By Ruth A. Pagell*
- How many owners has the Institute for Scientific Information had?
- What percent of Times Higher Education revenue comes from rankings?
- Which ranker solicits advertising on its home page?
(22 January 2018) Faculty and administrators in Hong Kong and Singapore asked me “How do the rankers make money from rankings?” Despite my background in business librarianship, I never thought about the business side of the rankings.
There is a misconception that the organizations producing the rankings jumped into the game to make money. Most of these organizations existed as publishers, consultants or research institutes before they began publishing their rankings. The organizations have a variety of business models, from multi-national corporations to small research labs.
This article is an overview of each organization’s history and a description of its business model. Appendix 32 provides additional information, where available, for those interested in finance and organizational structure and it links to the underlying articles about the rankers.
SOURCES FOR BIBLIOMETRICS:
Librarians have been financially challenged when paying for products from Elsevier and Clarivate Analytics, the former Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). Readers may also be financially challenged when trying to follow the business history for these two companies. See Appendix 32 for more details and definitions
- Corporate History: Elsevier, founded in 1880, Is named after a 16th century Dutch publisher. It began focusing on scientific publishing in the 1930s. In 1992 Elsevier merged with Reed International PLC to form Reed Elsevier PLC, headquartered in the UK and the Netherlands. In 2016, the company restructured and changed its name to RELX Group. Along the way, Elsevier purchased many other scientific publishers.
- Products and Services – Bibliometric and library products such as Scopus, SciVal and ScienceDirect are part of the Scientific, Technical & Medical Group,
- Business and Financials: The company is listed on multiple stock exchanges. Performance data are readily available. Approximately 7,500 of the company’s 30,000 employees are in the Scientific, Technical & Medical group. The primary source of revenue for the group is subscriptions. Financial data for the division are available through RELX annual reports. See Appendix 32, Table 32.1.1 and Figure 32.1.
- Websites: Research platforms – https://www.elsevier.com/research-platforms Research Intelligence: https://www.elsevier.com/research-intelligence/products-services
- Corporate History: ISI is the oldest bibliometric company, founded in the early 1960s. Since then the organization has been bought and sold. Between 1992 and 2016 it was a segment of publicly traded Thomson Corporation and then Thomson- Reuters. Bibliometric products became part of the Intellectual Property and Science division. In October 2016, two private equity companies purchased these products and rebranded the venture as Clarivate Analytics. The only constant has been headquarters in Philadelphia
- Products and Services: CA includes bibliometric products from Web of Science, including the citation indexes, Journal Citation Reports, InCites and Essential Science Indicators and consulting and analytic services.
- Business and Financials: The division’s financial performance data are available from 1992 through 2015. About 800 employees of the new company work directly for the joint venture. See Appendix 32 and Table 32. 2.
- Company Website: Scientific and Academic Research https://clarivate.com/product-category/scientific-academic-research/
QS, Times Higher Education and U.S. News are private publishing companies Each company has different target audiences. There is limited and often no free information about private company financial performance.
QS Top Universities – QS Quacquarelli Symons Ltd
QS was making money in the international student business over a decade before it become involved with its 2004 joint venture with Times Higher Education to provide a global university league table in response to a request from the British government. The two rankers split in 2011-2012. (Ruth’s Rankings 5).
- Company History: The company grew out of a 1990 MBA student project at the Wharton School where the company’s founder and still managing director, Nunzio Quacquarelli, was a foreign student. The project’s output included publications for international students. The company’s stated mission focuses on international students. The brand is QS World University Rankings®
- Products and Services: Rankings include world, regional, subject, emerging countries, employability, and a new MBA ranking to be analyzed in an article later in 2018 on professional schools. Other services include consulting to universities; university analysis and Star rankings; and special software for tracking international students. A brochure describes their consulting and tracking services to universities.
- Business and Financials: The number of employees and revenue data varies by source. See attached annual report for 2016 from Companies House in Appendix 32.
