Retrospective on the Sociological and Historical Uses of Citation Data at ISI
Eugene Garfield, Ph.D., President
Institute for Scientific Information
Meeting on Use of Citation Data in the Study of Science
Baltimore, Maryland, April 1, 1975
If I had the foresight in 1955 to think twenty years ahead, I doubt that I would have predicted there would be such a conference on "Use of Citation Data in the Study of Science" by 1975. I suspect that most scientists underestimate how rapidly some of their ideas will blossom because we do not fully realize the power of exponential growth once an idea is cast upon the turbulent waters (1) of science
Back in those days my primary concerns were retrieval of information, I had no real appreciation of the potential impact large-scale citation data bases could have on the future course of science or for that matter the history of science, It would be ego-gratifying to be able to claim that I had all that vision in those days, especially since I did have a decided interest in the history of science. It is somewhat significant that this conference is held in the same city where I attended the Oswei Temkin lectures on the history of medicine at the Welch Medical Library back in 1953. That same year W. C. Adair told me about the existence of Shepardís Citations. Since Weinstock (2) and Lazerow (3) have covered most of the ground necessary for an appreciation of the history of citation indexes for bibliographic control, I wonít repeat that here. In any case, there really isnít much to report on the use of citation data for the history and sociology of science during the period 1955 through 1960. There is one exception. In 1955 I reported on my interest in compiling a Citation Index to the Bible (4). Like so many other projects it never saw the light of day and for practical reasons I even gave up the luxury of including references to the Bible when we refined the procedures for producing the Science Citation Index . Maybe now that we are doing social science material this decision will be reversed.
During those early years I also compiled a very large sample Patent Citation Index. (5) (6) I also spent endless hours in the Patent Office following down various technological trails with my meager data and gained an appreciation for what we would later call citation maps. Sociologists or historians of technology may not know that an important facet of patent work involves the ability to start a search with a patent for preceding technological development which is superseded by the patent you are seeking to obtain. To do this in a systematic chronological fashion, backward or forward, in the Patent Office Library can be a very time consuming and tedious process. It is even worse at a library like New York Public Library. It is somewhat disappointing that after so many years we still donít know enough about the use of citation indexing for searching the patent literature. Saul Herner and I tried to get the U. S. Patent Office to support a small research project back in 1954 or 1955 but this was all in vain. Government agencies donít change rapidly. The turning point for citation indexing was, of course, the Genetics Citation Index project which is described in various documents (7). Compiling the data for it, I was able to get a real feeling for historically-oriented indexes. For example, we compiled a fifteen-year index for the American Journal of Human Genetics.
The first paper by me directly related to the use of citation data in historical research was published in American Documentation (8). There had been many other bibliometric studies. As early as 1927 Gross and Gross published their classic paper on Determining the Most Important Journals of Chemistry (9). However, none of the people who did these studies seemed to realize that citation data could be used for historical studies or large-scale sociometric analyses. However, key authors were identified in selected fields by citation analysis.
The Gross and Gross method was applied in numerous individual fields of science. Brodman's study(10) of physiology journals in 1944 pointed to the shortcomings of straight citation counts. Had she used impact numbers, as I did, she would have verified the subjective judgments of physiologists who rated review journals very highly.
The more relevant reason none of these people thought of using citation data for historical studies is simply because they did not conceive of citation indexing per se. And I doubt that most had ever been exposed to the notion of topological maps or PERT networks.
I have many times acknowledged an important serendipitous event in the history of this field. While a member of our Genetics Citation Index advisory committee, Gordon Allen prepared a citation map showing the history of the staining of nucleic acids (11). I have used the example in many published papers (12). I put this together with similar maps such as Bernal had done for the history of crystallography. Thatís how the historiograph came to be but it was formalized when we published, under an Air Force contract, "The Use of Citation Data for Writing the History of Science." (12)
Perhaps the most important paper that we published on sociometric analysis with citation data was the paper by Sher and myself on patterns for Nobel Prize winners (13). This was a paper given at an ONR Conference and needs to be followed up in some detail.
