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MIT Leads in Revolutionary Science, Harvard Declines

Hemos posted more than 7 years ago | from the the-slow-down dept.

Education 121

Bruce G Charlton writes "In three studies looking at the best institutions for 'revolutionary' science, MIT emerged as best in the world. This contrasts with 'normal science' which incrementally-extends science in pre established directions." If you're interested in reading more about how this was determined, read more below.
"My approach has been to look at trends in the award of science Nobel prizes (Physics, Chemistry, Medicine/ Physiology and Economics — the Nobel metric) — then to expand this Nobel metric by including some similar awards. The NFLT metric adds-in Fields medal (mathematics), Lasker award for clinical medicine and the Turing award for computing science. The NLG metric is specifically aimed at measuring revolutionary biomedical science and uses the Nobel medicine, the Lasker clinical medicine and the Gairdner International award for biomedicine. MIT currently tops the tables for all three metrics: the Nobel prizes, the NFLT and the NLG. There seems little doubt it has been the premier institution of revolutionary science in the world over recent years. Also very highly ranked are Stanford, Columbia, Chicago, Caltech, Berkeley, Princeton and — in biomedicine — University of Washington at Seattle and UCSF. The big surprise is that Harvard has declined from being the top Nobel prizewinners from 1947-1986, to sixth place for Nobels; seventh for NFLT, and Harvard doesn't even reach the threshold of three awards for the biomedical NLG metric! This is despite Harvard massively dominating most of the 'normal science' research metrics (eg. number of publications and number of citations per year) — and probably implies that Harvard may have achieved very high production of scientific research at the expense of quality at the top-end."

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121 comments

Gatherers vs. Hunters (3, Interesting)

P(0)(!P(k)+P(k+1)) (1012109) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612594)

From TFS:

Harvard may have achieved very high production of scientific research at the expense of quality at the top-end.

I attended Harvard for Ph.D. work, and can say that there has been a feminization of science; which is characterized, above all, by a gatherer-mentality (quantity over quality).

My peers at MIT, I remember, were doing risky and testosterone-laden work; they are the hunters.

Re:Gatherers vs. Hunters (5, Funny)

heroofhyr (777687) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612626)

I see they didn't offer too many Gender Studies classes at either university when you were there.

Re:Gatherers vs. Hunters (2, Informative)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614652)

And you seem to have taken no classes in dry humor. It's clearly tongue-in-cheek. What's worrisome is that no one else seems to have caught that.

Re:Gatherers vs. Hunters (1)

David_Shultz (750615) | more than 7 years ago | (#17616150)

I didn't get that impression at all. It is not so obvious that it was tongue-in-cheek (if that is even that case). Why, then, should it be worrisome?

Read his other posts (1)

hypermanng (155858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17617110)

The man is clearly prone to gender essentialism, and is probably something like a "Men's Movement" member. He talks about the supposed bitterness of women raised by "castrai" - a code word for (presumably weak, pathetic) men who have failed to defend their machismo. I think he speaks very earnestly when discussing feminization, though neither humorlessly nor unintelligently.

Re:Read his other posts (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 7 years ago | (#17618632)

The man is clearly prone to gender essentialism, and is probably something like a "Men's Movement" member.

      I think that saying someone is clearly prone to some behavior or another, based on their slashdot posts, is probably a hasty diagnosis based on very little evidence. People tend to post things similar to what have got good responses in the past. Saying that this will inform their opinions, or that the posts accurately reflect their opinions is (to me) a specious argument. I'd have to be convinced.

      (so saith the bitter, suspect devil's-advocate)

Re:Gatherers vs. Hunters (1)

ZuG (13394) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614690)

No kidding. Thank you for that.

I love slashdot but I hate the sexism I see here from time to time. Difficult to be an IT professional and a feminist, I guess.

Re:Gatherers vs. Hunters (1)

cyber-dragon.net (899244) | more than 7 years ago | (#17615896)

Just as difficult to be an IT professional and a male who cannot even make a joke involving women without four jumping down his throat for it.

And before you go off on another tirade... I worked in an office of ten where I was the only male for a year and had to listen to CONSTANT man bashing, jokes about men etc... FAR worse than I have ever heard from men about women.

It was an environment any woman would have sued over and won millions, but as I guy I had to just take it. Equality? I don't think so. I want my millions for emotional damage! Know why I can't get it? There was no damage... I simply did not care. Apathy is a powerful weapon.

Re:Gatherers vs. Hunters (1)

rhyder128k (1051042) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612870)

Surely, in both pre-human hominid creatures and ancient prehistoric human beings, the males did the gathering while the female role was a home-based domestic one? I'm not sure what the appropriate analog of that role would be within scientific re-search though.

Re:Gatherers vs. Hunters (2, Insightful)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613096)

There is a whole lot of lore about this but I think you've missed the main theme. Hunters go on expeditions and by working in groups can handle big game like buffalo.

Gathers harvest non-agricultural materials, wild berries and bark fibers and such.

I think you are thinking of post-resource-aquisition fabrication.

The gender breakdown of hunters and gathers is not exclusive and fabrication is even murkier.

Re:Gatherers vs. Hunters (3, Interesting)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613034)

I'd say that given that these "studies" (I'm not sure how they count three of them) are basically counting Nobel prizes, the trend simply reflects changes in what wins Nobels. When the awards were dominated by traditional medicine and physiology, Harvard Med School owned them, and MIT and some of the other competitors mentioned don't even have med schools.

Re:Gatherers vs. Hunters (1, Insightful)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614476)

I'd guess that part of the problem could be that the past success of Harvard is working against them. Harvard currently has more name recognition, and more of a perception of success, than any other university in the U.S., so it's bound to attract a lot of people on the basis of reputation alone, on the basis of image rather than substance. In other words, it's going to draw a lot of people in, simply because that's where successful people have gone in the past.

