Happy New Year
The cosmos of university ranking got more interesting recently with the advent of the "brain map" by Wired magazine. This new league table counts the total number of winners of five prestigious international prizes (Nobel, Fields, Lasker, Turing, Gairdner) in the past 20 years (up to 2007); and the researcher found that almost all winners were affiliated with American institutions.
As discussed before, the map is a difficult graphical object; it acts like a controlling boss. In this brain map, the concentration of institutions in the North American land mass causes over-crowding, forcing the designer to insert guiding lines drawing our attention in myriad directions. These lines scatter the data asunder, interfering with the primary activity of comparing universities.
The chain of dots object cannot stand by itself without an implicit structure (e.g. rows of 10). This limitation was apparent in the hits and misses chart as well. Sticking fat fingers on paper to count dots is frustrating. Simple bars allow readers to compare relative strength with less effort.
In the junkart version, we ditched the map construct completely, retaining only the east-west axis. [For lack of space (and time), I omitted the US East Coast and Washington-St. Louis.] With this small multiples presentation, one can better contrast institutions.
To help comprehend the row structure, I inserted thin strikes to indicate zero awards. A limitation of the ranking method is also exposed: UC-SF has a strong medical school and not surprisingly, it has received a fair share of Nobel (medicine), Lasker and Gairdner prizes; but zero Lasker and Gairdner could be due to less competitive medical schools or none at all!
Reference: "Mapping Who's Winning the Most Prestigious Prizes in Science and Technology", Wired magazine, Nov 2007.