Understand Scopus and SciVal’s role in university rankings

A closer look for research leaders
Updated: May 05, 2021

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What data do University Rankings use?

Ranking methodologies rely on data inputs from a range of external resources. These resources often include university and researcher data, relevant data on human resources, student administration, finances, and data from reputation surveys; each varying based on a league table's niche and focus.

Ranking organizations have increasingly turned to Elsevier's Scopus and SciVal for the research information and publication data used to formulate and implement their ranking methodologies.

New Rankings View in SciVal

New Rankings View 

Two such organizations are Times Higher Education (THE) and Quacquarelli Symonds Limited (QS). In the following chapters, we take a deeper look at Scopus and SciVal's role in both the THE and QS World University Rankings and their applied methodologies.

For a broader understanding of University Rankings, please visit Guide to University Rankings.

Chapters

  1. What data do University Rankings use?
  2. What research information data do THE and QS World University Rankings use?
  3. How do Scopus and SciVal inform the THE World University Rankings?
  4. How do Scopus and SciVal inform the QS World University Rankings?
  5. Why ranking organizations choose Scopus?
  6. How Scopus Author and Institution profiles bring value
  7. How SciVal helps you analyze and understand the information use in rankings
  8. Conclusion: The advantage of Scopus data and SciVal beyond rankings

Scopus

Scopus - Expertly curated abstract & citation database

Scopus is the most authoritative abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature in the world, including more than 81 million publication records.

SciVal

SciVal is a powerful web-based data analytics solution

SciVal is a powerful web-based data analytics solution that provides in-depth views into the research performance of thousands of institutions, and their affiliated researchers, across 231 nations worldwide.

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What research information data do THE and QS World University Rankings use?

Research output and citation information play a key role in ranking methodologies.

Research output data from Scopus and SciVal — which includes information about publications that either have been published or are accepted for publication — provide THE and QS with the data points they need to formulate and develop their world university rankings methodologies.

Citations account for a significant portion of the rankings equation for both THE World University Rankings (30%) and QS World University Rankings (20%). Each ranking organization has its own approach for how citations are used and normalized in their methodology. Understanding these different approaches help universities interpret and apply rankings information to strengthen plans and decisions focused on ranking outcomes.

THE world university rankings

30% of ranking equation dependent on citations

QS world university rankings

20% of ranking equation dependent on citations

Information reported on ranking methodologies accessed April 30, 2021

While you cannot use Scopus and SciVal to replicate the rankings or predict exact outcomes, you can gain a view into university performance through a similar lens, uncovering valuable insights to support decisions and strategic research goals.

How do Scopus and SciVal inform the THE World University Rankings?

A look into the THE World University Rankings (WUR) methodology and how Scopus & SciVal help facilitate the rankings process.

THE world university rankings

THE’s methodology consists of 13 metrics that are grouped into five major areas:

  • Teaching (30%)
  • Research (30%)
  • Citations (30%)
  • International outlook (7.5 %)
  • Industry income (2.5 %)

Data accessed from the THE website on May 26, 2020.

Figure 2: The weight distribution applied across the 13 metrics that THE uses in its WUR methodology.

The weight distribution applied across the 13 metrics that THE uses in its WUR methodology. Adapted from THE website.

From the 13 indicators applied to their World University Rankings methodology, THE partners with Elsevier in the following key areas.


Citation Data (research influence) 30%

Citation Data pictogram

THE describes research influence as an indicator of a university's "role in spreading new knowledge and ideas." This indicator is calculated using publication and citation data from Scopus and SciVal provided by the Elsevier Data Science team. In the 2021 rankings, the indicator is calculated by analyzing publications in a 5-year period (2015-2019) and the citations to these publications in a 6-year period (2015-2020). The dataset draws upon the more than 24,000 sources indexed in Scopus (for a more detailed look at the Scopus database, see Chapter 4) and required analyzing over 86 million citations to 13.6 million articles, reviews, conference proceedings, books and book chapters.

To calculate the Citations Score, Elsevier provides a 5-year Field Weighted Citation Impact metric (THE FWCI) based on THE’s dedicated bibliometric dataset.  The Field-Weighted Citation Impact (FWCI) methodology normalizes for subject area, publication year and publication type. THE FWCI values are provided for the 11 THE subject areas by mapping the All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) of Scopus to the THE subject areas. Publications with more than 1,000 authors recieve a specific fractional counting approach. Times Higher Education developed this approach to ensure the Citations Score is not disproportionately affected. Additionally, THE’s data science team applies a series of further normalizations to determine the final Citations (research influence) Score.

