CORVALLIS, Ore. - A new survey of 53 university forestry programs in the United States and Canada has found that the College of Forestry at Oregon State University ranks first in the total number of professional publications, first in the number of "citations" to those publications, and is perceived by academic colleagues as the leading forestry program in North America.
The study, published in the Journal of Forestry, examined a range of research, publication and citation criteria at 47 universities in the U.S. and six in Canada. It is one of the first peer-reviewed rankings of forestry programs in at least a decade, the Auburn University authors said.
OSU has one of the largest forestry education, research and Extension programs in the nation, and this year is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Its first degree programs were offered in 1906, and the college now how has more than 600 students, 15,000 acres of college forests, about 5,500 graduates and an annual budget of more than $20 million.
"This is a strong endorsement of the quality of College of Forestry faculty, when colleagues across the country rank our programs number one," said Hal Salwasser, dean of the college.
In a broader-based index, which also considered such things as publications and citations per research faculty, and gave a boost to high quality programs at much smaller colleges, the report ranked OSU eighth. In that index, the leading forestry college was at the University of British Columbia.
However, Salwasser noted that this study used methodology that actually understates the quality and quantity of OSU faculty publications, because it only sampled five of the larger forestry journals - whereas a large, comprehensive program with major Extension components such as that of OSU goes well beyond traditional forestry journals.
"The diverse interests and backgrounds of the faculty at OSU result in their publishing in a very broad suite of top ranked journals in ecology, water resources, conservation biology, social science, genetics, engineering, wood science, economics, biometrics, recreation management, and others," Salwasser said. "If all of those journals had been included in the sampling, our faculty productivity would have been as much as five times more than reported."
According to the study, the top 10 forestry research programs in North America included OSU, Virginia Tech, the University of Georgia, University of Washington, University of Minnesota, Pennsylvania State University, Auburn University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of British Columbia and University of Alberta.
In its college, OSU has departments of forest science; forest engineering; forest resources; and wood science and engineering. It operates major research forests and has a strong Extension component, bringing the latest findings to industry and small woodland owners across Oregon.
Over generations, the forestry research programs of the college have evolved from an early focus on silviculture to consider wide-ranging questions of forest ecology, stream protection, innovative reforestation concepts and even climate change. Collaborative research with industry and other academic programs are common, graduate education programs continue to expand, and even many undergraduate students at the college become involved in research.
Such initiatives as the Hinkle Creek Watersheds Research Cooperative are now studying the impact of forest management activities on streams and fisheries, and some long-term ecological studies at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest will literally last for centuries. Work is under way in everything from forest biology and entomology to remote sensing, timber harvesting, road design, forest economics and the changing social demands on forests.
New wood science findings have recently helped discover ways to make plywood without toxic formaldehyde, and new advanced wood-based materials. Genetic advances may create trees that grow faster, or better resist damage by drought, insects or disease. And fascinating research is exploring the relationship between large predatory animals such as wolves or cougars and the health of whole stream ecosystems.
Ranking programs such as this, the report's authors said, may be of interest to prospective graduate students, potential employers, and users of research services.
Publications in key forestry journals were used as a guide to scientific significance and faculty productivity, while the citations of those publications point to institutions having the greatest impact in their field, they said. The study focused on research, rather than teaching or Extension, and further work in evaluating those areas may also be useful, they said.
Click photos to see a full-size version. Right click and save image to download.