A way that universities grow in research fields for which they have no department is by creating institutes. Millions of dollars are invested to promote collaboration between existing faculty interested in the new field. But do they work? Does the university get their investment back? Through the years I have noticed that many institutes are nothing more than a webpage and others are so successful they practically become self-sustained entities. This paper (published in STM) led by John Hogenesch, uses data from papers and grants to evaluate an institute at Penn. Among other things, they present a method that uses network analysis to objectively evaluate the effect of the institute on collaboration. The findings are fascinating.
The use of data to evaluate academics is becoming more and more popular, especially among administrators. Is this a good thing? I am not sure yet, but statisticians better get involved before a biased analyses gets some of us fired.