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Problems starting The Scientist

RELATED STORIES

Financial problems for the Scientific Citation Index
Eugene Garfield Scientist
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We took the chance that we could finance the project ourselves and it was a, a decision that almost bankrupted us because the response to subscriptions selling was a lot slower than we ever anticipated. And people today who take the SCI for granted, forget how conservative a lot of people were. Not just librarians, but even scientists, who many of whom, to this day, have never used the SCI. I mean, it is not a necessarily an obvious thing for people to do, even now and if you don't teach them to do citation searching, they don't learn it by default or somehow. Even if they use Google, I imagine you would think that people would understand, I don't even think some of them understand how it's done. So, anyhow, we got to the point where we thought we were going to be under-financed and that was when somebody on our board suggested that we bring in some outside investors. Now, the company had actually tried to go public a couple of times, at least one time before that. Each time it happened it was the, the, like Wall Street; it's like trying to go for an IPO last week when the market hit the bottom. And we did that on two different occasions and it just was incredibly bad timing so, we never worried about going the public route. We got this group of investors and I don't remember who lined them up but they were... what happened was that somebody at the, one of the investment banking firms in New York had a bunch of cronies who thought this was going to be a good investment. Each bought about $50,000 worth of what they called convertible debentures and invested half a million dollars for about, I think they got about 20% of the company for that. And it wasn't 6 months or a year that we paid off the debt. You know, a debenture is just basically a loan, which is secured, and the investors get the stock free. So, you pay them off the money they loaned you and then they get the stock left over as their, as a bonus. So, that's how we got all these outside investors involved, okay. Well, one of the events that occurred, after we got the investment, was the year, a year or so later was it, four of my vice presidents decided that I was not interested in making money for the company. That I was only interested in academic ideas and that I didn't behave in such a way so as to guarantee that the company would become profitable. Especially with regard to chemical, the chemical indexing product. So, one of the first things they tried to do was try to change the Index Chemicus into a glorified version of Current Contents and that bombed. And then eventually, the, they decided that the only way that the company could succeed was if they took over the management of the company and eventually kick me out. So, I got [unclear] from, the four people involved, I don't think I need to name them now, but they were all officers of the company and I told them to take a flying leap and they all left with the exception of one who stayed on ostensibly, but only to hide the fact that he was planning to join them after his stock options or his ownership in the stock, was final. He had a piece of the company but he wouldn't get it for another year or so, so he waited and then he announced that he was leaving. Well, they did leave and they formed this company called Information Company of America and they started some service, I forget what it was, and I think we filed a lawsuit against them for whatever, I don't know what the grounds was, for unfair competition or whatever. Current Contents knock off I think? They started something similar, but different and they eventually went under. It didn't take long, and I convinced Irv Sher to come back, and he had regretted that he had done that and went on, stayed on and did a lot of great things for the company afterward.

Eugene Garfield (1925-2017) was an American scientist and publisher. In 1960 Garfield set up the Institute for Scientific Information which produced, among many other things, the Science Citation Index and fulfilled his dream of a multidisciplinary citation index. The impact of this is incalculable: without Garfield’s pioneering work, the field of scientometrics would have a very different landscape, and the study of scholarly communication would be considerably poorer.

Listeners: Henry Small

Henry Small is currently serving part-time as a research scientist at Thomson Reuters. He was formerly the director of research services and chief scientist. He received a joint PhD in chemistry and the history of science from the University of Wisconsin. He began his career as a historian of science at the American Institute of Physics' Center for History and Philosophy of Physics where he served as interim director until joining ISI (now Thomson Reuters) in 1972. He has published over 100 papers and book chapters on topics in citation analysis and the mapping of science. Dr Small is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an Honorary Fellow of the National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services, and past president of the International Society for Scientometrics and Infometrics. His current research interests include the use of co-citation contexts to understand the nature of inter-disciplinary versus intra-disciplinary science as revealed by science mapping.

Duration: 6 minutes, 3 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 23 June 2009