History Of Citation Indexing Essay

1222 words - 5 pages

HISTORY OF CITATION INDEXING
The concept behind citation indexing is fundamentally simple. By recognizing that the value of information is determined by those who use it, what better way to measure the quality of the work than by measuring the impact it makes on the community at large. The widest possible population within the scholarly community (i.e. anyone who uses or cites the source material) determines the influence or impact of the idea and its originator on our body of knowledge. Because of its simplicity, one tends to forget that citation indexing is actually a fairly recent form of information management and retrieval.

There were three factors that led to the development of ...view middle of the document...

Furthermore, there were limitations to the subject indexing in terms of retrieval. Terminology appropriate to one specific discipline would not necessarily have meaning to researchers in another, perhaps overlapping, discipline. At the same time, scientists were recognizing that they had to be aware of, if not completely familiar with, work in a number of different subject disciplines in order to be confident that they had properly grounded the research through an appropriate review of the literature.

Along with this need was the hope that automation might hold the answers, the third and final factor in the development of citation indexing. Computerization in the 1950s was far removed from the desktop environment of today, but there was tremendous excitement over potential benefits to be derived from the application of machines to the generation and compilation of data. The U.S. government hoped that automation could mitigate or even eliminate completely the difficulties of manual indexing. A number of projects were launched by the United States with the intention of investigating these possibilities.

Dr. Eugene Garfield, founder and now Chairman Emeritus of ISI® (now Thomson Reuters), was deeply involved in the research relating to machine generated indexes in the mid-1950's and early 1960's. One of his earliest points of involvement was a project sponsored by the Armed Forces Medical Library (predecessor to our current National Library of Medicine). The Welch Medical Library Indexing project, as it was called, was to investigate the role of automation in the organization and retrieval of medical literature. The hope was that the problems associated with subjective human judgement in selection of descriptors and indexing terms could be eliminated. By removing the human element, one might thereby increase the speed with which information was incorporated in to the indexes. It might also increase the cost-effectiveness of the indexes. Garfield grasped early on that review articles in the journal literature were heavily reliant on the bibliographic citations that referred the reader to the original published source for the notable idea or concept. By capturing those citations, Garfield believed, the researcher could immediately get a view of the approach taken by another scientist to support an idea or methodology based on the sources that the published writer had consulted and cited as pertinent in the bibliography. As retrieval terms, citations could function as well as keywords and descriptors that were thoughtfully assigned by a professional indexer.

In the early 1960s, Eugene Garfield and Associates developed two pilot projects that would test the viability and efficiency of citation indexing. The first project involved the creation of a database that would index the citations of 5,000 chemical patents held by two private pharmaceutical companies. The...

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