But that's exactly the opposite of what you need to do revolutionary science. To do revolutionary science, you need people who can either think independently of the herd, or actively go against it, and turn over that stone that nobody has ever thought of turning over before. I'm not saying this is a problem for all or even most of the people who end up at the Ivies, but I suspect it has to be a factor.

Re:Gatherers vs. Hunters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17616516)

Only partially true -- MIT did want to create a medical school, partnering with nearby Mass. Gen Hospital several decades ago. The rumor goes that Harvard did not want to give up one of its premier hospitals, and the HST joint program was formed. I (and other attendees) graduate with an MD degree, and get two degrees from both Harvard and MIT.

http://hst.mit.edu/ [mit.edu]

Re:Gatherers vs. Hunters (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613112)

I thought Harvard was more of a law / business oriented place anyways?

Re:Gatherers vs. Hunters (3, Informative)

jpflip (670957) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614800)

It is law/business/medicine oriented in that it has famous and excellent schools in those fields. However it is also more science-oriented than most of the Ivy league. Harvard physics, for example, is substantially more well-regarded than, say, Yale physics.

Re:Gatherers vs. Hunters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613456)

From a place very, very far from MIT or Caltech.
Your comment of quantity over quality and its relation with feminization is so real over here... :/

I disagree (3, Informative)

TheObruniSpeaks (808463) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614030)

I'm currently a (male) course 8 grad student at MIT, working in the Media Lab. My group is very much a counterexample to this theory. We're roughly 50% women, and we're doing bleeding edge stuff that will either fall on its face or change the world. One interesting thing to note is that the women in the group aren't testosterone-laden, cut-throat man-wannabe's, either. They're intelligent women with the courage to try something that might fail. I watched a lot of men walk away from this incredible opportunity out of fear for their future.

Now, all this (Harvard and MIT women in general) is not where the issue starts. It may well be that female grad students tend to shy away from the scariest projects, but that possible tendency could be purely due to social norms. I can't be sure and neither can anybody else, because no woman or man has ever grown up without social norms.

What I do know is that in any research lab I've been in, the women there have pulled their weight and done good work. Also--and I think this is a point that often gets overlooked--I find the atmosphere and social interactions to be much better than a sausage fest. Obviously, a more cohesive working environment makes for better work output.

A couple other things about MIT and Harvard: MIT doesn't have a med school, but it does have two brain institutes, a genomics institute, a health science and technology program, various types of bioengineering... It does a lot of medical things in partnership with Harvard's med school. Med students' research isn't usually going to change the world. It's the MD-PhDs that want to do research foremost that will do that, and they very often get the PhD end of that from MIT.

Harvard *definitely* does science of all kinds. They are all things to all people. Well, the people who can't get into MIT anyway.

Qualities (1)

Morosoph (693565) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614514)

It's the old Yin/Yang thing. Once you break the stereotypes, you realise that much of what is "male" or "female" is learnt. Using terms such as Yin and Yang, rather than feminine and masculine could reasonably be used to reference the qualities without referring to sex.

It is of course an irony that promoting "Yin" over "Yang" has become part of the agenda of many who wish to strengthen the role of women, and this appears to have come at the expense of science, and other beneficial risk-taking throughout society. What happened to the promotion of strong, creative women?

I suspect that the real force at work here isn't feminism, but Marxism. The many are promoted above the few, and disruptive thinkers are discouraged. The blending with Womens' rights, according to this theory, would be an accident of history. Those promoting the underdog form a synthesis of the underdogs' interests, so as to present a single alternative to the evils of "capitalism".

Re:Qualities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17615840)

Once you break the stereotypes, you realise that much of what is "male" or "female" is learnt.

Then you have kids and you realize that most of it was inate after all.

Abstraction (1)

Morosoph (693565) | more than 7 years ago | (#17616268)

Once you break the stereotypes, you realise that much of what is "male" or "female" is learnt.

Then you have kids and you realize that most of it was inate after all.

Luckily this doesn't matter. The point of abstraction is that one can look to desirable qualities for (eg.) science without approaching with the same prejudice when faced with a specific man or woman. Those who have skills in the realm of the "wrong sex" are no longer treated as being "unnatural", but rather simply as having more of the relevant qualities than is usual for their sex.

Without the abstraction, the unusually skilled will have to deal with eg. "unfemininity", implying that a woman is less of a woman. To be more "Yang" takes the focus away from sex and onto the task in hand. It's far better to do this than to try making science more "Yin", IMO!

Re:Qualities (1)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#17617880)

Once you break the stereotypes, you realise that much of what is "male" or "female" is learnt.

Turns out you couldn't be more wrong. Much of what is male or female (hopefully you realize that these terms do not require quotes) is biological, not learned. Men's brains are more specialized compared to women's (this does not necessarily confer an advantage one way or another, but it does help, for example, to protect women from the effects of strokes). Women have better hearing. Men have better spatial vision but women have better color vision. Men learn spatial relations abstractly; women by landmarks. This stuff turns out to be true from infancy, so it can't be learned.

Much of what you've been taught about gender differences for the past few decades is wrong.

You're Right... (1)

Morosoph (693565) | more than 7 years ago | (#17622170)

And I should know better; I have a diagnosis for Aspergers. With this misplaced sentence, I distracted from my entire point, which is simply that we shouldn't be prejudiced against any individual, but we should also be weary of "feminising science".

By using terms that are one removed from gender, it becomes easier to achieve both ends. The term describes a trait (much as Aspergers does), and despite a strong tendency to asymetrical expression between the sexes, is not exclusive to the respective sex, so that describing science as a "Yang activity" (say), you are neither excluding women, nor are you opening it up to be "Yinified". This separation allows the best of both worlds, IMO.