- Company Website: http://www.qs.com
THE World Universities – TES Global Ltd.
Times Higher Education has been in business for over 100 years, starting as a magazine for teachers. Teachers are still the target audience for most of their products.
- Company History: The company began life in 1910 as the Times Educational Supplement, a supplement to the Times (of London). The company launched Times Higher Educational Supplement in 1971 and today it is a stand-alone print and online subscription publication. The company became involved in rankings in 2004 (see QS above). It has gone through changes in name and ownership. The U.S. based private investment firm, TPG Capital, owns TES Global.
- Products and Services: TES has two segments: School Services for UK teachers and schools and University Services. Rankings, targeted for students and parents, include world, regional, reputation, subject and special college rankings for the U.S. and Japan. DataPoints is its fee-based product for universities. In 2015 the company brought its data analysis in-house.
- Employees and Financials: According to the latest annual report (31 August 2016) the company had 585 employees and revenue of £137.2 million ($179.8 mil) primarily from school services. University services account for 7% or $12.6 million.
- Company websites: Holding Company site: https://www.tesglobal.com/
- Times Higher Education https://www.timeshighereducation.com/
Best Global Universities Rankings –U.S. News & World Report
- Although U.S. News is the newcomer to the global ranking game, it is the one company that has been making money from rankings for over 30 years.
- Company History: United States News was founded in 1933 as a weekly newspaper and became U.S. News & World Report in 1948. In 2010, the company went entirely digital, rebranding its magazine as USNews.com.
- Products and Services: Rankings include a suite of U.S. educational rankings, starting in 1983 and global rankings, introduced in October 2014. In addition to education it ranks other consumer products and services and prints a series of “Best” guides.
- Business and Financial: The company is individually owned and has about 500 employees and estimated sales of US$106.78 million (D&B Hoovers Jan, 2018). Revenue comes from subscriptions to the website, access to the full U.S. rankings and sales of guides.
- Company Website: https://www.usnews.com/ Best Global Universities: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-global-universities?int=994d08
RESEARCH AND ACADEMIC ORGANIZATION RANKINGS
Shanghai Jiao Tong, Leiden and National University of Taiwan all have the scholarly community as their target audience and they produce rankings with different business models.
Academic Ranking of World Universities – ShanghaiRanking Consultancy Shanghai Jiao Tong University was the first to publish a global university scholarly ranking in 2003.
- Company History: ShanghaiRanking Consultancy is “a fully independent organization dedicating to research on higher education intelligence and consultation”. It has been the official publisher of the Academic Ranking of World Universities since 2009. The staff is affiliated with the university’s Center for World Class Universities (CWCU – short English description)
- Products and Services: It provides ARWU university and subject rankings and consultancy services to universities and the Chinese government.
- Business and Finance Model: There are around 24 employees. Income comes from consultation/data services and advertisements which are solicited on the website. (Ying CHENG.)
- Company Websites: http://www.shanghairanking.com/index.html
- Brochure: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw2rAawlHlvBUlFDeElPRTlmMFU/view
Leiden Rankings: CWTS B.V. (Centre for Science and Technology Studies)
- Company History: In 2002, Leiden University created CWTS B.V. as a private commercial company that is a 100 per cent subsidiary of Leiden University. The history of CWTS predates the commercial founding by over 30 years. It began as a working group in 1980 and became CWTS in 1989, providing contract research projects (Petersohn and Heinz, 2017)
- Products and Services: In addition to the Leiden Rankings by impact or collaboration and then by location or subject, the company provides services in Monitoring & Evaluation, Advanced Analytics and Training & Education.
- Business and finance: It has one full-time employee and hires people (about 4 FTE per year) for specific projects. CWTS BV earns money by providing bibliometric/scientometric products and services to universities, research funders, governments, and scientific publishers. The Leiden Ranking demonstrates the types of bibliometric statistics that can be provided by CWTS BV. (Waldman, 2017) Financial information is available for a fee.
