Impact Rankings 2021: life on land (SDG 15) methodology

April 14, 2021

This ranking explores universities’ research on life on land and their education on and support for land ecosystems.

View the methodology for the Impact Rankings 2021 to find out how these data are used in the overall ranking.


Research on land ecosystems (27%)

  • Proportion of papers in the top 10 per cent of journals as defined by Citescore (10%)
  • Field-weighted citation index of papers produced by the university (10%)
  • Number of publications (7%)

This focuses on research that is relevant to life on land. The field-weighted citation index is a subject-normalised score of the citation performance of publications.

The data are provided by Elsevier’s Scopus dataset, based on a query of keywords associated with SDG 15 (life on land) and supplemented by additional publications identified by artificial intelligence. The dataset includes all indexed publications between 2015 and 2019. The data are normalised across the range using Z-scoring.

Supporting land ecosystems through education (23%)

  • Support or organise events aimed to promote conservation and sustainable use of land (4.6%)
  • Policy to ensure that food on campus is sustainably farmed (4.6%)
  • Maintain and extend existing ecosystems and their biodiversity (4.6%)
  • Educational programmes on ecosystems for local or national communities (4.6%)
  • Educational programmes or outreach on sustainable management of land for agriculture and tourism (4.6%)

The evidence was provided directly by universities, evaluated and scored by Times Higher Education and not normalised.

Supporting land ecosystems through action (27%)

  • Policy to ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of land ecosystems associated with the university (5.4%)
  • Policy to identify, monitor and protect threatened species affected by the operation of the university (5.4%)
  • Include local biodiversity in any planning and development processes – for example, construction of new buildings (5.4%)
  • Policy to reduce impact of non-native species on campus (5.4%)
  • Collaborate with local community to maintain shared land ecosystems (5.4%)

The evidence was provided directly by universities, evaluated and scored by THE and not normalised.

Land-sensitive waste disposal (23%)

  • Water quality standards and guidelines for water discharges (7.7%)
  • Policy on reducing plastic waste on campus (7.65%)
  • Policy on waste disposal, covering hazardous materials (7.65%)

The evidence was provided directly by universities, evaluated and scored by THE and not normalised.


When we ask about policies and initiatives, our metrics require universities to provide the evidence to support their claims. Evidence is evaluated against a set of criteria and decisions are cross-validated where there is uncertainty. Evidence is not required to be exhaustive – we are looking for examples that demonstrate best practice at the institutions concerned.

Time frame

Unless otherwise stated, the data used refer to the closest academic year to January to December 2019.


Universities must teach undergraduates and be validated by a recognised accreditation body to be included in the ranking.

Data collection

Institutions provide and sign off their institutional data for use in the rankings. On the rare occasions when a particular data point is not provided, we enter a value of zero.

View the full methodology for the THE Impact Rankings 2021 here

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