time i checked, the US has 300 million inhabitants, compared to the minuscule populations in many European countries that do first class research.

      And I don't buy the Nobel prize argument for a second. First of all
      • > the US has 300 million inhabitants, compared to the minuscule
        > populations in many European countries that do first class research.

        It should be straightforward to normalize this per capita, and see if socialism does slow down technological growth because, by providing for everybody just about everything, people lose their hunger to excel.

        I mean, wouldn't it be a kick in the balls if socialism was a net detriment to society because it slowed the rate of technological growth, even just a little bit, a
      • Well, last time i checked, the US has 300 million inhabitants, compared to the minuscule populations in many European countries that do first class research.

        Yes, and the US has roughly two and a half times the land mass of Europe. Germany alone could fit in the single state of Montana. But, Germany has 82 million people and Montana has 902 thousand.

        It is not accurate to compare the entire US to single countries in Europe. If you look at EU countries, they have a combined population of 462 million
        • by timeOday (582209)
          That is an interesting question... is it true that Europe lags the US in science and if so, why?

          I think the problem with socialism is not that scientists are unmotivated - I think they're motivated more by curiousity. But socialsim (or communism) may slow down the greedy types - the businessmen - who create the capital that scientists need to work. Look at all the brilliant scientists in the Soviet Union grossly underemployed because the money to support them is not there.

          A little more broadly, I do t

          • A little more broadly, I do think politics is the driving factor, and specifically WWII.

            WW2 was over 60 years ago. For the past 30 years, most of the scientists from that time have retired. Further, there were other advances, such as computer technology, which had nothing to do with the Germans.

            What's to explain that our universities are still so much better, especially since our lower level schools have gone to shit? Are our universities doing something here that isn't done there? Hell if I kn
            • by SnowZero (92219)
              Remember we're talking about Nobel prizes as a primary (albeit flawed) metric. That often entails a 20-30+ year lag from when the actual research took place. While WW2 probably doesn't affect Europe much now, I'm sure it's effects were still being felt 30 years ago; One country (Germany) was literally split in two...

              Now, that's not to say that there aren't significant differences between Universities in the US and EU, and any one of those could cause the discrepancy. However, effects from even an old war
  • A Blog (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pondelik (810658) on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:09AM (#17612920)
    A blog? And I thought it was going to be a credible article.
  • by rdwald (831442) on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:13AM (#17612948)
    Is it really fair to compare, say, MIT and Caltech, given that the former has 1,554* faculty members and the latter has 300*? I'll grant that if you're trying to compare the amount of revolutionary work going on at a given school, the fact that one school is larger is a legitimate reason for them to do a larger amount of work. However, comparing the fraction of the school doing revolutionary work seems to be more useful when, for example, considering where to go for undergrad, grad, or postdoc, since it's more likely you'll get to work with one of those individuals conducting revolutionary work.

    * Data from USNews Best Colleges 2007 listings for number of instructional faculty at both schools.
    • by bobdotorg (598873)
      Caltech is primarily a research institute, and the majority of PhD holding researchers do not teach.

      If you include those associated with JPL (NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs), there are around 900 to 1,000 PhD's.

      When I was an undergrad, there were fewer undergrads (my freshman class had 186) than PhD's on campus. There were also fewer women in my freshman class than Caltech Nobel winners...
  • ...neither am I an expert, I have spoken with people who have both visited and attended MIT and when I speak with them about what goes on there, I always hear tales of really cutting edge stuff. Most of it is medical and scientific in nature, but nonetheless, the place is always spoken of highly by the people I hear speak of it.

    Of course, I also hear about amazing things that are being done that are just as cutting edge and just as important in places such as The Cleveland Clinic.

    I guess what it comes down
    • I'm trying not to completely miss the point of your post, but I have to ask: Scientific Revolution? American? What about Galileo, Newton, Bacon, the list goes on... I mean, sure, we've been doing a lot of great stuff for the past century or so here in the states, but thats a far cry from saying that the scientific revolution is an American export.
      • by RulerOf (975607)
        You bring up a good point, but I must say that my statement should be taken with a grain of salt. To put it another way: From my [completely biased because I'm an American] point of view, I would almost expect that you should see the flagship of scientific revolution to be here in the States. And, seeing this article affirm that assumption is quite... reassuring.

