Hard-science Metrics Come to the Humanities

By Karen Rubinson

During November I was asked to review proposals of archaeology-related projects for the NSF/NEH equivalent in a country of which the archaeological past is part of my scholarly work. In order to be qualified to participate in grant review, one of the requirements was to have an H-index higher than 1 in Scopus or the Web of Knowledge. Since I had no idea what that meant, but I hoped to be able to respond positively to the person who had contacted me, I did some research. A simple web search landed me at Wikipedia, where I learned the history of the H-index and determined that it was well-known and widely used in the world of hard sciences. That did seem to make it difficult for the institution that contacted me to find too many candidates to review archaeological proposals.   However, further research turned up via Benchfly.com where I saw that it was possible to get an H-index score through Google Scholar. I wrote to my contact from the institution to ask if an H-index above 1 from Google Scholar would be an adequate qualification, and I was told that it was. Subsequently, I found that Google Scholar will automatically calculate your H-index. Just go to http://scholar.google.com/, click on “my citations” and follow directions to create an account. I’m sure that as more countries follow the path of involving international reviewers (I have participated in such processes for two countries formerly part of the Soviet Union), the concept of the H-index will become more familiar to those of us who study the ancient world.