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Working with Irving H Sher


Job security and outsourcing
Eugene Garfield Scientist
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I always say a consultant is a euphemism for unemployment. Have you ever noticed that a lot of people who get laid off suddenly become consultants? They are available for whatever. I’ve known quite a few consultants in my time, people who, for whatever reason, find themselves without work. And I always found it very amusing that people who worked at Smith Kline made fun of me because I refused to take their offer, take their, not a tenure job, but a permanent job with them. Because most of the guys I knew there were out of a job within 5 or 10 years, maximum 10 years after I had left, you know. The companies either get sold or their jobs get wiped out or there’s some reorganisation. And we even know at Smith Kline - I mean at ISI - how often that happens. Including even when I brought... you remember Dick Kollin when he came in, and he said we should cut down the expenses of the company by 10%, just like that. And they tried to have an across the board 10% cut in the budget. You can’t necessarily take 10% out of the computer budget the same way you could take it out of the marketing or any other budget, you know, it’s... but that’s the sort of thing that happens when you get a corporate mentality, that the bottom line is the only thing that counts. And that never was the case with me and ISI, you know, we were worried about the people that were going to be affected by trying to do something like that. But today, as you can see, it doesn’t matter whether they take the jobs; we originally get set up in Ireland and then move to India. Our, our reasons for... we didn’t really, in the beginning we never outsourced. What we did was when we started in Philadelphia it was very interesting, once we got into doing the SCI, I had to hire a slew of key punch operators, okay, and it was no easy task to find in the city of Philadelphia key punch operators who were both technically qualified and literate. I mean, all we wanted was, you know, bright high school graduates to do the work. It was a challenging key punching job, and the ones that got it loved it. But we just could not hire enough people, and for a long time I tried. This is how I got to meet, what was his name, Leon Sullivan, was the guy from the black community that tried to develop opportunities for black people. And another reason why this company, we never had any... we were always open as far as equal opportunity employment, long before there was a law. And I... we really tried valiantly to find sources of local people who could do the work, but we just could not find enough of them. So we had... somehow we finally decided that we had to open up a branch and what we would do is go to New Jersey, which is today like going to India, okay; it was almost a betrayal of Philadelphia but we just couldn’t do it. And that’s how we got in. It was, I think it was Cherry Hill from the beginning and then it was Pensauken who was there first. And then what we did was hire people who worked... we had a night shift in Philadelphia, but then we had problems in Philadelphia because in a night shift you had to provide escorts at night; you worried about people coming out of the building at midnight and the streets were full of drug addicts or whatever, you know. In New Jersey, on the other hand, we were able to hire a lot of married women who could work. It was good for them to have a job like that. And Irv and I were always in favour of flex time. I don’t if you remember that. People used to object to Irv coming in here... he used to come to work at like 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning and go home at 3. And I remember when people said how come that guy can go home at 3 o’clock, and I said if you want to go home at 3 o’clock you can come in at 5 o’clock in the morning, too. Irv, whenever he left here, he always had a briefcase full of work. He’d come back and he’d done a day’s work at home at night, which his wife did not appreciate.

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: 5 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 23 June 2009