- Website: http://www.cwtsbv.nl/
Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities – NTU Rankings- National Taiwan University
- Company History: These rankings were first published in 2007 by the Higher Education Evaluation and Accreditation Council of Taiwan (HEEACT). In 2012 the name was changed when the rankings were independently released by National Taiwan University.
- Products and Services: NTU only offers rankings which include world rankings, and ranking by subject and field.
- Ranking Website: http://nturanking.lis.ntu.edu.tw/Default.aspx
THE SPANISH CONNECTION:
The Spanish government is involved in the underlying research for two groups of rankings – Webometrics and its Google ranking and the private Scimago Institutions Rankings.
Webometrics Ranking Web of Universitites – Cybermetrics Lab
The lab belongs to Conseio Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC) , the largest public research body in Spain. Most information is in Spanish and needs translation.
- Company History- The Spanish government founded the parent CSIC in 1939. The lab began research on web bibliometric indicators in the late 1990’s and published its first Ranking Web in 2004 (Aquillo, 2010, 2014).
- Products and Services. Rankings include Webometrics Ranking Web of Universities, Ranking Web of Universities and Ranking of Google Scholar Profiles. CSIC has over 116,000 articles in Scopus.
- Business and Finance: The lab has one full-time employee funded by the Spanish government. Junior staff are hired for specially funded projects, often from the EU. It works in collaboration wih othe public and private organizations. Including Sciomage Lab.
- Company websites: Cybermetrics Lab http://internetlab.cchs.csic.es/
Scimago Institutions Rankings Scimago Research Group SRG S.L. (private company including Scimago Lab)
- Company History: The company was originally founded by Professor Félix de Moya Anegón in 2008.
- Products and Services: Classified as a consultancy, products include institution and journal rankings and a visualization took, the Shaper of Science. It works in conjunction with CSIC and Elsevier.
- Business and Finance: The website lists four employees. D&B estimates between 10-49 employees. Business and Finance: Sales: US$ 530,000 (D&B Hoovers 2018)
Global rankings “have become big business for the media organisations and a business opportunity for others.” (Hazelkorn).
Our analysis shows that rankings are add-on products for organizations that existed before rankings. Shanghai Jiao Tong and Leiden created separate companies to handle the commercial side of the rankings. They are leveraging the exposure from the rankings to provide fee-based services.
Aguillo, I. F. Information on the Rankings Web, including the Webometrics Ranking. September 10th, 2014. The beginning of this article provides history on the Lab. Accessed 20 January 2018 at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e779/6ddbd62e2626f4ecc057c4d50875e3754665.pdf
Hazelkorn, E. (2014). Reflections on a decade of Global Rankings: What we’ve learned and outstanding issues. European Journal of Education 49(1) pg. 12-28. DOI 10.1111/ejed.12059
Petersohn, S. and Heinze, T. (14 Dec 2017). Professionalization of bibliometric research assessment, section 4.2. Insights from the history of the Leiden Centre for Science and Technology Studies. Science and Public Policy, 1-14 . https://doi.org/10.1093/scipol/scx084, Institutional subscription or purchase
Cybermetrics Lab: Aguillo, January 2018 (also affiliated with SIC and Scimago Lab)
ShanghaiRanking Consultancy email correspondence, November 2017:
Dr. Ying Cheng, Founder & CEO, ShanghaiRanking Consultancy; Executive Director, Center for World Class Universities
Dr. Nian Cai Liu, Professor and Director Center for World-Class Universities, Shanghai Jiao Tong University
A list of Ruth’s Rankings and News Updates is here.
*Ruth A .Pagell is emeritus faculty librarian at Emory University. After working at Emory she was the founding librarian of the Li Ka Shing Library at Singapore Management University and then adjunct faculty [teaching] in the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Hawaii. She has written and spoken extensively on various aspects of librarianship, including contributing articles to ACCESS – https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3238-9674.