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Webometrics? (What is the Meaning of This?)

May 8th, 2009 by Bob Crisler

Every once in a while someone conjures up a new word … sometimes there’s even a new idea to accompany it. In the last ten or so years, a lot of those new words have been old words onto which the word “web” has been grafted. So it is that the term “webometrics” came into my email stream this morning. (As “web” words go, not too bad; not nearly as nauseous as “webinar.”)

Web sites are the tip of the spear these days in competition among universities. We often think of our site as a marketing vehicle, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a trove of scholarly output, a resource for professional journals and research publications, a lens into our planning and decisionmaking processes as a university. More and more, our website, taken as a whole, is a full and rich version of what we are as a university; our people, our activities and our ideas. More and more, it is the view through which others see us. For many who will never set foot in Lincoln, it may be the only view of us they have.

That’s what I’m thinking about as I scan through a new report on university “Webometrics,” passed along by friend Rebecca Carr, national coordinator of the AAU Data Exchange.*

“The “Webometrics Ranking of World Universities” is an initiative of the Cybermetrics Lab, a research group belonging to the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), the largest public research body in Spain,” says the opening page of the “webometrics” report. To paraphrase the “about” of the report, it is an attempt to rank the scholarly activity of any given university as revealed through its online presence.

So how did we do?

In the report, we’re number 67. Which if you’re a college basketball fan is good enough for a trip to the NIT. At first blush, not the greatest. But (big but) … the survey lists SIX THOUSAND institutions in its listing of Top Universities, out of 15,000 institutions analyzed. I’m feeling pretty good about that number 67 now.

It’s important to note that whatever we do as a group of web developers in the UNL Web Developer Network or in UComm Internet and Interactive Media is only in support of the scholarly discovery and online availability of that scholarly activity that is the focus of this report. If we can make it easier for individual researchers and teachers to reveal their work, their ideas and their activities to the world, we’ll be succeeding in one area of this multifaceted endeavor that is “UNL.edu.”

Note who’s at the top of the rankings: MIT. The same MIT whose Open Courseware allows the world in to sample a full breadth of academic content at one of the world’s greatest universities. Open Courseware may be the model to follow, or it may not; the question of whether or not information is free is one, I suspect, that will vex us for a long time to come.

But, again: 67. There are 66 spots above that, but it’s still something to be noted, something to be pleased about. Still, if we want to be one of the “go-to” sites for finding scholarly content, we may have to rethink and reassess and reimagine who and what we are.

Because 67 is not 66, which is where we were in last year’s ranking.

 

* AAUDE is a public service organization that shares data among member institutions of the Association of American Universities (that UNL is the home of the national coordinator is another feather in the cap for us, via Rebecca’s professionalism and hard work).

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