More than two months ago, we published the first draft of our planned new methodology for the 2010 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
The draft, detailing how we will draw together 13 separate performance indicators, resulted in 250 pages of comment from our advisory group. Based on their responses and on extensive data validation, we have begun to refine our thinking.
Three pillars will underpin the tables: a database of research paper citations held by Thomson Reuters; the results of our academic reputation survey; and information provided by universities.
While all the self-reported material bears the imprimatur of the supplying institutions (and our tables include only those that have cooperated with our exercise) and it has been vetted for quality, the consultation had some concerns about its consistency and robustness - especially in this inaugural year. For example, not all institutions could provide a clear or internationally comparable figure for their research income from industry.
For maximum robustness, we plan to give extra weighting to data that have been sourced independently of the institutions themselves and are globally consistent.
Citations data, for example, which are widely accepted as a strong proxy for research quality, will have a high weighting - perhaps about 30 per cent of the total ranking score.
We also have high confidence in the validity and independence of the results of our reputation survey. Although we may yet adjust its weighting, this subjective measure will not be weighted as highly as it was in our old methodology (2004-09), where reputation was worth 40 per cent.
We expect to reveal our final methodology in the coming weeks, and we hope you will agree that it is a vast improvement on the past.
Phil Baty is editor, Times Higher Education World University Rankings. firstname.lastname@example.org
For the latest World University Rankings news, debate and social networking, see www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/worlduniversityrankings2010.