        Knowing that education in this country is a far cry beyond (in a general sense) many others in the world, I wouldn't expect this finding to hold
  • A few years ago, a buddy of mine, at Cal Tech, had come up with a revolutionary approach to a mathmatical issue. I won't go into it, because I didn't know enough, even then, to know why it was revolutionary.

    He published, was hailed as a revolutionary thinker, and as it was said, if his discovery proved out, would blow the doors off of some sort of area of math.

    Anyway, 6 months later, his revolutionary approach was reclassified as wrong. He couldn't continue. He said something about CT not being open enoug

  • But... (Score:2, Funny)

    by sdaemon (25357)
    In three studies looking at the best institutions for 'revolutionary' science

    But revolution is a theory, not a fact!

    Er, wait...
  • i'm a tad skeptical about the accuracy of this article, given that it makes multiple references to some unknown 'Chicago University.'
  • The SAT is a proxy IQ test. It's good enough that most high IQ societies will accept sufficient SAT scores in lieu of an IQ test. The only place IQ has been discredited is in the popular mind. The military and education system are still firm practitioners, simply because the concept works.

    The SAT is taken in high school, way before any of these colleges can "work their magic".

    Caltech has the pick of the high IQ (but smaller numbers of students), MIT follows, and then come the other Ivy League schools not fa
    • Definition of IQ: Something an IQ test measures!
      • by infaustus (936456)
        Definition of pH: the difference in voltage between a reference solution and a solution with Na+ concentration changing depending on what solution the probe is in
    • I remember my biology TAs at Harvard. They were all hard working grad students, but none of them showed any sign of great intelligence.

      What was slightly interesting was how they appeared to be well adjusted and sociable people, but their underlying personalities had very peculiar problems. Ie. - they were all slightly neurotic underneath, and being a high achiever was really a kind of psychological compensation. If they had to peck their way to the top through whining and argument, they would just as wel

    • Except that the SATs can easily be gamed. My Math score went from 560 to 690 (from 65th percentile to 93rd) just by learning strategies and doing prep work!

      Now, I'm not saying nobody can game a good IQ test, but it's certainly harder since there isn't a million-dollar industry dedicated to teaching you how to game IQ tests.

      Or, to put things much more obviously, any test used to qualify people for anything will eventually be gamed.
      • by turing_m (1030530)
        There will always be outliers. Looks like you are one.

        The average increase in scores after retesting is a combined 30 points. That's not a lot.

        And for all this supposed gaming of the SAT, the averages haven't gone up over time, and the distributions still seem rather normal at the far right of the curve. You'd expect a big bulge there if it was as easily gameable as you contend.

        (The SAT was also re-centered twice, in 1995 and 2005.) ews_info/cbsenior/yr2006/ []
        • To combat the trend toward declining scores, the SAT was "recentered" in 1995, and the average score became again closer to 500.

          In 2005, the test was changed again, largely in response to criticism by the University of California system.[citation needed] Because of issues concerning ambiguous questions, especially analogies, certain types of questions were eliminated (the analogies disappeared altogether). The test was made marginally harder, as a corrective to the rising number of perfect scores.

          And for all this supposed gaming of the SAT, the averages haven't gone up over time, and the distributions still seem rather normal at the far right of the curve.

          The thing in bold claims something with which the two quotations disagree. Don't ask me why.

          There will always be outliers. Looks like you are one.
          Yeah, I'm an outlier on nearly everything. Funny thing is, these are my sets of scores - Writing: 760, Critical Reading: 670, Math: 560; Writing: 690, Critical Reading: 780, Math: 690. More than a

    • Hell, put the student population of Caltech in your local community college and you'd find all sorts of revolutionary science suddenly springing from there too.
      Without the facilities and faculty of the former school I don't believe the students would come quite as close to their potential. If the environment wasn't important, no one would attend a university.
  • by wikinerd (809585) on Monday January 15, 2007 @11:06AM (#17613582) Journal

    From my own personal and subjective experience, MIT has the best designed site from a usability perspective out of all the American university sites I have ever visited. I think it is seconded only by Berkeley.

