University of New South Wales - In The Space Science Big Leagues

UNSW space scientists have outshone NASA by scoring a higher academic paper citation rate, according to the latest international ranking of universities and space science institutions.

The Thomson group recently reported on the output of refereed journal articles and citations in Space Sciences from 2001 to 2005.

UNSW did extremely well with a very high citation rate (15.69) that was better than NASA (15.42) and within 20 percent of Caltech and Harvard – the world’s three top-ranked space science institutions.

UNSW’s citation rate was the second highest amongst Australian universities, just behind ANU’s (16.09). This result is all the more impressive because UNSW space scientists, unlike those from some institutions, have both teaching and research duties.

Two examples of UNSW space research that have attracted international headlines include:

- The discovery that a location high on the Antarctic plateau is the best place on Earth to capture images of the stars. The finding, which was published in the journal Nature, reported that these images are almost as good as those taken from the Hubble Space Telescope and come at a fraction of the cost. This means that a telescope on the Antarctic plateau can compete with expensive telescopes two to three times larger that are located at mid-latitude observatories.

- The revelation that one of the fundamental laws of physics known as the “fine structure constant” may have altered in a way suggesting the mathematical possibility that light has slowed down in the past 12 billion years.UNSW’s Department of Astrophysics attracts more than $1m of external funding each year through Australian Research Council (ARC) grants.

In the latest round of funding, the top two largest ARC Discovery Grants awarded to UNSW were in the School of Physics. A team led by Dr Adam Micolich won the University’s largest Discovery Project Grant ($1.3 million) for research that could lead to a new world of super-fast, low-powered transistors and powerful quantum computers.

UNSW's second largest Discovery Grant of $1.2m was awarded to Dr Chris Tinney who is searching for planets orbiting other stars, including potentially habitable Earth-like planets orbiting nearby cool stars.

Written from a news release by UNSW.