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Discussions of NRC Rankings Ramp Up

Steinn Sigurðsson at Dynamics of Cats says that with tomorrow's release of the National Research Council's "Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs," the past will serve as the report's "prologue." Since its last rankings, published in 1995, the NRC has changed its scoring approach. "The new methodology is much … better," Sigurðsson suggests, though he says that, as with any such data, "the rankings are much perused and much abused — by anyone from prospective grads to axe-wielding provosts." (See Sigurðsson's extended explanation of the revised NRC methodology in a previous post, here.)

The blogger at Incoherently Scattered Ponderings discusses the merits of the NRC rankings in the context of those published by the Academic Rankings of World Universities organization, the Times Higher Education, and US News & World Report. "USNWR make[s] me very uneasy because I have no idea what they measure," he writes, citing a lack of methodological transparency. The "ARWU rankings seem to be a lot closer to my perception of research quality of universities than, say, UK's Times online rankings, which seem arbitrary, noisy, and Europe-biased," Incoherent Ponderer suggests, adding that as of this year, "one thing for sure — the top five or 10 or so departments are not likely to change in any ranking in any discipline any time soon."

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.