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Attitudes of the not-for-profit organisations


Promoting Current Contents; the FASEB meeting in Atlantic City
Eugene Garfield Scientist
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You know, in those days when we started Current Contents we were very, very, very conscious of biochemistry and molecular biology; that was our focus. Anything that was in current... if it was anything at all related to biochemistry or molecular biology they were our target, okay. That was the reason why we did the impact factor based on 2 years, everything was centred around what is the most important in serving that audience. And so I attended the International Congress of Genetics in 1960, in which Irv and I gave... there was an abstract of our genetics project. It was '60 or '61, I’m not sure. I remember going there, in Schreveningen, you know where that is, have you ever been there, near The Hague? They had a lot of conventions there. I got definitely sick there. And whenever I go to Holland I get this kind of nasal infection of some kind; it’s happened to me every time I’ve gone there, except, I think, when I went to the International Conference for History and Science. Needham, Bob Morton was there, I think, and you were there, right? But in '61 I went to the International Congress of Biochemistry which was attended by 500 Americans, in Moscow, and I vaguely recall I met some of the people from the VINITI there that year, but it seems to me it’s a little early, because SCI certainly was not in existence as SCI. The genetics citation index was still not very complete in '61. So, it was Current Contents that was being promoted, you know, it was pretty much my life. We used to go to the FASEB meetings in Atlantic City. You know why the FASEB meetings were held in Atlantic City? There were only three places in those days where you could have a convention that was big enough to accommodate FASEB, which had over 20,000 people at a meeting: Atlantic City, Chicago and New York were the only places that were big enough. And I think there were similar circumstances in the American Chemical Society meetings, but now there are much more places were they can have these conventions. I think it’s because of the hotel space; it’s not just the convention hall. So, when we went to the Atlantic City convention we had exhibits; we bought exhibit space for our products. I’m jumping ahead now because I’m thinking of one particular meeting at Atlantic City with FASEB, we had already started the SCI, so it had to be a meeting in '65, let’s say. Well, that year we decided to buy exhibit space at the FASEB meeting. Irv has this brilliant idea that we will promote the SCI by having a booth with a Chinese theme, with all these red posters, and he had written different slogans in Chinese. And the other finishing touch was that we were going to have fortune cookies made up which had little slogans, you know: 'SCI making successful scientists', or something like that. We ordered 5,000, 10,000, I don’t know what the minimum order of fortune cookies we had made up okay, we bring all these things to the convention. And apart from the fact that the earlier days I was there I used to promote Current Contents by going on the boardwalk, I would give out copies to the guys on the boardwalk, they couldn’t stop you from you from doing that, because in the early days I couldn’t afford the booth. So, anyhow, we got this booth, we’re giving out these cookies, people are coming around and we’re giving out samples of Current Contents and the SCI literature. I think it was the second or the third day, it was a 5-day convention, there was a committee group of three or four guys come in and they say, 'We’re from the FASEB exhibits committee, and we have to inform you that you are in violation of exhibitor rules, which are that there are to be no free giveaways'. What are you talking about? 'You are not allowed to give out free cookies'. So, we had to take all those cookies back. We were eating fortune cookies for months. I’ll never forget that. Of course, later on it turns out that giveaways are... now they give you all kinds of stuff.

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, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 23 June 2009