More can be found on the THE WUR methodology page.

Research Productivity (6% of the Research indicator)

Research productivity - pictogram

THE’s research productivity indicator provides insight into the ability of a university’s researchers to get published in peer-reviewed titles indexed in Scopus. It is the count of journal articles, article reviews, conference proceedings, books and book chapters per scholar in the same five-year publication window, scaled for institutional size and normalized for subject area.

International Collaboration (2.5% of the International Outlook indicator)

International collaboration - pictogram

International collaboration measures the proportion of a university’s total publications with at least one international co-author. This metric is based on Scopus data and looks at journal articles, article reviews, conference proceedings, books and book chapters in the same five-year publication window as the Citations indicator and is normalized for subject area.

Reputation survey results and analysis

Reputation survey - pictogram

Elsevier facilitates the reputation survey for THE by randomly selecting the participants from among the universe of researchers available through Scopus author and affiliation profiles. Elsevier conducts the survey on behalf of and delivers the results to THE.

Beyond the World University Rankings

Beyond rankings - pictogram

This article focuses on the World University Rankings; however, THE also partners with Elsevier on additional rankings, including the newer THE Impact Rankings. The THE Impact Rankings capture universities’ impact on society based on an institution's success in actively contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A quick look in the scope and methodology of THE Impact Rankings is shared in the image below. For more details visit the THE Impact Rankings webpage.

Impact rankings methodology

How do Scopus and SciVal inform the QS World University Rankings? 1

A look into the QS World University Rankings (WUR) methodology and how Scopus & SciVal help facilitate the rankings process

QS world university rankings

QS World University Rankings evaluate universities according to six metrics, with the highest weighting applied to Academic reputation (40%) generated from the QS Academic Survey. The other five metrics are as follows:

  • Citations per faculty (20%)
  • Faculty/student ration (20%)
  • Employer reputation (10%)
  • International study (5%)
  • International students (5%)

1 Based on information accessed from the QS website May 26, 2020

The distribution of variables QS applies to its World University RankingsThe distribution of variables QS applies to its World University Rankings as outlined on their website.

From the 6 indicators applied to their World University Rankings methodology, QS partners with Elsevier in the following key areas.


Citations per Faculty (20%)

citations per faculty - pictogramQS measures institutional research quality using the Citations per Faculty metric. For this calculation, they look at the total number of citations received by all papers produced by a university across a five-year period divided by the number of faculty members at that institution. All citation data is sourced from the Scopus database and excludes self-citations.

Citations are also normalized to factor in the varying citation behavior across different fields. QS introduced Faculty area normalization in 2015 to ensure that institutions specializing in Life Sciences and Natural Sciences were not unduly advantaged. For example, a citation received for a paper in Philosophy is measured differently than a citation received for a paper in a Life Sciences journal, in order to give both an equal weight. QS has avoided fundamental changes to their methodology, with the aim to provide a consistent year-on-year comparison.

More can be found on the QS website.

From the 6 indicators applied to their World University Rankings methodology, QS partners with Elsevier in these key areas.


Beyond the World University Rankings:

beyond university rankings - pictogramThis article focuses on the World University Rankings; however, QS also partners with Elsevier on additional rankings, including their World University Rankings by Subject. This ranking aims to help prospective students identify the world’s leading schools in their chosen field in response to high demand for subject-level comparisons. As research cultures and publication rates vary significantly across academic disciplines, the QS World University Rankings by Subject applies a different weighting of the four indicators in each subject.

More can be found on the QS World University Rankings by Subject website.

Scopus

Why ranking organizations choose Scopus?

Capturing over 4.5 terabytes of data, Scopus indexes, structures and provides detailed data on universities’ research output trusted by global rankings organizations.

Scopus data provides rankings organizations with reliable and transparent data. The breadth of research information on Scopus,2 which includes more than 24,500 peer-reviewed serial titles, 234,000+ books and 10+ million conference papers, enables just about any research institution to be benchmarked against any other globally. The database can be queried for information from 81.5 million records covering more than 70,000 institutions. It also includes 16 million author profiles.

