Citation analytics pioneer Eugene Garfield dies, aged 91

Founder of the Institute for Scientific Information passes away suddenly

February 28, 2017
Eugene Garfield
Source: Clarivate Analytics

Eugene Garfield, the man widely regarded as the architect of citation analysis, has died.

Dr Garfield passed away suddenly on 26 February in Pennsylvania, aged 91. A linguist and a businessman, he was probably best known for his work in developing the field of citation analysis – a measurement of the impact of an author, an article or a publication based on the frequency of its citation by other researchers.

Born Eugene Garfinkle in New York City in 1925, he studied at Columbia University before obtaining a PhD in structural linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1961. His contribution to citation analysis arguably began when he founded the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) in 1960.

It was here that he developed the Science Citation Index (SCI). Officially launched in 1964, the SCI recorded the bibliographical and citation contents of the world’s most influential journals, allowing users to follow citation links to access specialised research most relevant to their own work.

Dr Garfield’s work led to the development of numerous citation databases, such as the Web of Science, the online subscription-based citation service, one of the ways through which the SCI is made available.

In 1992, Thomson Reuters (formerly the Thomson Corporation) acquired the ISI and its citation index for $210 million. It later became part of Thomson Reuters’ intellectual property and science business. It is now maintained and run by Clarivate Analytics, an independent company that owns and operates a collection of scientific and academic research subscription-based businesses, including the Web of Science.

Dr Garfield’s original invention “continues to serve as a reliable and efficient guide to the sprawling world of research”, Clarivate Analytics said.

Dr Garfield also went on to devise the journal impact factor – a measurement of the reach of a particular journal based on the annual number of citations of its publications – and the Journal Citation Reports, an annual publication by Clarivate detailing the impact factors and other citation data for thousands of scholarly journals. He also founded The Scientist, a news magazine for researchers, in 1986.

Despite his work in creating journal impact factors, The Scientist's obituary of Dr Garfield pointed out he was "wary" of their "potential misuse" and he spoke out against them being used as a shorthand way to rank publications, researchers or institutions.

Jay Nadler, Clarivate Analytics’ chief executive officer, said that Dr Garfield’s work “shaped the way that research is accessed and evaluated across the globe”.

“We honour him for the contribution he has made to research, and to our organisation as a visionary leader, colleague and friend,” Mr Nadler said. 

Dr Garfield is survived by his wife Meher, three sons, a daughter, a step-daughter, two granddaughters and two great-grandchildren.

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