About this time we also had extensive correspondence with Margolis. Later I met him in Australia but this work was purely an avocation for him. Perhaps the year 1966 is an important turning point because that was the year of the Bayer and Folger (14) report which appeared in the journal Sociology of Education. The National Research Council had sponsored this work. This was to be followed later on by the Margolis paper in 1967(15) which he had begun a long time before.
The Coles published some work in 1967 and 1968 (16) (l7) In December 1968, I gave a paper (18) at AAAS on Nobel prize winners which led to my 1970 paper in Nature (19). This paper was recently quoted in an article in the National Science Foundationís Mosaic on The Footnotes of Science. " (20)
In 1971 Hagstrom published one of the most important papers. Using our 1966 SCI data he produced the first direct confirmation of the evaluative ability of citation indexing in sociometric studies (21). SCI data correlated quite well with expert opinion obtained expensively through questionnaires.
The year that Tony Cawkell joined ISI, 1966, is very important because he took an active role in constructing a number of important historiographs, several of which have been published, as for example, one on flowmeters (22). More recently, Mr. Cawkell has done a fascinating study of bridge technology (23) This account has not yet been published.
Publication in 1964 of my article in Science (24) coupled with the large-scale book review project by Steinbach (25), was a turning point in the history of the SCI itself. This was followed by a number of other significant papers not the least of which is Derek Price's network paper. (26)
In all of this the role of Joshua Lederberg should never be forgotten. I was recently reminded of this when we reprinted his preface to the Genetics Citation Index.(27) I believe it was in 1958, the same year he got the Nobel Prize, that he contacted me. He asked what happened after my 1955 paper and I told him the whole sad story of NSF's and CAís disinterest in citation indexing. It wasnít long afterwards that Katherine Wilson, the Executive Secretary of the NIH Genetics Study Section, contacted me. Iím sure that Lederberg and many others on the advisory committee to GCI did appreciate the historical significance of citation indexing. Recently, Lederberg reminded us how badly it is needed for earlier years in order to settle certain controversies about the role of Averyís work in the history of molecular biology (28).
You will be glad to know that I am really into this project and have already started feasibility studies and market research on a Citation Index, first for 1960, to complete the five-year cum for 1960-1964, and then for each decade preceding that until the beginning of the century or further back as it might be necessary in chemistry or other fields.
Were it not for advances in computer and communications technology, I donít think we would have had such ambitious plans. But as I recently reported at a Bombay Conference on Classification Research (29), it is a pity that I let the problems of keying punched cards interfere with the problem of extracting data or I would have done some of the work in India long ago. Probably by the time we have refined our procedures for manual encoding we will be in a position to obtain current data by purely machine methods. In the meantime, back-issue SCI's are ideally produced where labor costs are low. So we are making no secret of our plans to do this in India, Sri Lanka, or elsewhere.
Unfortunately, there is a limit to what you can do even if the data is supplied free of charge. Beyond extraction and coding the cost of computer time, storage, and/or printing costs become significant. However, this may mean microforms will be the ideal medium until computer storage costs are more competitive.
Most of you here know that citation indexing can be used wisely to produce valuable insights. But it can also be used unwisely -- particularly in certain fields where bibliographic practices leave much to be desired. We must, therefore, continue to educate editors that the citations in an article require meticulous treatment by referees. Hopefully, editors will in the future take full advantage of on-line facilities to check out what authors do and donít cite. I believe that most scientists will continue to act responsibly but who can predict what future generations may feel about these matters. Will Nobel prizes be coveted 100 years from now as they are today? I leave it to others to predict the future reward system of science.
1. back to text Goffman, W. & Newill, V. A. "Generalization of Epidemic Theory; An Application to the Transmission of Ideas," Nature 204, 225-228 (1964).
2. back to text Weinstock, M. "Citation Indexes," Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science (New York: Marcel Dekker, 1971) Vol. 5, pp. 16-40.
3. back to text Lazerow, S. "Institute for Scientific Information," Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science (New York: Marcel Dekker, 1974) Vol. 12, pp. 89-97. Reprinted in Current Contents No. 1, R1-R8 (6 January 1975).