Scopus: a gold standard for research output data

Scopus covers nearly twice as many journals covered as its nearest competitor, spread across multiple subject areas.

For THE, access to curated Scopus data has helped it expand its annual ranking list. Since 2015, the number of universities has almost doubled, growing from 801 to now covering over 1,500 universities.

THE Rankings over time

The THE rankings methodology and content covered has changed over the years allowing them to include more institutions, and measuring their success across a variety of metrics, not just citations.

Evolved to include more subject areas (from 6 in 2015 to 11 and 32 sub-disciplines in 2019)

Evolved to include more subject areas (from 6 in 2015 to 11 and 32 sub-disciplines in 2019) and consider more document types (inc. articles, reviews, conference proceedings, books and book chapters).

Since 2015 the number of universities covered has almost doubled, going from 801 to now covering over 1,500 universities.

Since 2015 the number of universities covered has almost doubled, going from 801 to now covering over 1,500 universities.

Journals:

  • 24,610 Peer-reviewed Journals
  • 292 Trade Journals
  • 6,324 Active Gold Open Access journals
  • >8,000 Articles in Press
    Full metadata abstracts and cited references

Conferences:

  • 101,000 Events
  • 10+M Papers
    Mainly engineering and computer sciences’

Number of Journals by subject area:

  • 13,684 Physical Sciences
  • 14,685 Health Sciences
  • 13,037 Social Sciences
  • 7,448 Life Sciences

Books:

  • 852 Book series
  • 63,000+ Volumes
  • 1.9M Items
  • 234,000 Stand-alone books
    Focus on Social Sci and A&H

A break down of the content indexed on Scopus based on a variety of categories.

2 Numbers reported for Scopus and SciVal as of January 31, 2021. Scopus is updated daily, therefore numbers are continuously changing.

Scopus content selection criteria

Titles included in the Scopus database go through a rigorous selection process in which each title is evaluated by an independent content selection and advisory board. The board is comprised of external subject matter experts, not Elsevier employees.

Titles are re-reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure they still meet the quality parameters set by the advisory board. Publications are suspended if they do not meet the minimum standards for inclusion.

A look at the quality steps suggested serial titles go through in order to be indexed on Scopus.

A look at the quality steps suggested serial titles go through in order to be indexed on Scopus.

Learn more about the content selection criteria.

THE World University Rankings and Scopus data

The chart below illustrates how Scopus data is used by THE for its rankings. In this example, Scopus results on the number of publications correlate with the data set used by THE for its 2019 World Reputation Rankings. More than 3.2 million data points were analyzed for these rankings which is indicative of the depth and breadth of Scopus coverage. It also underscores the benefits deep indexing, curation, and structuring can have when applied to the metadata captured.

The highlighted document illustrates the impact one highly cited article can have for a university once the paper falls outside of the reporting window.

An example of the data set breakdown Elsevier provided THE for the WURAn example of the data set breakdown Elsevier provided THE for the WUR, starting from the number of publications gathered from all universities included, to the resulting number of data points captured.

How Scopus Author and Institution profiles bring value

Author and institutional profiles generated through a combination of automation and human curation produces a more accurate reflection of an institution’s research output

One of the most valuable features of Scopus is an algorithmic data processing solution that enables authors and institutions to be disambiguated.

That means it is possible to distinguish John Smith from J. Smith and to associate the right “Smith” with the right university. In this complex matching algorithm, the author profile accuracy benefits also from accurate citation links and institution profiles. This functionality improves the veracity of the ranking evaluation data. Ranking organizations can rely on aggregated data from Scopus that accurately represents the research output for each institution.

A depiction of how the Scopus algorithmic data processing solution works in matching authors to their profiles.

A depiction of how the Scopus algorithmic data processing solution works in matching authors to their profiles.

Scopus Author Profiles

Scopus uses a combination of automated and curated data to automatically build Author Profiles, which power Elsevier's Research Intelligence portfolio.

Scopus also has developed an Author Feedback Wizard that helps keep the database up-to-date. A unique 16-digit ORCID iD number can be linked to an author’s profile and facilitates the updating process. Close to 1 million author profiles have been curated in the Scopus database, and approximately 34,000 profiles are updated each month.

A look at the multiple ways in which Scopus author profiles are curated and validated.

