The Faculty Media Impact Project is now ranking social science departments at various universities , Boston University included, based on their prevalence in the media, said Bob Borofsky, director of the project.
Researchers searched the Google News archive to see how often select faculty members appeared in different news sources and then ranked them relative to how much federal funding their programs receive, Borofsky said.
The rankings, released Tuesday, ranked BU as number 68 out of 94 researched universities. BU’s Political Science, Anthropology and Sociology departments were among BU’s top three most cited departments.
“Faculty in social sciences receive billions of dollars, and they should then have some sort of civic responsibility to explain to others what the value of the research is,” Borofsky said. “If you give billions and billions of dollars to various researchers, they should have to explain to the larger public the value of their work.”
Borofsky said his two main intentions for the project were to encourage low-ranked universities to improve their media prevalence, and to let the public know about the real value of the social science work that university faculty and researchers have done.
“I noticed many faculty, while they were interested in reaching out to the public, were hesitant to because they didn’t get any encouragement from their schools,” Borofsky said. “I wanted to have something that would highlight the importance of reaching out to the public.”
BU economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff is ranked as the most cited social science professor at BU, and said he is surprised BU is not ranked higher in The Faculty Media Impact Study considering how often he sees the university cited in the news.
“We [BU] have very prominent scientists, social scientists, physicians and artists,” Kotlikoff said. “So, I would have thought we would have been in the top 10 … There are a lot of academic intellectuals here … It is a very big, broad university.”
Kotlikoff said he has received a lot of attention on various media sources because he often writes about U.S. fiscal problems and related issues. He said he regards sharing such information as a public service.
“We [the faculty] also have responsibility to Boston University to try and get its name out there,” Kotlikoff said. “I take every opportunity I can to talk to the media, and I never turn down any major media opportunity … I treat that as part of my job.”
Sociology professor Nancy Ammerman, who was ranked as the second most cited social science professor, said it is important for researchers and professors to speak to the media to provide context, background and history on their work for the broader public.
“I made a conscious decision a long time ago that this [talking to the media] is part of my role as a teacher,” Ammerman said. “It’s very much like being a teacher in the classroom … I can help the student to define the question better. I can help the student to know where else to go.”
BU spokesman Colin Riley said BU agrees that faculties’ prevalence in the media is important.
Riley said the fact BU is among the top 100 institutions that are widely quoted in various media sources suggests how well staffed it is with acclaimed faculty and researchers.
“We have a studio where… we can put faculty before the media in very short order, and I think that it really does help the public discourse about issues of interest before us, political, economic, local and national,” Riley said. “We [BU] are in the news every single day, locally and nationally, and across a full range of disciplines. And the faculty does it on their own time.”