Saturday, September 18, 2010

Caltech, MIT, Princeton, Alexandria University

A math professor in England emailed me an interesting heads-up.

The Times Higher Education (THE) world ranking of universities for 2010-2011 is in. The Richard Holmes University Ranking Watch blog has lots of posts and comments about the rankings, including institutions with anomolous rankings. He says

According to the THE rankings Alexandria University in Egypt (no. 147 overall) is the fourth university in the world for research impact, surpassed only by Caltech, MIT and Princeton.

and in a later post gets into the nitty gritty of how this could have happened. Holmes comes tantalizingly close to solving the mystery:

In every single disciplinary group Cornell is well ahead of Alexandria. Possibly, TR did something differently. Maybe they counted citations to papers in conference proceedings but that would only affect papers published in 2008 and after. At the moment, I cannot think of anything that would substantially affect the relative scores.

Some further investigation showed that while Alexandria’s citation record is less than stellar in all respects there is precisely one discipline, or subdiscipline or even subsubdiscipline, where it does very well. Looking at the disciplines one by one, I found that there is one where Alexandria does seem to have an advantage, namely mathematical physics. Here it has 11.52 citations per paper well ahead of Cornell with 6.36.

The professor who tipped me off realized what was happening. That's right, readers, you guessed it. Mohamed El Naschie through his manic self-citation has single-handedly made a joke of the Times Higher Education rankings. Here's the email:

Hi Jason, I just came across your blog. The reason was that I was conducting a bit of research into the reason why the latest "Times Higher Education" ranking of world universities would place Alexandria University at number 4 worldwide in terms of "research impact", see for example

(The official page from THE is accessible only to subscribers.) [the rankings seem to be accessible, at least to me] Guess what? According to THE (yes, they did actually realise their own ranking was weird), this is due mostly to the publications of one individual in one journal. I leave it up to you to guess who that individual might be...

It's really sad that a ranking that will probably be considered as gospel-truth by decision makers and funding agencies can be manipulated by one delusional individual. It is also insane that THE came up with a formula that is so screwed-up that the self-citations of one individual count more than the citations of all faculty members of Cambridge, Harvard or Oxford.... Cheers,

Here is an earlier post of mine about Alexandria University: Egyptian physicists who do real physics. I am chuckling at what I said in one of the comments:

Someone at Alexandria U made the decision to give him [El Naschie] a visiting professor title. I wonder who, and how they would justify the decision. Perhaps Mohamed Ali Atia El-Borai [head of the department] would know. Still, if it was only an honorary title with no salary, it's not that big a deal. They probably thought it was a harmless thing to do.

Related posts:

Translate English to Arabic
محمد النشائى El Naschie Watch محمد النشائي El Naschie News محمد النشائى محمد النشائي All El Naschie All The Time محمد النشائى


  1. Those last 2 emails are probably by Mohhamed little brother, Amr S. Elnashai, FREng, in person, wishing something he dislikes to be pushed down the list of recent comments so that it is no so easy to read. Nice trick!

  2. Yes, which two emails?

  3. I think Anonymous (Feb 11) meant that Enrich John, Roney Wilson and Mickey James (I can see 3 of them, not 2) are all crap messages entered into this blog to push down recent messages listed at the top of the page that someone may find problematic. And the recent messages regard Mr. new Dean Amr. What are those dubious links? Local citation? Car insurance? Payday loans? Whoever posted these was trying something.

  4. Three, you're right. I have deleted them, but I doubt Amr was responsible for them. Just a spammer who gets paid for spamming that stays up.

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