Dartmouth places in top 20 in research and innovation index

by Alec Rossi | 9/22/17 2:00am

An index measuring research and global innovation recently ranked Dartmouth 20th out of 200 institutions worldwide in number of patent filings, ahead of all other Ivy League institutions.

The Nature Index 2017 Innovation supplement, published for the first time ever on Aug. 9, measures the frequency in which an institution’s scientific research articles were cited in patent filing, David Swinbanks, managing director of Springer Nature in Australia and the founder of the Nature Index, wrote in an email statement.

“[The index] gives a measure of how an institution’s research, as reported in the research literature, is contributing to and influencing innovation in the form of patents,” Swinbanks wrote.

Swinbanks wrote that the “Lens metric,” a normalized measure of patent filings, determines the ranking. The metric adjusts for institutional size and different rates of publication across different research fields.

Vice provost for research and biochemistry professor at the Geisel School of Medicine Dean Madden said that other rankings are sometimes driven by the scale of the research enterprise, making it difficult for Dartmouth to compete with larger institutions.

“I think [the ranking] is a real indicator that Dartmouth faculty and the students who work with them are doing research [and] they have a really good nose for important problems,” Madden said.

Madden added that the index is a good resource for analyzing research on campus.

“I think [this ranking is] a nice counterpart to this idea of tracking [intellectual property] activity on campus,” Madden said. “[The ranking] highlights the long-term value of fundamental research.”

In addition to ranking institutions, the publication also profiled the work of Michael Sporn, a pharmacology and toxicology professor emeritus at Geisel. Sporn’s work in nucleic acid research and retinoids has been referenced in at least one patent and “thousands of times in patent literature,” according to the article. Upon his arrival at Dartmouth, he established a drug development program with chemistry professor Gordon Gribble. According to Sporn, the program produced several hundred compounds.

“The goal of the program was not to develop patents. The object of our program was to develop useful new drugs that might be [beneficial] ultimately to patients,” Sporn said.

While he said he was happy to be profiled by the index, he said “that’s not the goal of [his] work.”

In July, the College was also named to the National Academy of Inventors’ top 100 list of universities that were granted patents in 2016. Calculated by determining the number of utility patents of which the university is the first assignee, Dartmouth’s appointment to this list was the fifth since the ranking’s establishment in 2012.

Madden said the College’s rank is a testament to the importance of an liberal arts education.

“In some levels, [this ranking] is confidence in the liberal arts ideal that we just go and figure things out,” Madden said. “We choose important problems, and if it is an important problem, it can’t help but be useful down the road.”

Madden added that the College’s focus on experiential learning will promote various research projects in the future.

“We’re very excited about nourishing the same environment that produced this success 30 years ago or 20 years ago,” Madden said.

Correction Appended (Sept. 25, 2017): The original version of this article incorrectly referred to David Swinbanks as the managing director of Nature America, when he is in fact the managing director of Springer Nature in Australia. The article has been updated to reflect this change.