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November 16, 1998

UCSC astrophysics ranks second in nation for impact

By Tim Stephens

In the field of astrophysics, UCSC's faculty are among the most frequently cited in scientific journals, according to an independent national science group. The group ranked UCSC second in the nation in terms of its impact in astrophysics, with Princeton University in the top slot.

The Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), based in Philadelphia, ranked the universities whose research papers attracted the most attention from other scholars in each of 21 fields between 1993 and 1997. The results, published in the organization's newsletter ScienceWatch, are presented in a series of "top ten" lists showing the "highest impact U.S. universities" in the biological, physical, and social sciences.

ISI's rankings are based on an analysis of scholarly citations. When researchers publish a journal article, they must cite previous papers by other authors that set the stage for their work. Generally, a paper garners more citations when scientists accept the work as important and well done. ISI analysts consider the average number of citations per paper, or the "citation impact," as the most objective way to gauge the quality of a department's or an institution's research.

This is not the first time UCSC's Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics has been recognized as one of the best. ISI previously ranked the department 11th in citation impact for the period 1993-95. The National Research Council ranked the department sixth in the nation in 1995 in terms of the quality of the faculty in its Ph.D. program, based on a "reputational survey" of astronomers across the country.

"This is very gratifying, and it is partly due to our association with the Keck Observatory, which is the premiere ground-based astronomical facility, and to our illustrious and talented faculty," said Stanford Woosley, professor and chair of astronomy and astrophysics.

UCSC astronomers have been integrally involved in the design, construction, and use of the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii since the project's inception. The observatory houses the world's largest optical and infrared telescopes, the twin Keck I and Keck II telescopes. UCSC astronomers are also among the leading users of the Hubble Space Telescope.

In the ISI top ten list for astrophysics, UCSC was trailed by UC Berkeley, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, and Harvard University.

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