Academic Analytics RecentResearch Center

Who's being honored in academia?

Academic Analytics matches a huge number of honorific awards (10,000+) to individual scholars in the American academy. AARC researchers recently began digging through this data trove, and some summary statistics by discipline offer a glimpse into the deeper patterns we’re investigating. We started with academic department faculty lists for the 2019/2020 academic year. We then matched national or international awards (no state or local awards) bestowed upon those academics between 2017 and 2019, and created a table showing the number of awards won per faculty member in each discipline (the table can be sorted, and it’s paginated – only showing 10 rows at a time):

Aerospace Engineering0.193
Agricultural Economics0.151
Agricultural/Biological Engineering and Bioengineering0.321
Agriculture, various0.134
Agronomy and Crop Science0.149
American Studies0.166
Ancient Studies0.162
Animal Sciences0.196
Applied Economics0.113
Applied Mathematics0.13
Applied Physics0.276
Architecture, Design, Planning, various0.105
Area and Ethnic Studies, various0.163
Art History and Criticism0.138
Asian Languages0.102
Asian Studies0.121
Astronomy and Astrophysics0.168
Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology0.233
Bioinformatics and Computational Biology0.13
Biological Sciences, various0.056
Biology/Biological Sciences, General0.09
Biomedical Engineering0.264
Biomedical Sciences, General0.077
Biomedical Sciences, various0.084
Botany/Plant Biology0.161
Business Administration0.144
Business, various0.111
Cell Biology0.118
Chemical Engineering0.272
Chemical Sciences, various0.193
Civil Engineering0.19
Classics and Classical Languages0.101
Clinical Psychology0.233
Cognitive Science0.268
Communication and Communication Studies0.216
Communication Disorders and Sciences0.069
Comparative Literature0.133
Composition, Rhetoric and Writing0.184
Computational Sciences0.148
Computer and Information Sciences, various0.18
Computer Engineering0.183
Computer Science0.212
Consumer and Human Sciences, various0.311
Counseling Psychology0.143
Counselor Education0.116
Criminal Justice and Criminology0.132
Curriculum and Instruction0.096
Developmental Biology0.134
Economics, General0.101
Education, General0.153
Educational Evaluation and Research0.171
Educational Leadership and Administration0.115
Educational Psychology0.136
Electrical Engineering0.205
Engineering Mechanics0.173
Engineering, General0.18
Engineering, various0.153
English Language and Literature0.102
Environmental Engineering0.203
Environmental Health Sciences0.082
Environmental Sciences0.147
Evolutionary Biology0.245
Family and Human Sciences, various0.147
Fisheries Science0.1
Food Science0.184
Forest Resources/Forestry0.083
Foundations of Education0.156
French Language and Literature0.042
Gender Studies0.143
Geological and Mining Engineering0.176
Geology/Earth Science, General0.19
Germanic Languages and Literatures0.056
Health Professions, various0.096
Health Promotion, Kinesiology, Exercise Science and Rehab0.122
Health, Physical Education, Recreation0.083
Higher Education/Higher Education Administration0.159
Human and Medical Genetics0.132
Human Development and Family Studies, General0.181
Humanities/Humanistic Studies, General0.086
Industrial Engineering0.23
Information Science/Studies0.145
Information Technology/Information Systems0.088
International Affairs and Development0.151
Italian Language and Literature0.069
Languages, various0.051
Management Information Systems0.096
Marine Sciences0.143
Mass Communications/Media Studies0.121
Materials Engineering0.24
Materials Science and Engineering0.29
Mathematics Education0.148
Mechanical Engineering0.189
Medical Sciences, various0.093
Molecular Biology0.126
Molecular Genetics0.114
Molecular Pharmacology0.117
Music specialties0.045
Music, General0.047
Natural Resources0.141
Near and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures0.099
Nuclear Engineering0.217
Nutrition Sciences0.125
Oceanography, Physical Sciences0.155
Oncology and Cancer Biology0.057
Operations Research0.169
Oral Biology and Craniofacial Science0.087
Performing and Visual Arts, various0.053
Pharmaceutical Sciences0.072
Physics, General0.158
Physiology, General0.091
Plant Pathology0.123
Plant Sciences0.129
Political Science0.192
Psychology, General0.197
Psychology, various0.205
Public Administration0.182
Public Health0.081
Public Policy0.197
Religion/Religious Studies0.093
School Psychology0.137
Science Education0.164
Slavic Languages and Literatures0.095
Social Sciences, various0.104
Social Work/Social Welfare0.117
Soil Science0.116
Spanish Language and Literature0.044
Special Education0.083
Speech and Hearing Sciences0.096
Structural Biology0.1
Systems Engineering0.25
Teacher Education Specific Levels0.057
Teacher Education Specific Subject Areas0.093
Theatre Literature, History and Criticism0.028
Theology/Theological Studies0.032
Urban and Regional Planning0.118
Veterinary Medical Sciences0.135
Wildlife Science0.128

Sorted by the number of awards per faculty member (ascending), the fewest awards per person tend to be in humanities fields (theater, languages, etc.). At the other end of the list (sorted descending), the greatest number of awards per person tends to be in engineering disciplines, with some exceptions: Agricultural/Biological Engineering and Bioengineering, Consumer and Human Sciences, Materials Science and Engineering, Applied Physics, and Chemical Engineering.

It’s fascinating to see the distribution of honorific awards, but it calls into question how representative the data are – in other words, its possible that Academic Analytics happens to capture more awards in engineering than in humanities due to a previously unrecognized collection bias. It’s also possible that there are simply more awards available to engineers – maybe there are more scholarly societies who bestow awards in engineering fields? In any case, it’s clear that honorific awards, for which there exists no equivalent of a standard metadata description or widely-accepted unique ID number (such as DOI) should be interpreted in the context of both availability and potential collection biases.

We advocate the use of honorific awards as a post hoc indicator of research excellence (and sometimes precursors to research excellence, in the case of honors bestowed upon early career researchers), but we also caution that they are not as uniformly distributed nor standardized as bibliometric data or data about research grants. Our research is leading us towards creative solutions to these issues, and we welcome your thoughts.


Anthony J. Olejniczak, Ph.D.

Director, Academic Analytics Research Center (AARC)

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