4. back to text Garfield, E. "Citation Indexes -- New Dimension in Documentation (Citation Index to the Old Testament). Paper presented at American Documentation Institute Annual Meeting, November 2-4, 1955, Philadelphia.
5. back to text Garfield, E. "Breaking the Subject Index Barrier -- A Citation Index for Chemical Patents," Journal of the Patent Office Society 39, 583-595 (1957).
6. back to text Garfield, E. "Patent Citation Indexing and the Notions of Novelty, Similarity, and Relevance," Journal of Chemical Documentation 6, 63-65 (1966).
8. back to text Garfield, E. "Citation Indexes in Sociological and Historical Research," American Documentation 14, 289-91 (1963). Gross, P.L.K. & Gross, E.M. "College Libraries and Chemical Education." Science 66, 385-389 (1927).
9. back to text Gross, P.L.K. & Gross, E.M. "College Libraries and Chemical Education," Science 66, 385-389 (1927).
10. back to text Brodman, E., "Choosing Physiology Journals," Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 32, 479-483 (1944).
11. back to text Allen, C., Private Communication, June 2, 1960.
12. back to text Garfield, E., Sher, I. H., and Torpie, R. J. "The Use of Citation Data In Writing the History of Science". (Philadelphia: Institute for Scientific Information, 1964) 86 pp.
13. back to text Sher, I. & Garfield, E. "New Tools for Improving and Evaluating the
Effectiveness of Research." In: Research Program Effectiveness;
Proceedings of the Conference Sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, Washington, D.C., July 27-29, 1965, ed. by D. M. Gilford, R. H. Wilcox, E. Staveley, and H. D. Lerner. (New York: Gordon and Breach, 1966)
14. back to text Bayer, A. E. & Folger, J. "Some Correlates of a Citation Productivity in Sciences," Sociology of Education 39, 382-390 (1966).
15. back to text Margolis, J. "Citation Indexing and Evaluation of Scientific Papers," Science 155, 1213-1219 (1967).
16. back to text Cole, S. and Cole, J.R. "Scientific Output and Recognition; A Study in the Operation of the Reward System in Science," American Sociological Review 32, 377-390 (1967).
17. back to text Cole, S. and Cole, J.R. "Visibility and the Structural Bases of Awareness of Scientific Research," American Sociological Review 33, 397 (1968).
18. back to text Garfield, E. & Malin, M.V. "Can Nobel Prize Winners Be Predicted?" Paper presented at 135th Annual Meeting, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dallas, Texas; December 26-31, 1968.
20. back to text Aaronson, S. "The Footnotes of Science," Mosaic 6, 22-27 (March/April 1975).
21. back to text Hagstrom, W.O. "Inputs, Outputs, and the Prestige of American University Science Departments," Sociology of Education 44, 375-397 (1971).
22. back to text Cawkell, A. "Search Strategies Using the Science Citation Index,"
In: Computer Based Information Retrieval Systems, ed. by B. Houghton. (Clive Bingley, Ltd., 1968) pp. 27-44.
23. back to text Cawkell, A. "The ScienceóEngineering Connection," IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (In Press).
24. back to text Garfield, E. "Science Citation Index A New Dimension in Indexing," Science 144, 649-654 (1964).
25. back to text Steinbach, H.B. "The Quest for Certainty: Science Citation Index," Science 145, 142-143 (1964).
26. back to text Price, D.J.D. "Networks of Scientific Papers." Science 149, 510-515 (1965).
27. back to text Garfield, E. & Sher, I. Genetics Citation Index. (Philadelphia:
Institute for Scientific Information, 1963) 864 pp.
28. back to text Lederberg, J. "Reply to H. V. Wyatt," Letter to the Editor of Nature 239, 234 (1972).
29. back to text Garfield, E., Malin, M., and Small, H. "A System for Automatic Classification of Scientific Literature," Paper Presented at the Third International Study Conference on Classification Research, Bombay, India, January 6-11, 1975.