The Center for a Public Anthropology's Faculty Media Impact Project ranked the University of Nevada, Reno's economics department first in faculty media engagement. The project ranked 94 research universities based on the number of times social science faculty members were cited in news media from 2006 to 2011.
The Center for a Public Anthropology examined the community engagement of more than 12,000 professors in more than 50,000 search queries via Google news. The project then ranked the universities by social science departments and by the most engaged professors at each university. The citations for the professors were averaged on a per-faculty member basis, and averaged by the amount of federal funds the department received. The project ranked faculty in the economics, political science, sociology, psychology and anthropology departments. This year, the University of Nevada, Reno's Political Science Department in the College of Liberal Arts was ranked 11th and the college's Department of Sociology is ranked 19th.
"The rankings mean that the University is well regarded nationwide," Elliott Parker, economics professor and director of core curriculum at the University, said. "There is expertise here that is respected and there is faculty here who try to be engaged in the community."
According to the data from the project, released in October, the University is ranked 18th overall behind Harvard University in faculty media engagement. The professors with the most media citations from 2006-2011 are the late Bill Eadington, economics department, Eric Herzik, political science professor and chair of the political science and mathematics department, and Elliott Parker in the economics department.
"For a place like the University of Nevada, Reno, a land-grant institution, there is some obligation to be part of the community and intellectual discussion," Herzik said.
Herzik also said that he is not surprised that the media index outreach was first developed in the social sciences because the media looks to professors within those fields to comment on topical items.
"In other departments, you are often going to talk about your research," Herzik said. "In economics and political science, you are using your research to comment on something that isn't directly about your research."
Herzik is often called on by members of the media to comment on Nevada politics and Nevada Senator and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"What Reid does is an ongoing story," Herzik said. "It is not about the faculty member, but it is about our commentary."
William Eubank, political science associate professor, said, "Eric is the 'voice of the University,' especially during the political season. He's interviewed from all over the country and Europe."
Many universities look at academic citations, the amount of times a professor is referred to in academic journals; however, there has been little reward for community engagement. The goal of the project is to reward and publically highlight the community engagement of the faculty at research institutions.
"There are a lot of opinions in the media and many are misinformed," Parker said. "If you can have someone who tries to speak about things objectively but also in terms that people can understand, I think that there is a need for that. But it is a lot of work and we don't get rewarded for that."
Prior to becoming the Core Curriculum Director, Parker wrote more than 50 newspaper columns. He is still widely called on by the media to give his informed commentary as an economics professor on current issues. Parker was interviewed this month on a local NBC public affairs program, Nevada Newsmakers, about China's economics of war.
"As an educator, I see it as my job not just to educate my students, but to educate any one I can," Parker said. "Whether they are TV viewers, newspaper readers, or when I go out and give presentations to community groups, I am trying to educate people."
Engaging with media allows faculty to share their expertise with the community.
"It takes time and effort to do this," Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Heather Hardy said. "The recognition of many of the University's great professors and their engagement with media and the community is most deserved."
Bill Eadington was ranked first at the University of Nevada, Reno in media engagement. Prior to his death in February, he was looked to as one of the leading experts as an economics professor and director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University's College of Business.
"He was the go-to-guy for gaming issues across the country," Herzik said. "As gaming expanded and his stature and expertise developed, the media looked to him as the expert. That is what he dedicated his professional career to and it is a compliment to him."
For more information about the Faculty Media Impact Project and the rankings, go to facultyimpact.publicanthropology.org.