Re:Gatherers vs. Hunters (1)

droptone (798379) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614680)

What is interesting about your analogy is that there is solid evidence (if you really desire the actual studies I could find them given some time) that the hunters in a group did not provide the majority of the caloric intake of a group. I vaguely remember the success rate for hunting groups to be below 10%. So to be true to your analogy, the guys ('guys' in a non-gender way, of course) at MIT are not actually providing enough support for the scientific community and necessarily require the other (lesser-known, and lesser-respected) scientists to survive. So to be faithful to your analogy the hunters at MIT are providing a valuable service (like the hunter provides much-needed protein to the diet of hunter-gatherer groups) but should not be overly-praised at the expense of the gatherers.

For how long? (-1, Offtopic)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612668)

Given the strengthening Euro, the nationalization of private property occurring in Central and South America, and an America lost in a sea of moral and scientific relativism, how much longer are places like MIT going to be relevant? It's comforting to think that there will always be a place for MIT, but isn't the writing on the wall?

Re:For how long? (1)

gravesb (967413) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612712)

The Euro is getting stronger, but birthrates in Europe are declining. I wonder if Europe can be the first empire (Yeah, I am using that term very broadly) to continue to advance with a negative birthrate. I think that you will see the nationalization of Central and South America will reduce their long term scientific advances. I don't think the US is in as dire straights as people like to make out. MIT is very relevant, they still get many more applicants than they can take, and they are far from alone. The US higher education is still the best in the world, and the pendulum will swing back the other way with regards to the moral and scientific relativism.

Re:For how long? (2, Interesting)

grumling (94709) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614216)

US higher education has some fantastic examples of greatness (MIT, Harvard, etc), but for every one of these there are hundreds of diploma mills, jock colleges, and party schools that basically teach networking skills and how to drink beer.

But, the much larger problem in the US is now that the public K-12 system is hopelessly mired in bureaucracy and political thinking (come on... a cabinet level post for education?), so the feedstock for the higher education system is drying up. Schools are able to attract smart, rich, foreign kids for a generation or so, but only until they begin teaching at home. It only takes a one shift in thinking (such as changing the imagration system) to keep the smart foreign kids home, and that's it. Professors will go into industry instead of teaching when there's no challenge, or kids who are capable of great things (because they lack the base knowledge). I think I will see the day when US kids go to the far east to get an education.

Re:For how long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17617188)

"but birthrates in Europe are declining." Not for Muslims they aren't. The European countries are homosexualised and the compensating Muslim males are just waiting to flush the toilet on them. Think the French are in in control France?

Re:For how long? (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 7 years ago | (#17621504)

The Euro is getting stronger, but birthrates in Europe are declining. I wonder if Europe can be the first empire (Yeah, I am using that term very broadly) to continue to advance with a negative birthrate.
We're overcrowded anyway, we could do with a population cut. No chance of that though as we're being flooded by Eastern Europeans.

Re:For how long? (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612798)

MIT is relevant as long as it produces results. Just because MIT has more peers now, and other countries have a somewhat more open attitude towards scientific research does not invalidate the work they do. As far as Harvard vs MIT, Harvard's medical, law, and business schools are still highly prestigious. I don't know of anybody who went to MIT to study those fields, although I'm sure they offer them (at least undergrad level equivalents). How much research money spend MIT get annually? How much does Harvard spend annually, and how much of that is in the same schools as MIT?

Re:For how long? (3, Informative)

Noehre (16438) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613104)

> As far as Harvard vs MIT, Harvard's medical, law, and business schools are still highly prestigious. I don't know of anybody who went to MIT to study those fields, although I'm sure they offer them (at least undergrad level equivalents).

MIT's Sloan is the 4th ranked business school in the nation...

Re:For how long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613134)

As far as Harvard vs MIT, Harvard's medical, law, and business schools are still highly prestigious. I don't know of anybody who went to MIT to study those fields, although I'm sure they offer them (at least undergrad level equivalents).

MIT has a top-five business school (Sloan) but no med or law school. It's a poor choice for pre-law due to the lack of humanities classes and majors, and an excessively difficult pre-med route. (You don't need that much math and physics for the MCAT.)

Incidentally, the GP's notion that MIT faces a threat from Hugo Chavez and company seems a bit -- stretched.

Re:For how long? (3, Funny)

real gumby (11516) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614546)

Err, there's a a whole school of humanities (alongside science, engineering and architecture; the departments are aggregated into schools). All MIT students take a bunch of humanities; it's just that MIT humanities majors also take Mechanics, E&M, diffeq, etc. After all, even unemployed English majors need might need to machine a replacement part for their car, you know!

Re:For how long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17617118)

You are incorrect with the assumption that MIT does not have other strong departments such as business. MIT's business school for example is ranked 4th out of all schools for graduate study. For undergraduate study they are ranked 2nd to Wharton. Studying business is a viable option and it is one of the more popular majors here at MIT.

Re:For how long? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17612802)

Didn't you know that using the word "moral" would cause you to be modded "Offtopic" on slashdot? Then you used "relativism." Using language like that around these weenie-wanking, song-stealing, make-up-your-ethical-system-as-it's-convenient-for -you crybabies, you're just asking for it.

Re:For how long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613278)

Uh-oh, looks like you hurt somebody's feelings.

MIT is best at re-appropriation. (2, Informative)

ehack (115197) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612734)

I remember an article in the NY Times about Tim Berners Lee:

Time Berner's Lee, a physicist at MIT who invented the world-wide-web ...

If you want to start a billion-dollar company (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17612766)

...go to MIT.

On the other hand, if you want to design a cannon that will destroy the moon, go to Caltech.

