New index ranks Sanford PhD faculty first in scholarly productivity

The Sanford Institute of Public Policy’s PhD faculty rank first among their U.S. public policy peers, according to a new measure of scholarly productivity. The Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index (FSPI), developed by Lawrence B. Martin, graduate dean at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, rates annual faculty output by counting the publications, awards, honors and grants of faculty members. The weight given to each variable differs by academic discipline.

Some of the FSPI results, calculated with 2005 data, were reported in the Jan. 12, 2007 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Fritz Mayer, the Sanford Institute’s Director of Graduate Studies, is currently evaluating more than 100 applications for the Institute’s first class of PhD students, who will start this fall.

“Since we are only now admitting our first doctoral students, we can hardly claim to be the top PhD program in public policy,” Mayer said, “but the faculty ranking suggests something about our potential. It’s a bit like being ranked #1 in pre-season basketball polls -- it’s what you do when the season starts that counts. But I’m not surprised by the rankings. We have a terrific faculty.”

Because it is based on measurable data, the FSPI provides a welcomed alternative to the often cited and often criticized U.S. News and World Report graduate school rankings, which are based on program reputation. Academics prefer data-derived evaluations such as the National Research Council’s doctoral program rankings, but the NRC rankings have not been updated since 1995.

The FSPI has rekindled discussions about how best to evaluate graduate programs in a variety of disciplines. In some cases, faculty at unheralded programs score higher than their peers at Ivy League schools, causing critics to question the research. The FSPI measures 7,294 programs and 177,816 faculty members at 354 institutions.

“It’s nice to be ranked number one in scholarly productivity,” said Institute Director Bruce Kuniholm, “but all ranking systems have flaws. Prospective students need to think about whether a graduate program is a good match with their goals and interests by considering many factors such as the size of the program, the type of program, faculty research interests and other indices. Rankings are an important measure of excellence, but are only one part of the picture.”

Martin said although there are clear connections between faculty productivity and program excellence, the FSPI does not evaluate programs, per se.

“It is tempting to interpret this measurement as meaning that program x is the best in the country,” Martin said. “It may be, but that’s not what we’ve measured. The program ranked number 1 is the most productive per capita with the variables we’ve included and with the weighting scheme that we’ve adopted.”

Additional detail on the FSRI is available online at