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I'm interested in how I could assess prominence of specific scholars outside the STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) fields. As a scholar in the humanities or social sciences, how do you gauge the prominence of another scholar you previously never heard of?

Note: This question is a genuine curiosity of mine, and comes with no intention of denouncing or belittling another research field.


In math, engineering, computer science and physics (I'm an applied math PhD student), a lot of papers are are available for free (as a preprint) on Arxiv and a lot of researchers are thoroughly catalogued on Google Scholar. So if I encounter a new academic "Ms. A", I can look up her work on Google Scholar to quickly skim her h-index, total citations, and read her most popular research works. This gives me some (but not all!) understanding of how reputed she is in her field. Skimming her works on Arxiv allows me to understand some subtleties of her work that aren't normally articulated on the news media. [Edit: I initially wrote here that apparently Google Scholar isn't extensively used in non-STEM fields. But I did some searches and it seems to be popular there as well.] I'm curious of what an analogous "usual" process would be in non-STEM fields.

My motivation to find out about this comes from the self-proclaimed experts appearing on media. Reputed public intellectuals aren't necessarily great academics, so I'm interested in finding out how I would go about and assess prominence of scholars in a non-STEM field.

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Pretty much the same way. You'll have two challenges though: The first challenge is that H-indexes are not comparable across disciplines. So as long as you only look within one discipline, you are fine comparing them. However, what is a great H-index in your discipline may be a horrible one in another, or vice versa. The other challenge is getting access to the publications. You may need to get that through your library, especially if the predominant way of publishing in that discipline is books instead of articles.

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  • Thank you. Would you say that copies or preprints of recent research works in sociology are usually not available for free online?
    – Finn Lim
    Jun 5 at 17:53
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    It is pretty rare for free preprint to be available for books. Also for articles there is less of a culture of preprints in sociology. Jun 5 at 18:51

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