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Mapping Scientific Excellence, a new website out of Germany, has come up with a novel way to rank the world’s best universities and scientific institutions. It ranks an institution’s excellence by the rate at which it produces scientific papers that are most frequently cited. An MIT Technology review of the site, which Lutz Bornmann at the Administrative Headquarters of the Max Planck Society launched on August 7, 2013, explains that “the site counts the number of papers produced by an institution in a given discipline and then counts the number of these that are among the top 10 per cent of most highly cited. If more than ten per cent of the institution’s papers are in this category it gets a positive rating, if less than 10 per cent, it gets a negative rating.”

The captivating part is the data visualization. The website lists the top institutions by discipline and displays them on a maps where you can compare regions in different disciplines.

The website, io9, notes fascinating surprises. “In physics and astronomy, for example, two of the top three institutions in physics and astronomy are Spanish: the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona and ICREA (Institucio Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avancats) also in Barcelona. Ranked 8th, above Harvard and MIT, is Partners Healthcare System, a non-profit healthcare organisation based in Boston that funds research, mostly in the life sciences.”

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Jill Barshay writes the weekly “Proof Points” column about education research and data, covering a range of topics from early childhood to higher education. She taught algebra to ninth-graders for...

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