  • A Study? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by optimusNauta (784677) on Monday January 15, 2007 @11:32AM (#17613922) Homepage
    If this guy really wans to study something like this, he needs to sit down and read some friggin' articles and come up with a metric to say whether an article is revolutionary. For example, Field's medals only honor Mathematicians younger than 40, and are only awards to one person ever some odd years, so that if two "revolutionary" papers are written in the same period, one gets nothing. In general the sample size of this "study", namely thee dozen prestigious awards of the past decade or two, is laughably small, and the only real result of his work is the suggestion that their should be more awards like the Nobels. To say that any one university tops any other from the information presented is foolish at best.
  • MIT does not have a medical school -- just a "division of health sciences and technology", where some cross-training with Harvard occurs. MIT does not have various departments related to medicine, such as pharmacology, epidemiology, biostatistics, or public health. It does not have a statistics department, or an independent astronomy department. Nor does it have independent departments for various branches of biology such as microbiology, genetics, or immunology; everything is just lumped together in a "
    • by JelloJoe (977764)
      What does having a seperate department for small sub-fields have anything to do with how much success a school has in this subject? That's like saying MIT is horrible at CS because they don't have an independent CS department! Sure we don't have a medical school, but that's mainly because we are an engineering school. If we had a med school, we'd be good at that too. The HST department does amazing work. The research done in the Biology fields at MIT have caught up with the rest of the schools in the n
      • by dorpus (636554)
        What does having a seperate department for small sub-fields have anything to do with how much success a school has in this subject? They aren't "small", they're huge. Putting everything under a "biology" department is like putting physics, math, computer science, and chemistry under one "physical sciences" department. MIT has an EECS department, as various other schools do, since the fields overlap. Sure we don't have a medical school, but that's mainly because we are an engineering school. If we had a m
        • by BZ (40346)
          > You do not even have a psychology department.

          Actually, MIT does sort of have one. It's just called "Brain and Cognitive Sciences". See . Not exactly pure psychology, but then again you never made it clear why a psychology department is a prereq for a medical school... ;)
    • Ironic what you say about MIT and biology, considering that MIT has one of the top 3 genome sequencing centers in the country, the Broad Institute [].
      • by dorpus (636554)
        MIT has a few accomplishments in bioinformatics, but bioinformatics is a down-and-out field at the moment. A lot of ex-computer geeks went into the bioinformatics, thinking they could become dot-com billionaires in biotech. However, most problems in biology have proven resistant to computational solutions. Decoding the genome was a one-time project, but understanding the meaning of all the ATCG's remains a slow process centered on the biology. Pharmaceutical companies of the 1990s thought that computers
  • Remember MIT's announcement early in 2006 about working on supercapacitors based on carbon nanotubes? That new technology could go a LONG way in making power generation by wind turbines and solar panels much more viable, and could make it possible for a truly practical electric car with long range and reasonable carrying capacity.
  • Wait till one IITian win a Nobel. Then he/she will reveal the inner special secret hand shake to his classmates, and they will tell their juniors, and then the knowledge will spread and IITians will be winning the Nobels like gangbusters :-)
  • Larry Summers proposed a new curriculum for Harvard undergraduates with at least one mandatory science course. They dont have to take even on e science or math course now. But I think that is on hold after his firing(*) (technically he was pushed aside to some high level professorship). Both Larry and I attended MIT (he was in my 8.012 section) where there are six(**) required math and science courses to graduate, even if you are a literature major. It is felt you cannot understand the modern world unless
  • I thought this was kind of surprising, especially considering how often people tend to lament the state of US science:

    In the past 20 years, the USA has sixteen institutions which have won three or more prizes, but elsewhere in the world (Table 3) only the College de France has achieved three Nobel prizes. Since 1986 the previously Nobel-successful UK research institutions (University of Cambridge, the MRC Molecular Biology Unit at Cambridge, University of Oxford and Imperial College, London) have declined f
  • Prize awards are only as good as their award criteria. Nobel prizes aren't awarded according to an objective criterion so using them in a metric like this is hazardous to say the least. Worse, the Nobel prize committee is subject to no feedback controls. If they start engaging in some sort of nepotism, there is nothing to stop them. Its not like there is a marketplace of comprehensive prize awards on the scale of the Nobel. Far better for lots of individuals to specify their own, objective, criteria fo
  • awards? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Goldsmith (561202) on Monday January 15, 2007 @03:18PM (#17617190)
    It's very hard to use awards as a judge of the scientific worth of an institution. For example, my school (UCI) has three Nobels in the last 15 years or so, but none of them for research done at UCI.

    If you're a good enough scientist to get a Nobel (or Fields, and so on...), then chances are at some point some big, well known, well paying school is going to recruit you. It doesn't take a Nobel prize for other scientists to recognize a great researcher, but recruiting someone who has already done their life's great work doesn't make you a great scientific institution.

    No matter how much loyalty you may have to a particular place, there are perks at big private schools that state schools like Berkely and Michigan just can't offer. Some well known scientists stick around in smaller incubation schools, but many find that being a big fish in a little pond is just more work and doesn't pay as well.

    If you're going to use awards to determine scientific worth, you need to look at where the research which won the prize was done. Of course, this would put my school off the list with a grand total of 0 Nobels. I'm sure other small universities would start moving up the list.
    • by sgt_doom (655561)
      You make a most salient and sagacious point about the Nobel - it is often highly irrevelant in non-scientific fields (especially economics), and is sometimes questionable in scientific fields. After Milton Friedman was awarded a Nobel, I stopped paying attention to it pretty much as if they award them to loony tunes like that, they'll award them to anybody.....
  • by moosesocks (264553) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:24AM (#17624286) Homepage
    An open-ended question to the slashdot/scientific/tech communities:

    Why the lovefest for MIT and the Ivy Leagues?

    Sure, a lot of legitimately good science has come out of Harvard and MIT. However, there's a whole slew of great science being produced at any of the other instutions in the world that gets overlooked completely, while the world goes gaga over every poorly-conceived grad project that gets conducted at the MIT Media Lab.

    There's some very awesome research going on at all sorts of public institutions around the country with results that are immediately released to the public domain.

    Heck... we're working on several promising leads to finding a reliable cure to Cancer, and all I hear about on the news is the horribly impractical OLPC project (their hearts are in the right place, but the project itself isn't likely to get off the ground and make a noticable impact in people's lives).

    MIT and Harvard have money. Lots of money. It's no secret that the Ivy League caters to students in the upper-income brackets (and admits a few low-income students each year to look good, completely cutting out the middle classes). Exeter and Andover (two insanely expensive private High Schools in New England) combined send over 50 kids each year to Harvard. MIT's not quite as bad, but it certainly employs similar tactics by hiring high-profile faculty members. What possible reason could they have for employing RMS? The amount of useful work he's completed has dropped off exponentially as time's gone on, and he's all but abandoned GNU for some suicidal quest of self-promition.

    It pains me to see Harvard graduates being rushed into high-paying jobs, whereas students from my alma-mater have a tough time even getting interviews. Perpetuating the media hype around these institutions is only going to hurt the rest of us in the long-run.
    • Cachet. MIT is supposed to be the greatest technical/engineering school in the world. Harvard, the greatest liberal-arts university. The fact that neither produces excellent work in-house at a per-capita rate so much greater than the rest of the world doesn't matter any longer, because they can attract undergrads, grad students and professors through sheer cachet and deep pockets.

      There's some very awesome research going on at all sorts of public institutions around the country with results that are immediately released to the public domain.

      I completely agree. Nobody who doesn't give a look at the USNews rankings of graduate Computer Science departments can under

Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves. -- Lazarus Long