Re:If you want to start a billion-dollar company (0, Offtopic)

JustOK (667959) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612838)

If you want good beer, go to a Canadian university.

Re:If you want to start a billion-dollar company (1)

Krakhan (784021) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612956)

As a Canadian going to a Canadian university, I wish I could say that is still true. Especially so after one of the campus bars here discontinued serving Guinness! :(

Re:If you want to start a billion-dollar company (1)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613446)

As a Canadian going to a Canadian university, I demand to know which university this is that has dared offend the Gods of Guinness.

Re:If you want to start a billion-dollar company (1)

Krakhan (784021) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613920)

University of Waterloo, apparently. At least at the Bomber pub (I didn't see if this was the case at Fed Hall as well). Yes, I was deeply disappointed, with my fists shaking and all when I heard of this.

Re:If you want to start a billion-dollar company (1)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 7 years ago | (#17615672)

Heh, UWer here too. Guess I'm not going to the Bomber next term.

If you like legs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613364)

Go to Malaspina....

The combination of a steep hill, seemingly random classroom scheduling, and a temperate climate leads to lots of young women with great legs wearing short skirts.

Caltech (2, Insightful)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612868)

I might also consider per capita - Caltech competes very favorably despite having a much smaller pool than many of these other institutions. They've had 3 Chemistry Nobel prizes since 1990 - pretty damned good for a department of about 30 full-time faculty.

Re:Caltech (2, Interesting)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613696)

It's somewhat easier to do well when funding is high. I wonder what the ratio of funding to Nobel Prizes is.

Nobel Prizes per Alumnus Re:Caltech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17615612)

Caltech has had roughly 25,000 alumni. Caltech alumni have received roughly 25 Nobel prizes. It that 0.1% Nobel Prizes per Alumnus the best in the world, or not? Do I still have that chance?

These numbers are fairly objective. The subjective aspect is in the definition of revolutionary. Really, isn't that determined by History? If a diswcovery turns out to influence an actual revolution, even much later, than in retrospect it was revolutionary.

For a Caltech example, Richard Feynman's being the great-grandfather of Nanotechnology, for his 1959 article "There's Plenty of Room ant the Bottom." Considered amusing in its day to a few people, it is now the object of study by historians who are trying to tell if Nanotechnology pioneers acknowledge Feynman as inspiration or not (roughly half do). Furthermore, Feynman was the greatgrandfather of Quantum Computing. So Feynman's Nobel Prize was in Quantum Electrodynamics. But can't the case be made that Nanotechnology and Quantum Computing were more revolutionary?

Einstein got his Nobel Prize for Photoelectric Effect. Yet Relatiivity was clearly revolutionary. In fact, the revolutionary nature of relativity inhbited the Nobel Prize folks for giving him another award, fo fear it might turn out to be false.

-- Prof. Jonathan Vos Post

Carnegie Mellon gets ignored... (5, Insightful)

SnowZero (92219) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612896)

This "study" is at best a crude approximation, and even then it isn't complete in terms of data. They left off my school, for example. I'm sure some others probably got stiffed too. Of course, I don't think you can fit a reliable trend to three data points anyway -- especially for something highly time delayed such as Nobel prizes.

Carnegie Mellon University
1947-1966: 0
1967-1986: 3
1987-2006: 7

Re:Carnegie Mellon gets ignored... (1)

cowsandmilk (824602) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614220)

Washington University in St. Louis . . .
1947-1966: 2
1967-1986: 8
1987-2006: 4

Re:Carnegie Mellon gets ignored... (1)

SnowZero (92219) | more than 7 years ago | (#17620934)

Hm, that's too bad. The author of the study would now say that your university is in dire straits now, after a formerly being world class research institution. Isn't it fun to play with sparse sample sizes? It's almost like reading tarot cards.

Re:Carnegie Mellon gets ignored... (1)

Fyz (581804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614710)

I'd say it's even worse than that. The study concludes that the US is the only real contender in this race for Nobel Prizes. Of course, the only way that a nation even gets its institutes considered is by winning at least three Nobels in a given period(which BTW seem pretty arbitrary). Well, last time i checked, the US has 300 million inhabitants, compared to the minuscule populations in many European countries that do first class research.

And I don't buy the Nobel prize argument for a second. First of all, real revolutionary science in Kuhn's definition does not get recognized by the Nobel committee until it is no longer revolutionary, but normal. Most Nobel Laureates by far are geriatrics that did their research 20 years before the fact. Einstein, the most revolutionary scientist in the last century, received his Nobel for the explanation of the Photoelectric effect, not relativity, which you must agree is the most revolutionary of his discoveries.

IMHO, the correlation between Nobel prizes and revolutionary science in the Kuhnian sense of a paradigmatic catalyst is over simplistic and perhaps even self-contradictory.

Re:Carnegie Mellon gets ignored... (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17615308)

> the US has 300 million inhabitants, compared to the minuscule
> populations in many European countries that do first class research.

It should be straightforward to normalize this per capita, and see if socialism does slow down technological growth because, by providing for everybody just about everything, people lose their hunger to excel.

I mean, wouldn't it be a kick in the balls if socialism was a net detriment to society because it slowed the rate of technological growth, even just a little bit, and thus, for example, people continued to die when they wouldn't (due to cures and treatments) developed in faster-paced technological societies?

Just something to think about. Like certain anti-depressant drugs giving some suicidal people the balls and confidence and clarity and willpower to actually kill themselves, it could have a net result worse than the disease of unrestricted capitalism, with all it's poor people sitting in front of cameras.

Re:Carnegie Mellon gets ignored... (1)

Vicissidude (878310) | more than 7 years ago | (#17616570)

Well, last time i checked, the US has 300 million inhabitants, compared to the minuscule populations in many European countries that do first class research.

