Commemoration and Celebration of the life of Eugene Garfield

On Friday September 15th and Saturday September 16th, Clarivate Analytics hosted a commemoration and celebration of the life of Dr. Eugene Garfield, the founder of the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) and the visionary information scientist who created the first citation index for the scientific literature.  In doing so, he changed the way researchers discover scholarly information, enabled the use of citation data for the sociology of science and research assessment, and provided the foundational dataset to support the nascent field of scientometrics.  The two-day event included a scientific symposium on Friday, followed by an afternoon of personal tributes and remembrances at the Franklin Institute on Saturday the 16th, the 92nd anniversary of Dr. Garfield’s birth.

During the scientific symposium, colleagues, friends and family discussed various stages of Dr. Garfield’s life and his wide-ranging professional contributions.  Over and over in the engaging talks, a few themes emerged that emphasized Dr. Garfield’s creativity and willingness to experiment, his drive and prolific writing, his collaborative and open approach, and his sheer tenacity in pursuing his ideas inability to give up on his ideas.  This recipe clearly lead to success, with Dr. Garfield producing seminal products such as Current Contents, Citation Classics, the citation indexes that eventually became the Web of Science, and the Journal Citation Reports including the renowned journal impact factor, which became the de facto measure for librarians to assess journal performance.


The scientific symposium was introduced by Jessica Turner, Global Head of Scientific and Academic Research at Clarivate Analytics.  She welcomed the colleagues, family and friends in attendance and paid tribute to Dr. Garfield’s accomplishments, emphasizing that Clarivate Analytics takes the stewardship of Dr. Garfield’s legacy very seriously.


David Pendlebury, a long-time research assistant and friend to Dr. Garfield, started off the day by introducing the first speaker, Dr. Arnold Thackray, Professor Emeritus at University of Pennsylvania and Founding President of the Chemical Heritage Foundation.  Dr. Thackray described the early years of Dr. Garfield’s life, illuminating some of the key events (including explosions in chemistry labs at Columbia University) that reoriented Garfield to the field of chemical information from chemical research.


He was followed by Dr. Alexander ‘Sandy’ Grimwade who joined ISI in the mid-80s to help with the Atlas of Science project, and later the weekly newspaper for researchers, The Scientist, and Dr. Garfield’s historiograph software HistCite.  Dr. Grimwade reflected on some of Garfield’s information products and services that are often overshadowed by Web of Science and the Journal Citation Reports, revealing the remarkable breadth of innovation that Dr. Garfield and his colleagues at ISI pursued and achieved. Foremost among these was Current Contents, the weekly publication providing tables of contents for key journals that saved researchers countless hours in their efforts to stay abreast of the latest research findings.


Dr. Katherine W. McCain, a professor and bibliometrician from Drexel University discussed the influence that Dr. Garfield and others at ISI had on her work and that of her colleagues, especially in the realm of information retrieval. She mentioned how the proximity of ISI and Drexel allowed for some interesting circulation of people and ideas. For her work in author co-citation and other topics, Dr. McCain was awarded the 2007 de Solla Price Award and Medal, the field’s most prestigious award, which Dr. Garfield himself received in 1984, the first year the prize was awarded.


Next, David Pendlebury had the challenging task of standing in for Dr. Henk Moed, who was unable to attend the conference.  David delivered a presentation drawn largely from Dr. Moed’s forthcoming book, Advanced Evaluative Informetrics, the latest contribution from one of the most knowledgeable scientometricians in the domain of research assessment using quantitative indicators.


The final presentation of the morning was by Dr. Harriet Zuckerman, the leading sociologist of science of our time, and a longtime friend of Dr. Garfield.  Dr. Zuckerman described how she and Dr. Robert K Merton, her husband and collaborator, worked with Dr. Garfield to use citation data to understand social and structure aspects of the research scientific system and academia, including the normative behavior of scientists and the reward system of science.


Just before lunch, Jessica Turner announced that Dr. Jian Wang of Leiden University is the inaugural recipient of the Eugene Garfield Award for Innovation in Citation Analysis. Dr. Wang’s innovative work on the structure and dynamics underlying progress in science and technology is a fitting choice honoring Dr. Garfield. Following a video acceptance speech by Dr. Wang the panelists and attendees sat down to reconnect with friends and colleagues over lunch.

Following lunch, I had the opportunity to introduce the afternoon’s speakers, including Dr. Paul Wouters, Director of the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University.  Dr. Wouters provided some interesting preliminary insights into research that he is conducting on the evolution of Dr. Garfield’s thinking about the meaning and function of citations, sometimes referred to as the theory of citations.



Next, Dr. Henry Small recounted how he came to work for Dr. Garfield to begin a four-decade career studying the specialty structure of science using the citations. It was a revealing look into the new avenues of research made  possible through Small’s introduction of co-citation analysis in 1973, which opened the way to mapping research, a dream of Garfield, Yale historian of science Derek Price, and before them John Desmond Bernal.

Dr. Garfield was always concerned about how scientists in the developing world could gain access to the scholarly literature. The next speaker, Mr. Subbiah Arunachalam, from the Indian Institute for Science in Bengaluru, India, combined personal stories of Dr. Garfield’s visits to India with analysis from InCites about how “science on the periphery” has been evolving in recent years.


One of Dr. Garfield’s lesser known, but important areas of contribution was to the review literature.  He felt that writing reviews was a challenging job and one that had a uniquely important position in scholarly communication. Dr. Samuel Gubins worked closely with Dr. Garfield at Annual Reviews, a non-profit publisher of a large series of review journals. Dr. Gubins, former and long-term Editor in Chief at Annual Reviews, took the podium next to share his appreciation for Dr. Garfield and his many years of service had to Annual Reviews as a board member, and as an advocate for the importance of the review literature.


In a fitting close to the afternoon’s presentations, serial entrepreneur and visionary publisher Mr. Vitek Tracz (founder of the first open access publisher BioMedCentral and more recently the Faculty of 1000 Group) told the meeting participants that Garfield’s success was due in no small part to the fact that he never gave up.  Despite technical challenges and struggles turning some of his inventions into successful products, Garfield kept at it, and Mr. Tracz suggested that this was one of the key attributes that they shared and what helped them become close friends.  The two worked together on The Scientist, the newspaper for scientists that Dr. Garfield introduced in 1986 and envisioned as the Wall Street Journal for researchers.

Valentin Bogorov then brought all of the speakers back onto the stage to turn their thoughts to the future and how scholarly communication will continue to evolve, in part due to the innovations that Dr. Garfield pioneered.  The audience was highly engaged and raised important issues that were discussed further in a reception following the closing of the formal program.


Friends and colleagues reminisced and reconnected, describing how their lives were touched by Dr. Garfield and his legacy.  It was an inspirational day that honored a visionary man who will be sorely missed.


In the coming weeks, Clarivate Analytics will be releasing video footage of this event, so please stay tuned.  Over the coming years, we will continue to honor Dr. Garfield’s lifelong achievements and inspirational spirit with an annual event on scientometrics and award(s) recognizing both emerging talent and significant achievements in the field.