5.0055 Citation Statistics ... (Part I) (3/149)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 15 May 91 20:39:54 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0055. Wednesday, 15 May 1991.

(1) Date: Wed, 15 May 91 14:11:32 CDT (61 lines)
From: Michael Sperberg-McQueen <U35395@UICVM>
Subject: citation indexing

(2) Date: Wed, 15 May 91 06:17 CDT (33 lines)
From: Robin Smith <RSMITH@KSUVM.KSU.EDU>
Subject: Citation statistics

(3) Date: Wed, 15 May 1991 14:42:45 GMT+0300 (55 lines)
Subject: RE: 5.0047 Citations (more)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 15 May 91 14:11:32 CDT
From: Michael Sperberg-McQueen <U35395@UICVM>
Subject: citation indexing

No citation index in the humanities? Balderdash. The Institute of
(for?) Scientific Information in Philadelphia has been publishing an
Arts and Humanities Citation Index since 1976. Their coverage in many
fields is apt to be incomplete, but when I looked at their lists I found
at least half of what I considered the central journals in my narrower
specialty of Germanic philology; it's at the least a very respectable
sample of the fields involved. If Peter Denning's statistics are
derived from AHCI (as I suspect, though I haven't read his piece yet),
then the figure of 98% is unlikely to be the number of humanistic papers
not cited in the natural science literature (the notion that natural
scientists might cite as many as 2% of what their literary colleagues
write is perhaps the funniest joke made recently on Humanist).

The founder and longtime head of ISI, Eugene Garfield, has discussed the
strengths and weaknesses of citation indexing and bibliometric study
many times over the years and should probably be read by anyone
seriously interested in the subject; certainly, anyone interested in
saying anything either cogent or new. I think he makes a much better
case for the interest of bibliometrics as a tool for the analysis of
scholarship than anyone has made against it, as well as a stronger,
because better informed, case against its abuse in tenure decisions.
Certainly, his speculations on what citation rates do and don't mean
are worth reading for anyone interested in the subject. Try his
Essays of an Information Scientist if you want an informal treatment,
his book on citation indexing if you want a more systematic discussion.
I append the relevant records from our catalog.

-C. M. Sperberg-McQueen, University of Illinois at Chicago

Garfield, Eugene.
Citation indexing - its theory and application in science, technology,
and humanities / Eugene Garfield. -- New York : Wiley, c1979.
xxi, 274 p. : ill. ; 26 cm. -- (Information sciences series)
"A Wiley-Interscience publication."
Bibliography: p. 235-239.
Includes indexes.
ISBN 0-471-02559-3
SUBJECT HEADINGS (Library of Congress; use s= ):
Science--Abstracting and indexing.
Technology--Abstracting and indexing.
Humanities--Abstracting and indexing.

Garfield, Eugene.
Essays of an information scientist / by Eugene Garfield. --
Philadelphia : ISI Press, 1977-
v. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Originally published in Current contents under the title: Current
Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
Contents: v. 1. 1962-1973 -- v. 2. 1974-1976 -- v. 3. 1977-1978 -- v.
4. 1979- 1980 -- v. 5. 1981-1982.
ISBN 0-89495-001-0 (v. 1) :
SUBJECT HEADINGS (Library of Congress; use s= ):
Communication in science.
Science--Abstracting and indexing.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------40----
Date: Wed, 15 May 91 06:17 CDT
From: Robin Smith <RSMITH@KSUVM.KSU.EDU>
Subject: Citation statistics

I agree with others that our reaction to the alleged "facts" about the
frequency with which humanistic scholarship is cited should be to
challenge those facts. The assertion that 98% of published articles are
*never* cited by anyone is simply absurd on its face; we should not be
bullied because it has appeared in print. My own experience with
*Arts and Humanities Citation Index* suggests that it is hardly a
reliable indicator. Another point: in the humanities, monographic
publication is much more important than in the sciences. Many
scientific fields consider book publication of no significance as far as
research is concerned, whereas in many humanistic fields the book is the
primary medium of communication. Citation indices designed to fit the
practice of the sciences will not transfer well to other fields. One
final point about the plausibility of the statistics: it is a lot harder
to get an article published in many humanistic fields than in the
sciences. In my own field (philosophy), major journals typically accept
less than 10% of articles submitted (the prestigious ones are closer
to 5%). A journal that accepted 50% or more of submissions would be
viewed as very lax. By contrast, in many scientific fields the presence
of journals rejecting 50% or more of submissions would be taken as
evidence of the need for new journals. I'm sure that similar stories
can be told about other humanistic areas. The general point is that the
number of humanistic articles printed is bound to be much smaller than
the number of scientific articles printed (if you want to get the same
point, compare a chemist's CV and a humanist's). It is therefore prima
facie implausible that the scientific literature is more heavily read,
studied, and cited.
Robin Smith
Kansas State University
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------63----
Date: Wed, 15 May 1991 14:42:45 GMT+0300
Subject: RE: 5.0047 Citations (more)

I was stunned by Robert A. Amsler's comments on how Humanists use

"In the Humanities I'd assume one...by and large tries NOT to cite
works of rival schools at all...one also would avoid citing works with
which one didn't agree, so as to not taint oneself with what in one's
mind are incorrect views. Finally, if one is attempting to establish
one's own reputation, one would be careful to deliberately cite only
those from [sic] whom one was trying to align oneself. Only more
powerful people than oneself and probably only people one had met...
Thus citation in the humanities is a bit more like endorsement (or
attack) rather than 'observation'."

This sounds almost the exact opposite of the way I and those I
work with use citation, which is about 30% to support our own
views and 70% to present the theories of others which we are
trying to refute. Of course we're trying to upset an applecart
(which others are also rocking, but the cart so far is trundling
on its way regardless), and I agree it's more common to try to
add apples to the existing cart that to propose another. Nonetheless,
if all of you out there agree with Amsler (and nobody's shouted yet!)
-- how do you disagree with someone if citing/quoting/referring to
their views is considered as possibly "tainting oneself" with
incorrectness? I also fail to see the close link between "trying to
align oneself" with The Established, and "attempting to establish
one's own reputation". Is it accepted in your universities that
a young scholar can only Establish a Reputation by getting "in"
with those who already have? I can think of several cases where
a scholar established a reputation overnight by being provocative
-- PROVIDED he/she was brilliantly provocative. Or is Amsler
implicitly talking about those who can't establish a reputation
the way I thought it was supposed to be done, by being good at
their field, because they're inherently mediocre, and therefore
turn to patronage and currying favour as alternative means of
getting tenure? ("only more powerful people than oneself...")

Amsler comes from the MITRE corp.; I and those I work with either
are past worrying about tenure or don't have to because they're
"independent" scholars. Perhaps neither of us knows quite what
goes on in the minds of those struggling on the university tenure
track. But if I'm over-naive, surely he's over-cynical? Is the
academic world so overwhelmed by questions, first of tenure and
then of stature, that there's no room to quote someone just because
you want to say something about what s/he said?

Go on, all of you, either reassure or disillusion me!

Incidentally, the REAL reason I enjoy meeting people is so that
I can argue with them, not agree with them...

Judy Koren