UC Berkeley crowned champion of Metrics Mania tournament for 2nd time

Kevin Cheung/Staff

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March, it turns out, is about more than college basketball: UC Berkeley’s reputation as a top research institution was reaffirmed Monday, when the campus was crowned champion of the Thomson Reuters Metrics Mania tournament for a second time.

Using the same bracket of 68 collegiate teams that qualified for the NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball tournament, the Metrics Mania tournament set schools against each other to determine the most influential research producer. The tournament launched in 2013, when UC Berkeley won for the first time, followed by Stanford and Harvard universities in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

“(UC Berkeley’s win) comes as no surprise given the consistency with which Berkeley researchers regularly find new knowledge well beyond the three-point line,” said Paul Alivisatos, campus vice chancellor for research, in an email. “Our community is adept at the transition game between discovery and tangible public benefit. Creativity and exploration are the ultimate team sports.”

Thomson Reuters InCites, a web-based research analytics platform, compared research from institutions on six levels, including open access, international collaboration and “hot papers” — the metric that determined the final-round winner.

Wesley Keller, product development manager of InCites, said the metric categories are chosen annually based on trending topics within the research community. He added that a large part of InCites’ goal is to measure “quality more than quantity” so that larger schools or ones that specialize in a discipline of heavily cited research are not disproportionately advantaged.

“Normalized metrics help level the playing field,” Keller said, adding that not all disciplines are equally cited — meaning research in mathematics, for example, may be cited more frequently than arts research.

UC Berkeley faced schools such as the University of Arizona and Yale University, and ultimately defeated the University of Wisconsin-Madison to win the tournament. Jennifer Figueroa, associate director of media communications at Thomson Reuters, said that while competitive matchups within brackets did factor into schools’ victories, UC Berkeley’s title is not surprising, considering the campus’s “amazing amount of research output.”

George Roderick — chair of the environmental science, policy and management department at UC Berkeley — said the tournament clearly demonstrates UC Berkeley’s research prowess to the public and state. The metrics highlight several aspects of campus research in which Roderick said he takes pride, such as global collaboration and increased public access to research.

Even with the waning state funding UC Berkeley faces, research remains an unweilding campus stronghold, which Roderick said is a characteristic that benefits not only researchers but undergraduates and society as a whole.

“It’s truly amazing that we can compete with some of these other schools that have a much bigger funding base,” Roderick said. “We tend to think we’re scrappy. … We do well with what we have.”

According to an email from Danielle Pokusa, marketing manager at Thomson Reuters, there is no reward for tournament winners besides the title itself. Figueroa added that the prestigious recognition, however, could help stimulate funding and grants, as well as entice prospective students to attend UC Berkeley.

Figueroa believes academics are equally important as sports. She said Thomson Reuters tried to use the enthusiasm surrounding NCAA March Madness as leverage for the Metrics Mania tournament, for which people could similarly submit brackets and receive prizes.

“Winning the Metrics Mania is not an easy thing,” Keller said in an email. “It takes a well rounded and impressive research community to win each of the six rounds.”

Contact Hannah Lewis at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hlewis_dc.