Publication Date

October 2005


[Excerpt] This paper addresses the question: should the world’s top universities be led by top researchers, and are they?

The lifetime citations are counted by hand of the leaders of the world’s top 100 universities identified in a global university ranking. These numbers are then normalized by adjusting for the different citation conventions across academic disciplines. Two statistical measures are used -- Pearson's correlation coefficient and Spearman's rho.

This study documents a positive correlation between the lifetime citations of a University’s president and the position of that university in the global ranking. Better universities are run by better researchers. The results are not driven by outliers. That the top universities in the world -- who have the widest choice of candidates -- systematically appoint top researchers as their vice chancellors and presidents seems important to understand. This paper also shows that the pattern of presidents life-time citations follows a version of Lotka’s power law.

There are two main areas of contribution. First, this paper attempts to use bibliometric data to address a performance- related question of a type not seen before (to the author’s knowledge). Second, despite the importance of research to research universities -- as described in many mission-statements -- no studies currently exist that ask whether it matters if the head of a research university is himself or herself a committed researcher. Given the importance of universities in the world, and the difficulty that many have in appointing leaders, this question seems pertinent.


Suggested Citation
Goodall, A. H. (2005) Should top universities be led by top researchers and are they? A citations analysis. (CHERI Working Paper #82). Retrieved [insert date], from Cornell University, ILR School site:

Required Publisher Statement
Published by the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, Cornell University.