Dr. Yijia Lin contemplated how to raise the awareness of research excellence in actuarial science for several years. By bringing together a team of faculty, staff, students and business partners, she led the creation of the first web application to compile and rank actuarial science research data now hosted on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business website.
“For years there have been research rankings available online in the major areas of business such as marketing, management, accounting and finance,” said Lin, N. Z. Snell Life Insurance Professor. “In actuarial science and risk management insurance, we never had those rankings available.”
After discussing the situation with Dr. Shawn Strother, assistant professor of finance, the idea to build an online ranking application made its way to Sue Vagts, director of the Actuarial Science Program, and Dr. Kathy Farrell, James Jr. and Susan Stuart Endowed Dean of the College of Business. Once the idea took root, Farrell worked with Ameritas, who helped make the vision a reality by contributing funds for development.
“With the assistance of that contribution, Sue and I identified four actuarial science students who could help with development on an on-going basis. Since there are always new journal rankings coming out, we need students continually compiling the new data to update our application and help answer any user questions,” she said.
Another major stumbling block to launching the project centered on making sure data always appeared with consistent parameters in how researchers and schools were named. Without precision accuracy the credibility of the project would be undermined.
“Making the data consistent was our biggest challenge. There are different ways people spell or present their names in different journals. We have to make sure we’re always identifying the same person accurately with each article they’ve written, which maintains our reputation and the reputation of the application,” said Lin.
Lin and Vagts worked together to identify actuarial science students to bring on board the project. Tzong Her Lee, ’19, now working at Root Insurance in Columbus, Ohio, took a leadership role on the student team.
“I told Dr. Lin I wanted to learn more about data cleaning,” said Lee, who came to Nebraska Business from Malaysia. “Some authors have two first names, a middle name and two last names, so it’s hard to figure out if you are identifying the correct person since the data goes back to 1990. We had to email authors to ensure accuracy. Even universities have different ways they’re named, so I worked with James Fairchild (web developer/designer) to make sure we didn’t have the same institution appearing twice.”
Lin credited Fairchild with creating an application that functions intuitively so it can be used by academics throughout the world. In May, within the first month of releasing the application, schools from as diverse locations as China, Australia and Canada cited the rankings in promoting their research.
“James worked tirelessly to provide many functions so users can find collaborations between universities and authors, locate articles published with similar topics or different research awards. We showed our advisory board all the different ways you can access information and it goes beyond rankings. They were quite impressed,” she said.
Vagts praised Lin for helping create a one-of-a-kind tool that will make an impact for years to come. She stressed the long-range vision it took to build its solid foundation.
“Actuarial Science research is tricky because you’ve not only got programs in the U.S. and outside the U.S., but you’ve also got programs in business schools, arts and sciences and other non-business schools,” said Vagts. “There’s also actuarial science research and there’s risk management research. So you can search on any of those parameters depending on what you’re looking for. This is a major resource that Dr. Lin led its creation.”
The tool also demonstrates the high level of actuarial science and risk management insurance research being done at Nebraska Business, as the program consistently ranks in the top 10-20 schools in the world in a variety of categories. Now that prominence can be resourced in a single location.
“Providing service is a big part of my job. I’m so thankful we had such a great team to provide the support and feedback to accomplish this project. It made my job very easy,” Lin said.
Other students working on the project the past two years included actuarial science majors Shien Hui Chin, a senior from Malaysia; Chee Chun Ding, a senior from Malaysia; Daniel Fernandez, ’18, from Henderson, Kentucky; Poh Ling Lim, a senior from Malaysia; Hoe Fong (Adrian) Ng, ’18, from Malaysia; and Zheng Nian Yop, a senior from Malaysia.
To view the UNL Global Research Rankings of Actuarial Science and Risk Management and Insurance, visit: https://business.unl.edu/actuarialrankings/