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Eugene Garfield, key figure in scientific documentation and UB Honorary Doctorate, dies at age 91

Eugene Garfield died aged 91 in Pennsylvania.

Eugene Garfield died aged 91 in Pennsylvania.

Last June 14, he was awarded Honorary Doctorate by the University of Barcelona

Last June 14, he was awarded Honorary Doctorate by the University of Barcelona

28/02/2017

Institucional

The field of scientific documentation lost one of his main actors. Eugene Garfield (New York, USA, September 16, 1925), key figure in the analysis of information and scientometrics, passed away on Sunday, February 26. Garfield was pioneer in taking citation as an essential element to assess the quality of a scientific publication, and his contributions to science and technology management have been essential to understand research assessment and the current decision-making in science policies. On June 14, 2016, he was awarded with an honorary doctorate by the University of Barcelona at the request of the Faculty of Library and Information Sciences, and although he could not attend the ceremony due health problems, Garfield recorded his speech on video.

Garfield, “the grandfather of Google” and more

Eugene Garfield developed two basic ideas to improve access to scientific information: content indexes, which allowed researchers to be updated on their fields of knowledge, and citation indexes, understood as a way of organizing and assessing scientific bibliography. Garfield’s works eased the analysis of relations between authors, ideas and texts in the fields of history and sociology of science. Scientometrics resulted from this as a scientific discipline.

Apart from this innovating view on the creation of tools to manage information, Garfield’s entrepreneur spirit took him to commercialize bibliographic guidelines on different scientific disciplines: the still existing current contents. At the same time, he worked on the creation of a citation index in the field of genetics, an initiative that took shape in 1963 with the publication of Science Citation Index, the first citation index in this field, gathering 613 journals and 1,4 million citations.

Garfield transformed the search of scientific information and studies on history of science into products, such as the Web of Science, a bibliography database which gathers all contributions published on the main science and technology journals, or the Journal Citation Reports.

In his investiture speech, Garfield analyzed the evolution of Science Citation Index (SCI) to Web of Science and the relation with Google, since his ideas have also been used in other fields of information recovery, and algorithms such as Google’s PageRank are using the theory model of citation indexes to analyze web links between sites and ordering them according to their relevance. Furthermore, a north-American librarian referred to Garfield as “the grandfather of Google”.

"I am often depressed to see there are authors that neglect the earlier bibliography. There are researchers who work in the fields of administration, computing, economics, etc. and show a complete ignorance of the work done so far in the science of information. Their egocentrism is unbelievable. There are lots of affirmations on what authors do or do not do, but few substantiated studies", said Garfield in an interview to the University.
 

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