Yes, and the US has roughly two and a half times the land mass of Europe. Germany alone could fit in the single state of Montana. But, Germany has 82 million people and Montana has 902 thousand.

It is not accurate to compare the entire US to single countries in Europe. If you look at EU countries, they have a combined population of 462 million people.

Certainly Europe could create universities on par with the US. The population difference is not the reason why they haven't. Something else is. It could be socialism - making everyone more equal makes everyone more lazy. It could be language barriers - Europe likes to tout its multiculturalism, but US citizens have the ability to all speak in a single language, which is far more powerful. And it could be that since the US schools are better, they attract the better students from Europe, further enforcing that cycle.

Re:Carnegie Mellon gets ignored... (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17618030)

That is an interesting question... is it true that Europe lags the US in science and if so, why?

I think the problem with socialism is not that scientists are unmotivated - I think they're motivated more by curiousity. But socialsim (or communism) may slow down the greedy types - the businessmen - who create the capital that scientists need to work. Look at all the brilliant scientists in the Soviet Union grossly underemployed because the money to support them is not there.

A little more broadly, I do think politics is the driving factor, and specifically WWII. Why was Einstein "American" in the first place? Who founded the rocketry research leading to the US landing on the moon? Germany really screwed itself over with war. I guess you need ambition to get ahead, but they took it too far and they're still paying the price. We Americans had an easier time getting our "lebensraum," the folks we took it from didn't even have the wheel.

Re:Carnegie Mellon gets ignored... (1)

Vicissidude (878310) | more than 7 years ago | (#17620958)

A little more broadly, I do think politics is the driving factor, and specifically WWII.

WW2 was over 60 years ago. For the past 30 years, most of the scientists from that time have retired. Further, there were other advances, such as computer technology, which had nothing to do with the Germans.

What's to explain that our universities are still so much better, especially since our lower level schools have gone to shit? Are our universities doing something here that isn't done there? Hell if I know, I've only gone to colleges here.

It could be socialism. It could be having a single language. Pulling together the best and brightest of a region in one place is easy to do when they all speak the same language. It could also be that America has momentum. Our colleges have been pulling the best and the brightest for so long that we still pull from everywhere, including Europe, putting European universities at a disadvantage. But, I don't think any of these reasons are enough to account for the entire discrepancy.

Normalized by number of profs? (2, Insightful)

rdwald (831442) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612948)

Is it really fair to compare, say, MIT and Caltech, given that the former has 1,554* faculty members and the latter has 300*? I'll grant that if you're trying to compare the amount of revolutionary work going on at a given school, the fact that one school is larger is a legitimate reason for them to do a larger amount of work. However, comparing the fraction of the school doing revolutionary work seems to be more useful when, for example, considering where to go for undergrad, grad, or postdoc, since it's more likely you'll get to work with one of those individuals conducting revolutionary work.

* Data from USNews Best Colleges 2007 listings for number of instructional faculty at both schools.

Re:Normalized by number of profs? (1)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 7 years ago | (#17618186)

Caltech is primarily a research institute, and the majority of PhD holding researchers do not teach.

If you include those associated with JPL (NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs), there are around 900 to 1,000 PhD's.

When I was an undergrad, there were fewer undergrads (my freshman class had 186) than PhD's on campus. There were also fewer women in my freshman class than Caltech Nobel winners...

Though I didn't RTFA... (1)

RulerOf (975607) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612950)

...neither am I an expert, I have spoken with people who have both visited and attended MIT and when I speak with them about what goes on there, I always hear tales of really cutting edge stuff. Most of it is medical and scientific in nature, but nonetheless, the place is always spoken of highly by the people I hear speak of it.

Of course, I also hear about amazing things that are being done that are just as cutting edge and just as important in places such as The Cleveland Clinic.

I guess what it comes down to is the fact that, while you may hear about someone at a renowned hospitol getting the first artificial heart, or using his brain to control a computer, MIT will one up them with something a lot less obvious, like taking away the need for a heart, or *replacing* the brain with a computer.

At the heart of it, science and medicine are the two areas that I think are ultimately the most important to progress in, but the point is that it doesn't matter where or how it gets done, just as long as progress is made. I find it nice (being an American) that scientific revolution is a home grown product for me, but then again, revolution is, of course, in our roots.

It's to be expected, eh?

Re:Though I didn't RTFA... (1)

pdabbadabba (720526) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614272)

I'm trying not to completely miss the point of your post, but I have to ask: Scientific Revolution? American? What about Galileo, Newton, Bacon, the list goes on... I mean, sure, we've been doing a lot of great stuff for the past century or so here in the states, but thats a far cry from saying that the scientific revolution is an American export.

Re:Though I didn't RTFA... (1)

RulerOf (975607) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614768)

You bring up a good point, but I must say that my statement should be taken with a grain of salt. To put it another way: From my [completely biased because I'm an American] point of view, I would almost expect that you should see the flagship of scientific revolution to be here in the States. And, seeing this article affirm that assumption is quite... reassuring.

Knowing that education in this country is a far cry beyond (in a general sense) many others in the world, I wouldn't expect this finding to hold true for the rest of my lifetime, and I recognize that it wouldn't necessarily be the case even today, until I read this. And with a bit of whimsy, like the man who fears losing a bet he knows he's going to win, I ask, "wouldn't you expect it?"

It's comforting to know that in the fields of science and medicine I can find the most advanced things close to home, and growing up here, it *is* something I would expect from this country. I just hope I won't look like an idiot for saying so in another twenty years.

Re:Though I didn't RTFA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17615678)

"I just hope I won't look like an idiot for saying so in another twenty years."

of course you won't. wait... we're china, right?

Economics? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17612978)

How in the hell is economics considered a science?

