"Needless to Say My Proposal Was Turned Down”. The Early Days of Commercial Citation Indexing, an „Error-making“ (Popper) Activity and Its Repercussions Till Today.

Tüür-Fröhlich, Terje (2014) "Needless to Say My Proposal Was Turned Down”. The Early Days of Commercial Citation Indexing, an „Error-making“ (Popper) Activity and Its Repercussions Till Today. Theory of Science, 36 (2). ISSN 210-0250

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Abstract

Abstract: In today’s neoliberal audit cultures university rankings, quantitative evaluation of publications by JIF (Journal Impact Factor) or researchers by h-index (Hirsch-Index) are believed to be indispensable instruments for “quality assurance” in the sciences. Most of these performance rankings employ citation data provided by huge for-profit North-American media corporation Thomson Reuters (TR). Today TR’s influence on funding decisions, individual careers, departments, universities, disciplines and countries is immense and ambivalent. Yet there is increasing resistance against “impactitis” and “evaluitis”. Usually overseen: Trivial errors in Thomson Reuters’ citation indexes (SCI, SSCI, AHCI) produce severe non-trivial effects: Their victims are authors, institutions, journals with names beyond the ASCII-code and scholars of humanities and social sciences. Based on the “Joshua Lederberg Papers” (provided by the National Library of Medicine) I claim: the eventually successful ‘invention’ of science citation indexing is a product of contingent factors and strategies. To overcome severe resistance (no interest, almost no grants, heavy criticism) Eugene Garfield, the ‘father’ of citation indexing, and his most important mentor and advocate Joshua Lederberg had to foster overoptimistic attitudes and to downplay the severe problems connected to global and multidisciplinary citation indexing. The difficulties to handle different formats of references and footnotes, non-Anglo-American names, and of publications in non-English languages were known to the pioneers of citation indexing. Nowadays the rich corporation Thomson Reuters is the owner of the citation databases founded by Garfield. TR would have the financial means and could afford the best available hard- and software power. But a ‘big relaunch’ is not in sight; inconsistent patchwork is omnipresent in TR’s citation databases. Huge technological systems show a heavy inertness. This insight of technology studies is applicable to the large citation indexes by Thomson Reuters, too.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: evaluation; rankings; errors; scientometrics; critical science studies
Subjects: Wissenschaftsforschung, Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Depositing User: Gerhard Fröhlich
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2014 08:45
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2014 08:45
URI: http://sammelpunkt.philo.at/id/eprint/2426

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