A look at the multiple ways in which Scopus author profiles are curated and validated.

Institution Profile Wizard

The Institution Profile Wizard works in much the same way as the Author Feedback Wizard. Universities can use the wizard to modify affiliation profiles, update organizational hierarchies and modify contact information, such as names and addresses.

Scopus

Scopus uniquely combines a comprehensive, curated abstract and citation database with enriched data and linked scholarly content.

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Detailed Supporting Data

Scopus also provides detailed data regarding organizational hierarchies to enable the matching of a particular institute. This level of granularity can, for example, match a particular research institute with the university it is affiliated with. The detailed and structured nature of the Scopus database facilitates research performance evaluation and data aggregation for supporting customized ranking methodologies.

The process of how Scopus institutional profiles are created and the role of the Institution Profile Wizard.

The process of how Scopus institutional profiles are created and the role of the Institution Profile Wizard.

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SciVal

How SciVal helps you analyze and understand the information use in rankings

Enable more in-depth analysis of global research activities and trends

SciVal provides a view into university and researcher performance through the publication and citation data used by the THE and QS rankings. It can help you dive deeper into areas that often weigh into rankings outcomes and lead to a better understanding. For example, you can explore international collaboration or collaboration with industry partners. Although there is no single report or specific formula to forecast or guide the desired ranking outcome, you can discover new insights from SciVal to guide decisions and inform your strategy in the future.

Quick view of Rankings information in SciVal for a ranked university

Through advanced data analytics technology, SciVal analyses Scopus publication, citation and COUNTER-compliant compliant usage data in combination with patent-article citations, awarded grant data and mass media mentions to generate an extensive array of simple and more sophisticated metrics. This includes Field-Weighted Citation Impact (FWCI) which informs the THE rankings.

SciVal

SciVal allows you to visualize your research performance, benchmark relative to peers, develop strategic partnerships, identify and analyze new, emerging research trends, and create uniquely tailored reports.

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How does SciVal help you analyze the THE World University Rankings?

As of April 2021, you can find more robust information and transparency in SciVal around the bibliometrics (publication and citation data) used in the THE World University Rankings (WUR).

For all universities ranked in THE's World University Rankings, you can now use SciVal to understand, analyze and benchmark with peers across the drivers behind 38.5 % of the total THE rankings score (30% for Citations Score, 6% for research productivity indicator and 2.5% for the international collaboration indicator).

Understand THE World University Rankings through SciVal

Get a quick overview of how this works in SciVal.

In addition to greater transparency around the bibliometric drivers behind 38.5% of the final Rankings Score, you can also benchmark with peers across the publication and citation information used by THE. This ability reduces the manual effort needed for curating data or time spent creating proxies. Further, it means greater clarity for anyone looking to understand a university's rank.

The inclusion of THE ranking information and data in SciVal helps you:

  • Gather more precise insights into ranking outcomes by analyzing and understanding the drivers behind the Citations Score, which accounts for 30% of the overall Ranking.
  • Benchmark and understand your university's position across the bibliometric drivers and at the THE subject area level
  • Inform decision-making and strategy with insights based on the actual dataset used by THE and the same Field-Weighted Citation Impact and Citations Scores used in 30% of the THE WUR

Conclusion: The advantage of Scopus data and SciVal beyond rankings

Build your views on global research to provide actionable insights from quantitative information to support strategic decision-making.

Data is most powerful when it is analyzed and mined for actionable insights. The leading rankings organizations use Scopus data as part of the ongoing process of evaluating and comparing universities. Universities that are proactive in understanding and their ranking, leverage Scopus and analyses from tools such as SciVal to better identify their own overall strengths and weaknesses.

But the value of Scopus data extends far beyond the rankings universe. National-level evaluation and assessment agencies integrate and use Scopus data as trusted information when conducting research performance evaluations, developing national strategies and informing policies. For example, the United States’ National Science Foundation uses Scopus data for its bi-annual Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI) report.

Scientificc Insights

Discover our portfolio of solutions and consultative services powered by Scopus data

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eBook - Understand Scopus and SciVal’s role in university rankings - ThumbnailDownload this ebook to better understand the role Scopus and SciVal play in informing rankings, in addition to learning some of the interesting trends found in the information and analyses they provide.

Download the eBook (PDF, 2.7 MB)

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