Seriously this is one of my biggest pet peeves (along with the fact that the "Prize in Economic Science of the Swedish Bank in honor to Alfred Nobel" is considered a legitimate Noble).

Re:Economics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613168)

It's a social science. Similar to how Psychology is categorized.

Revolutionary (1)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613018)

A few years ago, a buddy of mine, at Cal Tech, had come up with a revolutionary approach to a mathmatical issue. I won't go into it, because I didn't know enough, even then, to know why it was revolutionary.

He published, was hailed as a revolutionary thinker, and as it was said, if his discovery proved out, would blow the doors off of some sort of area of math.

Anyway, 6 months later, his revolutionary approach was reclassified as wrong. He couldn't continue. He said something about CT not being open enough.

I think if a school is hailed as more revolutionary, it basically means that they are tolerant of being wrong on occassion, thus opening the door to more truly revolutionary discoveries.

Oh, he's applying his skills at Intel. Layouts, routings, and stuff if I understood him.

Where did they do their groundbreaking work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613158)

There is a time lag between the time a scientist publishes ground breaking work and when the Nobel Prize is awarded. The institute where the scientist worked when the prize was awarded gets to claim bragging rights. While MIT is indeed an awesome place, their results are probably somewhat overstated because of scientists who won the prize for work they did elsewhere.

Even if MIT's results are somewhat overstated, they do speak to commitment to ground breaking basic research. In an era when most other institutions are worried about monetizing their intellectual property, that makes them unique.

But... (2, Funny)

sdaemon (25357) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613200)

In three studies looking at the best institutions for 'revolutionary' science

But revolution is a theory, not a fact!

Er, wait...

Chicago University? (1)

boggartlaura (780968) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613272)

i'm a tad skeptical about the accuracy of this article, given that it makes multiple references to some unknown 'Chicago University.'

Re:Chicago University? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613600)

Sonnenschein strikes again. (I may mispell a lot of things, including his name, but Sonnenschein was a recent former President of the University of Chicago and proponent of pushing the naming of the University of Chicago to "Chicago." Nice guy. Didn't like most of his ideas for the University, although that new thinking was dearly needed at the time.)

I'm surprised a lot of the geeks here aren't pissed that this study is skewed. It seems to go by absolute prize count. Problem is, you doubled up on the medicine award. That's rather unfair and will skew your results (if you believe prizes should count as some measure of an overall institutions merit).

Not only that, by institution, this seems rather unfair and there is no weight to fields the institution does not teach. Not all schools have medical schools. For example, MIT, which was considered tops in this informal classification, doesn't have a medical school if I recall. Now, inclusion in the Nobel Prize and related prize for medicine could be done by any bio department, but it sort of changes the fairness of the study. Similarly, the University of Chicago does not have an engineering department, but this doesn't impact the study much because no engineering or architectural award was considered.

Also, I'm not sure how economics has to do with scientific or technical competence. Meaning, if economics is considered important, why wasn't engineering prizes considered as contributory to the overall count to figure the most revolutionary science insitution?

Oh, the study doesn't also seem to account backwards to when the science was done; Nobel Prizes seem to have a long-memory and the awarded date can be decades after the study that was award was for was completed and published.

I'm a University of Chicago undergraduate alum. Yeah, I know, I embarrass the rep by this crappy post. I'm sorry. But we all know how to really count a schools rep--by number of Nobel Prize winners ever affiliated with the institution. The University of Chicago wins that in the U.S., with Oxford taking top honors as they've pulled ahead in recent years.

Oh, btw, the real fact is to get into any of these schools that will take you, then make your decision as to the school that best fits you. Not this drumbeating of unseemingly pitting one institution over another as if some prizes by committees validates one institution as more or less than another.

Re:Chicago University? (1)

controlguy (818801) | more than 7 years ago | (#17615556)

Oh, btw, the real fact is to get into any of these schools that will take you, then make your decision as to the school that best fits you. Not this drumbeating of unseemingly pitting one institution over another as if some prizes by committees validates one institution as more or less than another.

Well, perhaps there is still a point. I'm an engineering grad. student at MIT, and the work I'm doing is work I could have done Harvard, Stanford, Yale, etc... because, quite frankly, my work is not groundbreaking. For most graduate students, I think this is the typical case.

On the other hand, there are a few grad. students who pick up the work of their adviser, work which may be groundbreaking and which may make them as a student look very good. It's not commonplace, but when it does happen, it's extremely beneficial.

As far as for how well a school "fits," I found that the adviser is the one who sets the tone for your academic life, not the university itself, because classes really are a second priority. What's left is really how well you like the social life at the university.

So I think these comparisons are useful because they give a student looking for a graduate school a chance to find the place that will benefit them the most professionally.

Let's ignore the elephant in the closet, shall we? (1, Interesting)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613458)

The SAT is a proxy IQ test. It's good enough that most high IQ societies will accept sufficient SAT scores in lieu of an IQ test. The only place IQ has been discredited is in the popular mind. The military and education system are still firm practitioners, simply because the concept works.

The SAT is taken in high school, way before any of these colleges can "work their magic".

Caltech has the pick of the high IQ (but smaller numbers of students), MIT follows, and then come the other Ivy League schools not far behind. See the attached link.

If you notice that IQ is roughly normally distributed (especially in a genetically similar population), look at the population of high IQ college age kids in the USA, and then compare to the populations of the elite US schools, you will see that they are very similar. It did not happen that way by accident.

Hell, put the student population of Caltech in your local community college and you'd find all sorts of revolutionary science suddenly springing from there too.

