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The ups and downs of the business and the office atmosphere

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Problems starting The Scientist
Eugene Garfield Scientist
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I had the idea that, you know, the function, people forget that the two functions are pretty much, we stress so-called current awareness functions that journals and abstracting and other things play which today you can get so easily by, you know, just getting so many different things free on the web, you know, you find out, you could put together a contents based service yourself, you could put together getting free downloads of the contents of individual journals or whatever. But in those days it was, you had to go through individual journals, you had to do those by yourself. And there was also this business of this amount of money that was spent in publishing papers. So, the idea I had was, why not, the expensive part of all this it seemed to me was the way in which these things were produced, the printing and other costs. So, I had the idea to produce what I would call them, like The New York Times. We had, the idea was a tabloid format that would be a daily newspaper of science in which people could publish their results, just the way they do in Nature and things like that. And we did calculations to show that we could produce a paper approximately the size of The New York Times that would accommodate 25,000 articles a year. Well, that, that's more than critical mass for the most important part of science. I mean, how many articles a year are there that really report something all that new? So, that was the essence of my idea for the newspaper of science. We produced mark-ups for it, something called The Daily Scientist and we still have samples of that around here somewhere. But, clearly that, NSF wouldn't go for it. I could, in hindsight I can understand why they could never, just like they wouldn't go for open access even if they could because all the societies would be opposed to anything like that, you know. So, and how, if you started something, unless you were extremely well financed, how would you get something like that off the ground? The other factors were, would people be willing to publish in a thing like that, if they didn't have the, kind of, peer review they expect and the sociological issue of why do people publish where they publish, you know. Now, Josh Lederberg also had ideas for a system he called Citel, that's available in his archives. So, the idea of communicating what was new in science in efficient ways has been around for a long time. A lot of different people had a lot of different ideas. I know McGraw and Hill had talked about doing a newspaper of science and it was only after, it was in 1986 that we launched The Scientist, I did that, that was probably one of my big mistakes. What happened was a very sad thing that occurred here in ISI was we had made an agreement to launch The Scientist with great encouragement from a guy named Nicholas Wade [sic - should be Valery] who had been one of the editors of the New Scientist in England and he was working for The Economist, okay. You, and you were here at the time and The Economist wanted it to be, it would be a joint venture with The Economist and they knew all about publishing a publication of that kind. And what happened was, this incredible thing where the guy who was the disgruntled former vice-president of Data Processing, that guy Campbell, he planted some software around the company and then he called the FBI. The FBI came in and closed us down that day. Do you remember that day?

Absolutely.

And as a result of that, the, The Economist backed out. That was the night that we had signed the agreement. I didn't know that. Yeah. And then, when they did back out I said to him, 'Well, look, they backed out are you still willing to be go ahead with your plan?' he was going to move to Washington be the editor on, oh, yeah, yeah, go ahead. So, we ridiculously agreed without any formal written agreement and rented a space in Washington and opened up the office and hired Tammy Poweledge and all the others and there we were, and he'd backed out. Said he didn't want to leave The Economist that they were not going to support the project, they had told him they weren't. So, I had to make that decision, a critical decision which every financial advisor I had told me not to do it, but I went ahead and I supported it. Now, later when, when we sold the company to... JPT. JPT, cos they, they lied to me when they said that they intended to help support, get The Scientist going, they would give it a real shot. They knew in advance, what they were going to do. It wasn't 6 months, not even 6 months that they said, we're closing it down, you can either close it altogether or you can have it... take it for $1, and that's how I come in to it. I supported it all those years until Vitek became my partner.

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, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 23 June 2009