Dr. Eugene Garfield

The seminal article of Dr. Eugene Garfield about Citation Indexes for Science: A New Dimension in Documentation through Association of Ideas was originally published by Science in 1955. Yes, in 1955. (Shepard's Citations inspired Eugene Garfield as he pointed out in his 1955 article, but they belong to a different category of citations, those of legal case citations.)

In this article he gave the blueprint of how  indexing the cited references in scholarly publications could improve, enhance and still simplify the search process for relevant documents based on descriptor indexing. He then went on to publish nearly 2000 articles, essays, books, conference papers and letters (including the reprints), hundreds of them spreading the gospel of the advantages of citation indexing and citation searching. Most of these are available in his open access archive

He has been practicing what he has been preaching,  founded the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) and developed the family of citation indexes for the sciences, social sciences and arts & humanities, which evolved into databases, then into the Web of Science (WoS). WoS  offers  the most powerful, precise and intuitive  combination  of keyword and citation searching (with a variety of options, such as cited work, cited author, cited year) . or decades, these  have been the only scholarly databases which included cited references in science journals  – on the average about 23 million of them in more than 1 million articles per year from about 8,500 journals. 

Others have been citing Eugene Garfield profusely in the literature, making him the most cited information scientist, but until 1995 (when the Current Index to Nursing and Allied Health database was modestly enhanced with citations) no database producer followed suit.

This all changed with the phenomenal success of the World Wide Web, which is a network of links (the digital equivalents of cited references), traced and gathered by the search engines’ spiders to build a web, and then facilitating for users the finding of a relevant item and following its cited and citing links.

The idea of Google’s Page Rank to determine the importance of a page based among others on its incoming links from selected web sites, extends  Garfield’s concept of judging the relevance  of an article based on  its  absolute citedness (and the impact of a journal based on its relative citedness) by prestigious journals selected for processing in the citation indexes.

The full text digital archives of aggregators and publishers, even some of the abstracting/indexing services (like PsycINFO) now include the cited references. Most of them make the cited references  actionable through increasingly standardized identifiers  used in the links. Some of them also make the cited references very well searchable (like Elsevier’s ScienceDirect, and Ovid in some of its databases), while CSA-IDS adds an innovative, powerful layer to citation indexing.

When jumping from cited references to the page image of a document, then to its citing references by the click of a button (as in the beautifully implemented HighWire Press archive), users may not realize it but they are playing out what Eugene Garfield dreamed up almost 50 years ago.

If you click on the Forthcoming Publications page of Eugene Garfield’s site you  may  believe that he is not working on any paper, but you would be naïve. His current research project of compiling historiographs from citation indexes already have resulted in some papers in 2003, and new ones will sure to come in 2004. 

The new project and the related publications will motivate others to follow suit – hopefully without waiting for almost 50 years again.

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