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Big science and how things are changing


Citations as currency
Eugene Garfield Scientist
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The Mertonian philosophy is basically that science is a communal or communist type activity, you know; it’s something you do for the community and you get paid with, your reward is citation. Recognition is the reward, not necessarily true monetary compensation. And there’s people now who are rediscovering Bob’s idea that, that citation is a form of currency. Was he the first one who talked about it that way? What’s your recollection? Citation as a form of currency?

[Q] He, and maybe Warren Hagstrom.

Hagstrom. Right. There’s some people now who are circulating the idea of citation as a financial reward type of idea. Economic... it’s an economic activity for, you know, the more citations are going to get you, say tenure; it’ll get you a higher salary, when, in reality, in East Europe and other places where they implemented these systems based on citations brought you more salary and so forth, well, that’s an economic reward. I certainly didn’t think of that as a... I believed that, that citation was a, you know, an emotional compensation; you know, you got a great thrill out of having your work cited, or quoted. Nothing wrong with that. I mean, that’s something we, just as long as you don’t go overboard and get obsessive about it. That’s what we want people to see, that kind of recognition without it being, you know, without hurting other people. But, we know about all kinds of abuses that can exist and do exist, but they don’t really account for that much in the way science devolves because lousy ideas eventually just fall by the, don’t get cited. Negatives that don’t get you too far.

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: 2 minutes, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 23 June 2009