Citation Classics
Essays on Citation Classics
Essays on Most-Cited Papers


         

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Short History of Citation Classics Commentaries
Eugene Garfield


From 1977 to 1993,  four thousand Citation Classic Commentaries were published in Current Contents.  The full texts of these mostly one-page articles are now available in an open access server at : http://garfield.library.upenn.edu/classics.html

During the past two years my assistant Meher Mistry has processed and indexed these commentaries.  The website includes  a  year-by-year directory from 1977 to 1993.  Once you reach the yearly sub-directory, there is a chronological listing of the commentaries published  each  year.   To find a particular author, word, or subject, you use the FIND command on your browser.  This will take you to the title of the commentary and  from there you can access the pdf version of the commentary itself.

On January 3, 1977 my essay - “Introducing Citation Classics:  The human side of scientific papers” appeared in Current Contents.  The first group was selected from the 500 papers most-cited from 1961-1975. This collection contained some of the most-cited papers ever published.  Space does not permit me to repeat the text of my essay here but  readers will find this two-page article worth perusing. 

Our first  Citation Classics  commentary  by Oliver H. Lowry was a fitting choice as his 1951 paper was,  and still remains,  the most-cited paper in the history of science.1   Over the past eleven  years since this feature of  Current Contents was concluded,  numerous  readers have requested  copies of these commentaries.  The reason is quite simple --  most libraries do not store the print version of Current Contents.  Ironically, since a dozen or so of these commentaries disappeared from my office it  was necessary to obtain copies from the authors themselves  or librarian colleagues.   Dana Roth of Caltech and Professor Roger Spanswick of Cornell University have been especially helpful in finding missing commentaries.

Readers may be interested to learn that part of the project involved outsourcing the scanning and proofreading work to a small firm -- Interra Information Technologies of Noida, India.  Under Meher Mistry’s direction they did a diligent job in OCR scanning, proofing and preparing the PDF files.

This project is not entirely complete.  The bibliographic data for these commentaries was included in the Science Citation Index and can be found in a search of the CD-ROM and printed editions or the online edition – Web of Science (WoS).  However, it remains for the WoS staff  to add the links to the source data in the Web of Science.  This will permit the reader to go directly from WoS  to the full text.   Until that happens, to obtain an up-to-date citation count for a  Citation Classic paper the reader can perform a cited reference search in WoS using author name + initials, cited journal and cited year.  If  the full text of the original classic article is available, Wos indicates this on the right-hand side of the screen and the reader has access to this as well.

A further irony is that it is not consistently possible to link to the source entry in WoS  for the original paper that is the basis for the commentary.  While the full bibliographic citation appears at the top of each commentary, as shown in the illustration of the Lowry commentary, authors did not consistently cite the original paper which   would have provided the necessary link to the entry in WoS, and thereby permit you to directly obtain the  up-to-date citation count.

The Citation Classics feature was intended to capture more of the human side of science.   We encouraged authors  to include the type of personal details that are rarely found in formal academic publication, such as obstacles encountered and byways taken. We also asked that they mention the contributions of co-authors, any awards or honors they received for their research, and any new terminology arising from their work. Finally, we asked them to speculate on the reasons  why  their paper or book has  been cited so often.

When this feature  was discontinued in 1993, The Scientist was already in its fifth year.  We  began a  more current version of this feature with “Hot Papers”.  Since that time The Scientist has  published dozens of stories on   Hot Papers” all of which are available in full-text at  The Scientist - Hot Papers Archive.    Typically many of these once “hot”  papers have gone on to become Citation Classics themselves or even citation superstars.

Reference:

1.  Lowry OH,  Rosebrough NJ, Farr AL & Randall RJ.  “Protein measurement with the Folin phenol reagent. J. Biol.  Chem. 193: 265-75, 1951.- Classic Paper.  Citation Classic Commentary


What is a Citation Classic?

A Citation Classic is a highly cited publication as identified by the Science Citation Index® (SCI®) the Social Sciences Citation Index® (SSCI®), or the Arts & Humanities Citation Index® (A&HCI®).

Citation rates differ for each discipline.  The number of citations indicating a classic in botany, a small field, might be lower than the number required to make a classic in a large field like biochemistry.  In general, a publication cited more than 400 times should be considered a classic; but in some fields with fewer researchers, 100 citations might qualify a work..   

Citation Classics authors were asked to write an abstract and a commentary about the publication, emphasizing the human side of the research - how the project was initiated, whether any obstacles were encountered, and why the work was highly cited.

Six weekly editions and one bi-weekly edition of  Current Contents® (CC® ) include Citation Classics that were selected to fit the interests of CC readers.  However, some were deemed appropriate for more than one edition.  Since there is a larger number of highly cited life sciences publications, that edition of CC included two classics each week.

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