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JD Bernal, politics, and science


Usefulness of citations for historians
Eugene Garfield Scientist
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When I started to write the paper I could see, I think I made a statement, how valuable it would be to historians to have this, kind of, information to be able to trace these developments. Today, now even as I work with the HistCite program, you get this list of the... you essentially create a citation index of the field you're looking at, you get this incredible time line. This is great for you. You've got a record of everything that historians or whoever has written on the subject have cited and that gives you an immediate rough... quick and dirty time line on the field. Now, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have to assign a greater importance to the more cited stuff because what you're looking for is the chronological development in the field. What Irv and I found in the Asimov thing were certain papers that proved to be what we call important links that Isaac Asimov had overlooked, that he agreed that he had overlooked, couple of papers, not very many. So, I think that's one of the weaknesses right now in the early stages of SciMate that unless you apply subject criteria, you're going to always, you're going to always over emphasise what gets highly cited versus the appropriate link, you know. And I saw that when I was trying to show, when I did this paper for the Bernal Symposium in Dublin. We showed linkages between JD Bernal and Watson and Crick and Rosalind Franklin and other people, but there weren't as many links as I expected to find. But it's just, it turns out to be a very interesting tool to be able to take two people's personal bibliography and just run their two HistCite files together. You know so you take my records and your record, you run the two together, who do we cite in common, how are they linked?

You, you pointed out that some people have neglected to cite people that they should have, like Watson.

Yeah, Watson admitted to that, eventually. Even Einstein was probably a, I don't know that he forgot, he just didn't formally cite them, you know. Who knows what the reasons were, but he hasn't got very many references in his papers. They're probably implicit, you know, we used to call them the implicit references. So, if you were going to trace the genealogical tree of the field, you'd have to go in and add those, we call them 'pseudo citations'.

He claimed that he didn't know the literature that well and he would have cited them if he had known about it.

He didn't know the literature, Einstein claimed that?

That's what he said, back in 1905, he didn't know.

Well, Medawar would have said he was smart to have avoided it. He didn't know it but he'd learned it, somehow, right? He got the ideas.

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: 3 minutes, 45 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 23 June 2009