Eugene Garfield and his Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)™ pioneered new methods for indexing and disseminating the world’s scientific and scholarly research literature in the second half of the 20th century.
Today, as the research arm of Clarivate™, ISI continues Garfield’s commitment to provide researchers with high-quality data, advanced tools and key insights to accelerate discovery and innovation.
Garfield introduced the concept of citation indexing for the sciences in 1955 and ISI produced the first Science Citation Index (SCI)™ in 1964. Citation indexing revolutionized information retrieval. By recording and linking the cited references that authors attached to their papers, the SCI represented an “association of ideas index.”
It was an idea before its time, proving Garfield a visionary as well as an innovator. By organizing information through a network of citation connections, Garfield anticipated web hyperlinking and the Google Search algorithm by three decades.
From its foundation in 1960, ISI introduced a range of current awareness and information retrieval products and services covering the literature of the sciences, social sciences and humanities.
A Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI)™ was introduced in 1973 and an Arts & Humanities Citation Index (AHCI)™ in 1978. Several products focused on the chemical sciences, such as Index Chemicus, the ISI’s first offering in 1960.
The Journal Citation Reports™, introduced in 1976, collated journal-to-journal citations to help librarians and publishers understand the communication system of the science and social sciences literature, as well as the influence and prestige of specific titles. Among other indicators in the product, the most popular was the Journal Impact Factor™.
Other ISI products were designed to keep researchers up to date on new publications in their fields, such as Current Contents, a weekly bulletin presenting the content pages of journals, eventually issued in seven field-specific editions.
SCI data also served as a foundation for quantitative studies in the history and sociology of science and eventually gave birth to the field of scientometrics.
In 1992, the Thomson Corporation acquired ISI. Thomson merged with Reuters in 2008 to form Thomson Reuters. In 2016, the scientific and scholarly information business of Thomson Reuters, including the products and services of the former ISI, was spun out to private ownership and rebranded as Clarivate.
ISI was revived as a research division within Clarivate in 2018 to conduct scientometric research, to advise the company on the content and features of its products, and to offer guidance to the research community on best practices in the use of quantitative indicators in the evaluation of research. It also maintains the foundational knowledge and editorial rigor upon which the Web of Science index and its related products and services are built.
ISI’s reports and publications and participation in events and conferences play a crucial role in extending and improving the knowledge base that is essential to our colleagues, partners and all those who deal with research in academia, government organizations, corporations, as well as funders and publishers.
A wealth of information on the history of ISI can be found on Garfield’s personal web pages, maintained at the University of Pennsylvania, including:
Current Contents Essays
Garfield’s 15–volume collection of Current Contents essays and other writings (Essays of an Information Scientist).
Samuel Lazerow, “Institute for Scientific Information” (1974)
The who and why of ISI (1975)
Origins of Current Contents, ISI, and computer-Aided information retrieval.
Tony Cawkell and Eugene Garfield, “Institute for Scientific Information” (2001)
The origins and importance of analyzing citation data
Pendlebury D. “The threads that hold the fabric of science together”: The origins and importance of analyzing citation data. Web of Science blog, January 2021.
Eugene Garfield and the Institute for Scientific Information
Pendlebury D. Eugene Garfield and the Institute for Scientific Information. Handbook Bibliometrics, Rafael Ball, ed., Walter de Gruyter, pp 27-40.
Science Watch archives
ISI reports and publications
Nature (by Paul Wouters, Leiden University)
Journal of Informetrics (by Henry Small)
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Times Higher Education
SciELO – Scientific Electronic Library Online
Chemical & Engineering News
Frontiers in Research Metrics and Analytics
National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR)
The Pan African Medical Journal