Given the growing use of impact metrics in the evaluation of scholars, journals, academic institutions, and even countries, there is a critical need for means to compare scientific impact across disciplinary boundaries. Unfortunately, citation-based metrics are strongly biased by diverse field sizes and publication and citation practices. As a result, we have witnessed an explosion in the number of newly proposed metrics that claim to be "universal." However, there is currently no way to objectively assess whether a normalized metric can actually compensate for disciplinary bias. We introduce a new method to assess the universality of any scholarly impact metric, and apply it to evaluate a number of established metrics. We also define a very simple new metric hs, which proves to be universal, thus allowing to compare the impact of scholars across scientific disciplines. These results move us closer to a formal methodology in the measure of scholarly impact.