Ranking and Analysis Methodology

Our innovative ranking technology allows individuals and institutions to speak for themselves, capturing the critically relevant metric of true influence — influence within academic disciplines, areas of research, and professional fields of study. We measure the actual impact of noteworthy individuals — the leaders, experts, and pioneers in each respective field, all associated with the higher education institution they’re affiliated with. This produces an objective Influence Ranking. Using our tools, you can also generate personalized rankings based on the factors that matter most to you.

Who is Academic Influence?

The AcademicInfluence.com team is composed of academics and data scientists working together to provide objective, real-time rankings of influential people, places, and institutions. These “Influence Rankings” offer a comprehensive picture of both the academic and real-world impact made by noteworthy individuals and the colleges or universities where they claim affiliation. By allowing these individuals and institutions to speak for themselves, our innovative ranking system captures the often overlooked but critically relevant metric of true influence — influence within disciplines, influence within spheres of research, and influence within professional fields.

The outcome is a measurement of impact on the world that you can use for countless practical applications including scholarly research, college ranking, and career consultation.

Discover more about the people behind AcademicInfluence.com.

What are Influence Rankings?

University ranking systems significantly impact higher education. These various ranking systems drive many student decisions about where to apply and where to attend, thereby elevating the importance that colleges and universities place on these rankings. This condition invites valid concern about the potential for bias, manipulation, and even irrelevance of ranking data. We engineered Influence Rankings as a response to this concern. Each Influence Ranking is an objective, real-time ranking based on a single, encompassing criterion — influence.

We operate under the same principle that drives most ranking systems. We understand that most students want to attend the “best school.”

But what is entailed by the designation, “best school”? In our experience, the answer may be different for each student. That designation may entail offering the most knowledgeable departmental faculty, the most accomplished professors, or the most noteworthy alumni. For many students, the best school is one which is widely recognized for excellence in a specific discipline. Consequently, these features connect directly to economic, geographic, and academic imperatives such as educational outcomes, career prospects, and lifetime earning potential. In a sense, this promotes the dense, complex and often internally conflictive conditions shaping the college ranking ecosystem. There are many dimensions of institutional excellence that demand consideration, and competing ranking systems make their own internal decisions about which of these dimensions to prioritize.

Our findings suggest, however, that the concept of influence, measured properly, offers a singular and overarching metric which captures all of these dimensions, and which offers a portal into countless ways of viewing and analyzing these dimensions. Influence Rankings allow the user to personalize and drive rankings based on the factors that matter most in their search for the “best school.”

What are real-time, objective rankings?

We measure the actual impact of noteworthy individuals — the leaders, experts, and pioneers in their respective fields — in order to produce objective Influence Rankings.

Merging real-time machine learning with human quality assurance, our innovative ranking metric maps connections between the world’s most influential people and the institutions where they’ve studied, taught, researched, and published. We use the same metric to connect noteworthy individuals to specific departments, degree programs, disciplines, and career paths.

We begin by crawling the vast library of digital sources available through the English Wikipedia corpus as well as Wikidata. Our powerful engine identifies references to people and schools, analyzes context, ranks documents in order of importance, and cross-references billions of citations in order to produce a dynamic ranking based on the actual accomplishments of real people. The result is an unbiased ranking of influential people that users can explore by school, discipline, time period, and more

While we have the ability to update our databases every hour — in real-time — for quality assurance and visitor experience reasons, we have elected to update the public-facing site content on a quarterly basis.

Note: Because our ranking methodology is objective, it’s necessarily morally neutral as well. Many influencers have significant measurable impact despite a lack of academic, moral, ethical, or popular merit. The results of any ranking are therefore independent of moral judgment. We leave to you the final decision of the value of an institution or individual, as you apply the moral values system that matters most to you.

How do we balance machine learning with human quality assurance?

Though Academic Influence uses machine learning, we also rely on a critical level of human quality control. Our data scientists have spent years developing and refining our influence-quantifying engine. As with any powerful engine, the careful attention to subtle details is what keeps the rankings at AcademicInfluence.com from spinning out of control. For instance, the overwhelming popularity of sports, politics, and entertainment would skew any search for the most influential academics. To counteract this difficulty, for example, we remove all politicians born after 1850. This simple change to the algorithm, along with nearly 150 additional subtle refinements, keeps the engine running smoothly.

Beyond these human inputs, our method does not use professor surveys, student feedback, self-reporting or other sample-based data collection methods which are vulnerable to bias, manipulation, or subjectivity.

What are the uses for Academic Influence?

What are the practical applications of Academic Influence?

Let’s begin with an example: Stanford and MIT are widely considered to offer among the best computer science programs in the world. Noted academic ranking organizations such as US News & World Report agree that this is so. But if it is so, why is it so?

Based on our ranking methodology, these schools have produced the most academic content, related to the subject in question, during a specified time period, by either current or former professors and students. Traditional college rankers often identify these top schools as among the “best” schools in their field, but their findings are typically based on an array of subjective data including professor surveys, student feedback, and outdated self-reporting. While we expect some overlap between our findings and those of traditional rankers, our findings are based on unbiased, empirical data. This distinguishes our Influence Rankings apart from more traditional ranking methodologies, even when overlaps between “most influential” and “best” occur.

What does this mean for you?

If you seek a university noted for its excellence in a particular field, AcademicInfluence.com can help you identify the schools that have made the biggest impact in the full spectrum of disciplines, industries, and career fields.

We also provide you with a number of sophisticated search tools allowing you to personalize your rankings based on the features you consider most important. By contrast to the rigid rankings presented by most university ranking sites, Academic Influence gives you multiple ways to explore and view the data.

Our calculated influence metric is a portal into the features that matter most in your college search. With tools like the Custom College Ranking, and the upcoming College Compare and College Match tools, you can use influence as a jumping-off point to evaluate the academic, geographical, economic, and practical features that will ultimately inform your enrollment decisions. You can also set date parameters around your search — which is a great way to evaluate either the historical impact of an institution, or to discover up-and-coming schools which have only recently begun producing a significant number of real-world influencers.

The innovation of Influence

This pure data science approach to academic rankings is unique to the higher education industry, creating a powerful array of research methods joining unbiased academic rankings with the exciting world of machine learning and big data.