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What Makes A Scholar Relevant?

From guest blogger Jackie Zubrzycki

Over on his Straight Up blog, the American Enterprise Institute's Rick Hess has published the 2012 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings. Hess ranks 121 scholars' public presence as determined by a rubric that includes the numbers of publications, citations, and mentions the scholars receive in the educational press (including Education Week), blogs, newspapers, and the Congressional Record. He lays out the metrics and rationale (and makes it clear that he's open to feedback or pushback) in this post.

Hess says he's trying to measure the "footprint" of scholars, or their influence on the public discourse. He hopes the list will encourage academics to "step into the fray," which he says is too-often dominated by advocates who simplify complex topics, " and to push back on the academic norms" rewarding hyperfocused research aimed at a small audience. So it's no surprise that the list is topped by familiar figures such as education historian Diane Ravitch (a fellow Education Week blogger) and Stanford University scholar Linda Darling-Hammond, who've produced works for a more general audience and have addressed big questions in the field.

The top nine (and 12 of the top 15) names on the list come from three universities: New York University, Harvard, and Stanford. The list includes economists, political scientists, sociologists, and professors of teacher education and curriculum. While well-established researchers who have had time to amass references and publications fare well in the rankings, Hess also points out some younger researchers who are already gaining notice.

What do you think about the list? Do the metrics make sense? Should scholars step outside of the academy? Does the Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings help accomplish that goal?

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