TS Picks: Remembering Eugene Garfield

A look back at the contributions of The Scientist’s founder, scientometrics pioneer Eugene Garfield (1925–2017)

Feb 27, 2017
Joshua A. Krisch

See “Scientometrics Pioneer Eugene Garfield Dies

  • Eugene Garfield began what would become an illustrious career in the sciences studying chemistry at Columbia University in New York City, where “I wasn’t very good or happy,” he told The Scientist in 2005. “There were a number of explosions and I was advised to look for other work.” He began looking, and found his answer at an American Chemical Society conference. “I heard people talking about literature searching and I found out they were making a living doing this stuff,” Garfield said. “So I went up to the chairman of the meeting and said, ‘How do you get a job in this racket?”
  • In 1986, Garfield founded The Scientist as a newspaper for science professionals. In 1996, he reflected in an editorial that “the paper’s mission remains the same. Yet so much about the publication has evolved in the past decade.” In 2011, Garfield wrote another editorial reflecting on the longevity of the publication.”
  • Perhaps Garfield’s greatest contribution to science was the Science Citation Index (SCI), which measures the impact of scientific studies. Fifty years after SCI debuted, Garfield reflected on his handiwork. “I had always visualized a time when scholars would become citation conscious,” he said in a statement. “I did not imagine that the worldwide scholarly enterprise would grow to its present size or that bibliometrics would become so widespread.”
  • Garfield was frustrated by scientists who did not make proper use of his SCI, and failed to search the existing literature before embarking on research projects. Regarding the practice he referred to first as “bibliographic negligence”—and later, “citation amnesia”—Garfield in 2002 wrote: “There will never be a perfect solution to the problem of acknowledging intellectual debts. But a beginning can be made if journal editors will demand a signed pledge from authors that they have searched Medline, Science Citation Index, or other appropriate print and electronic databases.”
  • Outside of his scientific and publishing endeavors, Garfield was never afraid of entering the political fray. He called out elected officials for making scientific decisions based on conjecture in 1986, and admonished former President Reagan’s science advisors for serving as “advocates of the administration’s science policies, rather than as objective conduits for communication between the president and the science community.” In 1987, he wrote an editorial, “Let’s Stand Up For Global Science,” in which he argued that the United States ought to continue contributing funds to UNESCO in order to ensure the continuity of the agency’s science programs.”