McCormack Faculty Named Among World’s Top-Cited Scholars
In a recent list published by Stanford-Elsevier, over three dozen UMass Boston current and past researchers were named among the world’s most-cited scholars. Several current researchers at UMass Boston, including two faculty members at the McCormack School, appeared among the top 2% most-cited ranking by subfield.
Professors Edward Alan Miller, of the Department of Gerontology, and Mark Warren, of the Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs, made the prestigious list, appearing alongside seven other scholars at UMass Boston also in the top 2% most-cited ranking by subfield. Professor Miller’s 2,656 citations in the subfield of gerontology earned him a place on the list, while Professor Warren’s 1,001 citations in the subfield of education secured his spot.
Both Miller and Warren commented that placement on this list is a great honor, explaining that it provides them with tangible benchmarks with which to measure their own work and productivity. Edward Miller discussed that his professional life as an academic can often be accompanied by a “the grass is always greener” sentiment —in other words, he marvels at how productive some other academics are, seemingly churning out publications left and right. “It’s nice to be able to put your productivity in context,” he explained. “We always feel like we need to do more and more. Something like this makes you sit back and say, ‘Hey, you’re doing a good job.’” Miller commented that opportunities like this to receive positive feedback are rare, and he wishes scholars had more chances to contextualize their work this way.
Upon receiving news that they made this list, Warren and Miller were surprised, as neither was aware that such a list was being conducted in the first place. Mark Warren commented that “There are different ways of measuring impact, but one of them is how often your work is cited by other scholars, suggesting that your work informs or influences their work. I’m happy to see that my work is often cited.” Miller agreed, saying, “You want your work to be cited, you want people to be reading it, and you want to have an impact on your field, so it’s gratifying.”
Each scholar expressed appreciation to UMass Boston and their colleagues in gerontology and public policy at the McCormack School. Miller contextualized their placement on the list within the university’s ongoing efforts to be recognized at a national level for high research productivity, and this list, he explained, shows that the university is reaching its goals. As he said, his and his colleagues’ placement on the list bodes well for the aspirations of the university, both in terms of cultivating an environment for multidisciplinary, collaborative scholarship and for involving the next generation of scholars in this endeavor.
“It shows that UMass Boston is a place that attracts highly productive scholars who have noticeable imprints on their fields,” he explained. “The success reflects not just the individual scholars being noted,” Miller continued. “It reflects the environment we work in and the colleagues we work with, within and across disciplines.” Miller recently ranked among Research.com’s 2023 ranking of best scientists in political science, a list that is also based on citations but from a discipline-specific context.
As Warren explained, that over three dozen researchers at UMass Boston appeared on this list of the most productive scholars in the country is an indication of the accomplishments across UMass Boston, which has led to an environment in which scholars can make an impact. “We want our work to matter and to influence what’s really going on, whether that’s in policy and practice or in transforming our communities. I’m happy that scholars in our school and our department are having that kind of impact,” he commented. Miller agreed, saying, “These metrics really reflect the fact that we are more than the sum of our parts. The environment that we work in, where we can be productive, and the people that we work with provide a context for success.”
According to the Elsevier Data Repository, the list borrows from Stanford University’s metrics, using standardized information on a variety of factors, including citations, cumulative impact, co-authorship, and a composite indicator. Elsevier’s data is pulled from Scopus, their citation index, and tracks both career-long and single-year citations of papers published that are indexed within Scopus. While being included on the list is an accomplishment for both Miller and Warren, each emphasized that metrics such as these cannot possibly account for all of a scholar’s accomplishments.
On the one hand, this list has only one measurement of impact: citations. As Mark Warren noted, citations are a way to measure impact, but they are certainly not the only way. For instance, the Stanford-Elsevier list does not account for other quantifiable measures of impact, such as downloads of articles, media coverage, book sales, website visits, and so on, nor does it account for the impacts that cannot be counted, like the role that a book has played in an educator rethinking their approach to teaching or how helpful a book has been in community organizing. “There’s a qualitative documentation that is hard to count up exactly,” Warren said, “but that’s very meaningful to me.”
On the other hand, lists like this emphasize only one component of a professor’s career: academic research output. The list doesn’t reflect student collaboration, for example, or time spent mentoring students, collaborating with colleagues, serving on boards, or giving presentations to the public. In reflecting on their accomplishments, the two professors returned to a bigger picture that a list like this, while gratifying, fails to capture.
For Warren, who defines his own work as community-engaged, having an impact in the academic communities of scholars is one goal, but it is not the only goal. He also hopes to make impact in the communities. As he commented, “I want to have a broader impact in public understanding and in supporting education justice movements.” He continued, “I’m happy to see that work that’s community engaged and highlights the role of grassroots organizing is cited a lot and has influence in the fields of education and sociology.”
Warren and Miller both cited the work that they do with their students as meaningful hallmarks of their careers and markers of their success independent from citations. Some of that work, necessarily, cannot be reflected in a measure of citations, as the work does not always lead to the publication of an article—though Miller noted that some of his own publications, and of many of the authors on the list, he suspects, are the result of direct collaborations with students. Miller explained, “We create an environment where we can train the next generation of scholars to be successful while they’re on campus so that they can get the desirable positions that they want when they graduate.” That is another marker of success for Miller and Warren.
Commenting on this, Warren shared one potent example. He told a story of a recent project he engaged in with students during their class on community-based participatory research. At the request of the National Campaign for Police Free Schools, a youth-led grassroots organization that works to end the criminalization of youth in schools, the students in Warren’s class conducted research with queer, trans, and Two Spirit youth who have made contributions to the Police Free Schools movement. The organization has an interactive timeline detailing the history of the movement that is used to educate public audiences and young people who are newly involved.
Warren’s community partners in the Police Free Schools movement recognized that the timeline doesn’t do enough to acknowledge the contributions of queer, trans, and Two Spirit youth, so the students interviewed these youth activists about their roles in the movement to update the timeline’s information. Now, the National Campaign for Police Free Schools is integrating Warren’s students’ research into its timeline so that its coverage of the movement is a more inclusive and useful educational tool. “This is the kind of work I do right now that isn’t published as an article,” Warren explained. “It could be at some point down the line, but we’re trying to do research that’s supporting the movement in a variety of ways with a variety of outcomes and outputs, not all of which have to become articles.”
The Stanford-Elsevier list of top-cited academics celebrates the productive research output of many academics across UMass Boston, including at the McCormack School. While a list such as this cannot capture all the significant and impactful work that professors at McCormack do to mentor, collaborate with, and teach students and the broader public, it is one marker of the many successes among faculty members at the McCormack School that reflect its national and international impact.