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Hit lists and baseball cards for science


Interest in information science; grants and awards
Eugene Garfield Scientist
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It’s only been a fairly recent thing that even people in the other sciences have begun to recognise that information is important. But National Academy, for example, doesn’t have a section on Information Science, or anything close to it.

[Q] They have a History of Science, don’t they?

Section? In the National Academy?

[Q] They might. I don’t know.

I think that economists get in there and sociologists, I guess qualify. I don’t think they have too many. Who do you know that’s in National Academy that’s not one of the true, you know, one of the traditional type scientists?

[Q] I think Tom Kuhn was there.

Was he a member of the National Academy? In what section?

[Q] I don’t know.

That’s the point. But the American Academy, on the other hand, when they elected me, they put me in the Communications section. So, like in AAAS, they have a section team which includes communication, information and so forth. But it was always thrown together with computing in the early days; it’s not, communication and information Science is more than [unclear], because computers invade everything. Although computer science is a perfectly legitimate separate field today. It used to be thought of as Computer and Information Sciences at Penn. CIS is the designation. Even my e-mail address is still at cis.upenn.edu So...

[Q] Did you say your Citation Classics as being a public understanding of science type of...?

Oh! I think that that, I think that those are, many of them, if they’re written well, are extremely... we always try to get them to do that. It wasn’t always easy to get scientists to write a non-technical interpretation of why a paper was highly cited. But when they are written that way, they are very interesting for a wide, any large number of educated people. I think that it could easily be done that way. And if, if you were to pursue it further, given more space, I mean, we were limited to one page; it was less than 500 words, as I recall. It’s very, very difficult to explain all the ramifications of a paper. You know, one of the things that I always had a big beef with the NIH, and it wasn’t until quite recently that they began to try to do something about it. I remember when Varmus was the Head of NIH; he was... I asked him about this at an open meeting of the Research!America why don’t you get scientists to write summaries of their research? Perhaps that would explain to the public the significance of their work. And he insisted that they were doing it already, and I had absolutely no evidence. And the people who were in charge of their communication group, I remember, sort of, paid lip-service to doing it. But I think, Zerhuni has done more about that. He’s tried to get that done, but not any... I haven’t seen this done in any systematic way. I think that just for the sake of convincing congressmen, I mean, if you wouldn’t have that... remember the old, who was the senator who used to give...?

[Q] Proxmire.

Proxmire Prize, for what did he call it? Without an adequate explanation, people could just take the title of a grant and misinterpret the meaning of it, the significance. But, even the most technical...

[Q] Golden Fleece, was the word. Was that it?

Yeah, Golden Fleece – that was it. Exactly. The most technical subject could be explained in terms of what its relationship is to other things, you know. Now, maybe mapping would help people but, I don’t know that every grant that’s given has that justification. I think that a lot of them are, you know, is somebody going to say, well, I’m doing this just for the curiosity? There ought to be some room for that, if it’s, but it’s interesting to the scientific community to support it. Or, this particular guy is very bright and he should be allowed to do what he wants. Now, that’s not just a grant; that’s like a, what do you call the award – the MacArthur award – they give people money just because they’re bright – let them do what they want with it. But that’s not what the government’s about; they’re supposed to be supporting research that helps people in one way or another. So, since it is believed that investing in biomedical research produces greater wealth – in quotation marks – in a form of what, longer life, better life, healthier life. You can put a value on that, which recently, a couple of guys that won the, the Research!America Award were, his name was Murphy and the other fellow from Chicago, they placed a value on life, and there’s definitely a very significant return on that research if it produces a longer life, or healthier life and so on. Reduced, I would expect, reduced expenditure for pain – you know - improved pain. So, I think that, so, you know, that’s why I joined, ISI was one of the early members of Research!America, and then later, they dropped out. Now they’re back in Thomson is now a member of, yeah, Thompson is a member of, of Research!America, and The Scientist is a member. And I set up this award when they elected me to the Board, 3 or 4 years ago, and then Mary Woolley, I think does a terrific job as President, but the other is an Economic Impact award, which is now the fifth award that’s going to be given out, the fifth or sixth coming up, in fact, in a week or so. I’m going down there to attend it next week, I think. It’s maybe more, 2 weeks. They usually have that, they’re going to have a luncheon for the award-winners and then the Board meets. So, what I said was, maybe they need to do something like that in the field of information. You get, you know, more interest in this subject, this... presumably, more information and education leads to better improved economic benefit. And what can they do in the Third World? They say that health and education are the two significant factors in bringing self-sufficiency in the Third World, and not the kind of help that the World Bank and other people have tried to do. They should focus on education and health.

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: 8 minutes, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 23 June 2009