Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Today is election day...

...so maybe I can post about a couple unusual things today. First: go vote! If you live in Pennsylvania, are eligible to vote, are registered with a political party, and haven't voted already. (Not sure what segment of my huge readership that applies to.) Yesterday I heard Barack Obama speak at the Petersen Events Center. The content of the speech wasn't all that exciting (since it's all been said before), but I was very impressed by the fact that he made the effort for a last-minute, late-night stop in Pittsburgh. You could see on his face just how tired he was, but also that he knew the stakes, and was determined to keep standing up. It somewhat reminded me of kibadachi practice.

Second: over the weekend I met an old friend from college, Ben Schmidt, who now studies American history at Princeton. Later I was looking at his website, and saw that he has a very interesting paper about using a variation of Google's PageRank algorithm to rank PhD programs:

Ranking Doctoral Programs by Placement: A New Method
Benjamin M. Schmidt and Matthew M. Chingos
Forthcoming in PS: Political Science & Politics

Most existing rankings of graduate programs rely on some measure of faculty quality, whether it be reputation (as in the National Research Council and US News rankings), honors (prizes, membership in learned societies, etc.), or research quality and quantity (as in citation studies and publication counts). We propose a ranking that focuses instead on the success of a program’s graduates. By using stochastic matrices, it is possible to create a system in which programs essentially “vote” for each other by hiring graduates of other programs as professors in their own department. This system allows us to create an objective, results-oriented measure that is well suited to measure the quality of departments whose graduates aspire to academic positions. The rankings correlate well with reputational ranking systems, and include a per capita measure that recognizes the accomplishments of smaller but high quality programs.

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