The US government prevents the corporate world nabbing the A-list by banning IQ tests in job interviews. Thus corporations use the proxy of school (or in the case of companies like M$, they ask questions that serve as a proxy IQ test). In the popular mind, the cause and effect gets confused between the brand (MIT/Harvard/Yale etc.) and the student body (high IQ/SAT scoring individuals). Universities don't exactly have a huge financial incentive to dissuade people either.

http://www-tech.mit.edu/V111/N41/usnews.41n.html [mit.edu]

Re:Let's ignore the elephant in the closet, shall (1)

gordona (121157) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614172)

Definition of IQ: Something an IQ test measures!

Re:Let's ignore the elephant in the closet, shall (1)

infaustus (936456) | more than 7 years ago | (#17615504)

Definition of pH: the difference in voltage between a reference solution and a solution with Na+ concentration changing depending on what solution the probe is in

Re:Let's ignore the elephant in the closet, shall (1)

Hao Wu (652581) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614300)

I remember my biology TAs at Harvard. They were all hard working grad students, but none of them showed any sign of great intelligence.

What was slightly interesting was how they appeared to be well adjusted and sociable people, but their underlying personalities had very peculiar problems. Ie. - they were all slightly neurotic underneath, and being a high achiever was really a kind of psychological compensation. If they had to peck their way to the top through whining and argument, they would just as well do that rather than produce any new volume of impressive material worth grading.

Re:Let's ignore the elephant in the closet, shall (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 7 years ago | (#17615866)

Except that the SATs can easily be gamed. My Math score went from 560 to 690 (from 65th percentile to 93rd) just by learning strategies and doing prep work!

Now, I'm not saying nobody can game a good IQ test, but it's certainly harder since there isn't a million-dollar industry dedicated to teaching you how to game IQ tests.

Or, to put things much more obviously, any test used to qualify people for anything will eventually be gamed.

Re:Let's ignore the elephant in the closet, shall (1)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 7 years ago | (#17622116)

There will always be outliers. Looks like you are one.

The average increase in scores after retesting is a combined 30 points. That's not a lot.

And for all this supposed gaming of the SAT, the averages haven't gone up over time, and the distributions still seem rather normal at the far right of the curve. You'd expect a big bulge there if it was as easily gameable as you contend.

(The SAT was also re-centered twice, in 1995 and 2005.)

http://www.collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/about/n ews_info/cbsenior/yr2006/national-report.pdf [collegeboard.com]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAT [wikipedia.org]

Best website, as well (3, Funny)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613582)

From my own personal and subjective experience, MIT has the best designed site from a usability perspective out of all the American university sites I have ever visited. I think it is seconded only by Berkeley.

A Study? (3, Interesting)

optimusNauta (784677) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613922)

If this guy really wans to study something like this, he needs to sit down and read some friggin' articles and come up with a metric to say whether an article is revolutionary. For example, Field's medals only honor Mathematicians younger than 40, and are only awards to one person ever some odd years, so that if two "revolutionary" papers are written in the same period, one gets nothing. In general the sample size of this "study", namely thee dozen prestigious awards of the past decade or two, is laughably small, and the only real result of his work is the suggestion that their should be more awards like the Nobels. To say that any one university tops any other from the information presented is foolish at best.

How is "science" defined? (1)

dorpus (636554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614024)

MIT does not have a medical school -- just a "division of health sciences and technology", where some cross-training with Harvard occurs. MIT does not have various departments related to medicine, such as pharmacology, epidemiology, biostatistics, or public health. It does not have a statistics department, or an independent astronomy department. Nor does it have independent departments for various branches of biology such as microbiology, genetics, or immunology; everything is just lumped together in a "biology department", reflecting its history of mediocre accomplishments in biology. Until recently, MIT was almost entirely focused on physics and engineering; in the past decade, they realized the declining importance of these fields relative to biology, so they are playing catch-up now. However, biology is highly specialized and plenty of other schools have spent decades building up particular departments.

Re:How is "science" defined? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17614424)

Yet the earliest and most important work in synthetic biology is occurring at MIT. Whatever their method, or atmosphere, or system is, it appears to beat the competition even playing catchup.

Re:How is "science" defined? (1)

JelloJoe (977764) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614480)

What does having a seperate department for small sub-fields have anything to do with how much success a school has in this subject? That's like saying MIT is horrible at CS because they don't have an independent CS department! Sure we don't have a medical school, but that's mainly because we are an engineering school. If we had a med school, we'd be good at that too. The HST department does amazing work. The research done in the Biology fields at MIT have caught up with the rest of the schools in the nation and is now one of the best. It's really hard to be the best at every subject, but MIT comes pretty darn close!

Re:How is "science" defined? (1)

dorpus (636554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614774)

What does having a seperate department for small sub-fields have anything to do with how much success a school has in this subject? They aren't "small", they're huge. Putting everything under a "biology" department is like putting physics, math, computer science, and chemistry under one "physical sciences" department. MIT has an EECS department, as various other schools do, since the fields overlap. Sure we don't have a medical school, but that's mainly because we are an engineering school. If we had a med school, we'd be good at that too. Having a good medical school is about having a good social and academic infrastructure to accomodate it in the first place. MIT does not have good programs in social sciences, other than linguistics. You do not even have a psychology department. Medical schools are a demanding presence at universities, and the engineering-oriented status quo will not welcome the loss of power. The research done in the Biology fields at MIT have caught up with the rest of the schools in the nation and is now one of the best. Really? Since I am in biostatistics, tell me about how MIT has "caught up" with other biostatistics departments, considering you do not even have one. Some schools such as UCLA thought they could build a world-class biostat department overnight and brought in an all-star cast of researchers, but the department fell apart from internal squabbling and lack of focus. UCSF and Stanford do not have biostat departments either, for similar reasons. Nor is biostatistics some obscure field -- medical researchers absolutely depend on us.

MIT and biology, haha that's funny (1)

razzmataz (69616) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614706)

Ironic what you say about MIT and biology, considering that MIT has one of the top 3 genome sequencing centers in the country, the Broad Institute [mit.edu] .

Re:MIT and biology, haha that's funny (1)

dorpus (636554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17615068)

MIT has a few accomplishments in bioinformatics, but bioinformatics is a down-and-out field at the moment. A lot of ex-computer geeks went into the bioinformatics, thinking they could become dot-com billionaires in biotech. However, most problems in biology have proven resistant to computational solutions. Decoding the genome was a one-time project, but understanding the meaning of all the ATCG's remains a slow process centered on the biology. Pharmaceutical companies of the 1990s thought that computers would be a magical tool that would increase their discovery rate of drugs 10-fold, but the 1990s turned out to be a miserable decade where the rate of innovation actually slowed. Biologists have demonstrated that they can be easily trained to use computers; most organizations today have no particular use for a "bioinformatics expert".

While advances in biotechnology appears to be the next frontier of science, it can only be driven by funding the many different specialties of biology, from limnology, veterinarian science, to biochemistry, immunology. It is driving a new wave of democratization, where no school can claim to be the leader of biology in general.

Let the battles begin! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17614184)

MIT Leads in Revolutionary Science, Harvard Declines
Some people have the strange idea that MIT and Harvard are in some sort of rough-and-tough competition with each other.

This is far from the truth. They are literally just down the street from one another. There is a lot of cross-registration between schools, since they are very coupled academically. And lots of the faculty are neighbors and buddies.

Faculty have no reason to "compete harder" with one another any more than faculty compete with one another within a single institution. In fact, one sees less faculty competition between the institutions, as there simply isn't any inter-institutional fighting over individual faculty positions.

Harvard and MIT once agreed to combine into a single institution, but retracted once the state legislature concluded that they'd rather see them as two institutions.

One good reason why: (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614556)

Remember MIT's announcement early in 2006 about working on supercapacitors based on carbon nanotubes? That new technology could go a LONG way in making power generation by wind turbines and solar panels much more viable, and could make it possible for a truly practical electric car with long range and reasonable carrying capacity.

Once an IITian wins a Nobel ... (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614588)

Wait till one IITian win a Nobel. Then he/she will reveal the inner special secret hand shake to his classmates, and they will tell their juniors, and then the knowledge will spread and IITians will be winning the Nobels like gangbusters :-)

Lawrence Summers tried (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 7 years ago | (#17615102)

Larry Summers proposed a new curriculum for Harvard undergraduates with at least one mandatory science course. They dont have to take even on e science or math course now. But I think that is on hold after his firing(*) (technically he was pushed aside to some high level professorship). Both Larry and I attended MIT (he was in my 8.012 section) where there are six(**) required math and science courses to graduate, even if you are a literature major. It is felt you cannot understand the modern world unless you know a bit of science.

(*) He wasn't fired for this reform, but for riling up the faculty in other ways. Shot off tongue too fast without always being "politically correct".

(**) A new plan raises this to seven, but with more flexibility than now. Some version of computer science becomes a required course.

Of Course! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17615790)

Who would expect anything less from Dr. Waterhouse's Massachussetts Bay Colony Institute for the Technologickal Arts?

Re:Of Course! (1)

leoval (827218) | more than 7 years ago | (#17618256)

That was great, I wonder how many here have spotted the reference to Neil Stephenson and the Baroque Cycle.

US and the rest of the world (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 7 years ago | (#17616328)

I thought this was kind of surprising, especially considering how often people tend to lament the state of US science:

In the past 20 years, the USA has sixteen institutions which have won three or more prizes, but elsewhere in the world (Table 3) only the College de France has achieved three Nobel prizes. Since 1986 the previously Nobel-successful UK research institutions (University of Cambridge, the MRC Molecular Biology Unit at Cambridge, University of Oxford and Imperial College, London) have declined from seventeen prizes 67-86 to only three.

Nobel Prizes Are a Bad Metric (1)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 7 years ago | (#17616848)

Prize awards are only as good as their award criteria. Nobel prizes aren't awarded according to an objective criterion so using them in a metric like this is hazardous to say the least. Worse, the Nobel prize committee is subject to no feedback controls. If they start engaging in some sort of nepotism, there is nothing to stop them. Its not like there is a marketplace of comprehensive prize awards on the scale of the Nobel. Far better for lots of individuals to specify their own, objective, criteria for prize awards and back them with their own money, however small that amount might be.

awards? (2, Insightful)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 7 years ago | (#17617190)

It's very hard to use awards as a judge of the scientific worth of an institution. For example, my school (UCI) has three Nobels in the last 15 years or so, but none of them for research done at UCI.

If you're a good enough scientist to get a Nobel (or Fields, and so on...), then chances are at some point some big, well known, well paying school is going to recruit you. It doesn't take a Nobel prize for other scientists to recognize a great researcher, but recruiting someone who has already done their life's great work doesn't make you a great scientific institution.

No matter how much loyalty you may have to a particular place, there are perks at big private schools that state schools like Berkely and Michigan just can't offer. Some well known scientists stick around in smaller incubation schools, but many find that being a big fish in a little pond is just more work and doesn't pay as well.

If you're going to use awards to determine scientific worth, you need to look at where the research which won the prize was done. Of course, this would put my school off the list with a grand total of 0 Nobels. I'm sure other small universities would start moving up the list.

Re:awards? (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 7 years ago | (#17617668)

You make a most salient and sagacious point about the Nobel - it is often highly irrevelant in non-scientific fields (especially economics), and is sometimes questionable in scientific fields. After Milton Friedman was awarded a Nobel, I stopped paying attention to it pretty much as if they award them to loony tunes like that, they'll award them to anybody.....
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