The Chemical Bulletin, 43(4):11, April 1956



The Institute for Scientific Information
1122 Spring Garden Street,
Philadelphia 23, Pennsylvania

CONVENTIONAL methods of documentation were, relatively speaking, satisfactory for the classical specialties. Chemical Abstracts (CA) still does an excellent job of covering the literature. Each year, however, the number of abstracts increases. The problem is accentuated by the increasing number of specialties which relate to chemistry. Serpinsky claims that the Soviet counterpart of CA selects articles from, more than 9,000 journals, of which over 5,000 regularly contain articles of chemical interest (1). CA’s latest list contains over 5,500 titles.

New approaches to chemical documentation may offer some amelioration to the problems created by this mass of publication. The Citation Index is one of them. In addition, the Citation Index can open entirely new paths to scientific knowledge never demanded of the indexes to CA or Beilstein.

In conventional indexes the "access points" are subject headings—specific topics or compounds. The access point in the Citation Index is the individual citation. Having found a citation in an article, book, or index the user would turn to the Citation Index to find all those subsequent articles or books which have cited the work in question.

Citation Index listings consist of the citation for a particular paper followed by its bibliographical descendants. In conventional bibliographies one usually finds the bibliographical antecedents of the paper in question.

In the Citation Index bibliographical arrays are generated according to the user’s frame-of-reference—not the indexer’s. The starting point in a search would not be a rubric but a designated article or group of articles. Thus, the Citation Index permits each scientist to establish the degree of specificity he requires by the association-of-ideas embodied in individual citations, i.e., titles, and particularly the set of ideas which gave birth to the citation.

The Citation Index is not a substitute for indexes like Beilstein or CA. It complements such indexes admirably. It would be interesting sometime to compare their relative utility in literature searches.

However, the scientist does not necessarily use indexes when conducting "searches." Frequently he locates a few reprints and consults the bibliographies therein. The Citation Index listings for these references, if available, would provide leads to information difficult to obtain by searching under established index headings. This is particularly true when trying to locate derivatives and/or intermediates for known c

Recently (2) I reported how a Citation Index to chemical patents brought together material not correlated by CA indexing or by Patent Office classification. It was also shown how the Citation Index helps to overcome the problem of changing terminology, time, and the other inherent imitations of a priori indexing. The beauty of the citation index is that it achieves a posteriori indexing because a citation is experiential. The "logic" of all conventional scientific classifications has inevitably broken down with experience. Aristotelian logic has been a chain around the neck of the scientist and classifier alike. Since the Citation Index is an arbitrary construct rather than a "logical" one, it can stand the test of time. Citations are permanent and unique, -as are the works they identify. The significance of men’s writings may change, but their identities are fixed.

The dissemination and retrieval of information are inextricably linked. The abstracts section of CA is a device for dissemination while the index is for retrieval. An intriguing application of the Citation Index is its potential use in disseminating scientific information as well as for retrieval. Bernal (3) proposed some time ago that a centralized reprint clearing house be established. Each scientist would then regularly receive papers in designated areas of interest. The proposal is excellent in its simplicity. Its execution is not so simple. How would one spell out his interests? By decimal class numbers of index headings or specific compounds? In time any conventional system of classification would break down even if the individual did decide on class numbers or headings. However, a reprint distribution plan based on the principle of the Citation Index could overcome this difficulty. The flow of reprints to each scientist would be reasonable and geared to his individual specialized needs. His changing frame-of-reference would not periodically disrupt the entire classification scheme. For example, it is not surprising, though perhaps immodest, that I would be interested in regularly receiving reprints of all subsequent papers which cite this one. This service would systematize a practice common among many authors who send reprints to other scientists they have cited. A decided advantage here, which is inherent to the Citation Index, is that one would become aware of. segments of papers which might never be indexed otherwise. Further, these papers might appear in journals one could hope to cover in his regular. It would, in effect, be a scientific clipping service. The Citation Index could thereby help resolve what Oppenheimer has said is : "The problem of a coherent civilization is the problem of living with ignorance and not being frustrated by it. so that you find ocasionally a man who knows, two, things, and that intersection may be a great event in the history of ideas. Occasionally, a man may think that something is relevant or exciting whic no one before thought concerned him professionally." (4)* The Citation Index would also achieve "An encyclopedic integration of scientific statements which is the maximum we can achieve." (5) "The new Encyclopedia so aims to integrate the scientific disciplines, to unify them, so to dovetail them together, that advances in one will bring about advances in the other."(6)

1. back to text  V. V. Serpinsky, "Abstracts Journal Chemistry of the Acad. Sci., USSR" International Congress on Doc. of App. Chem., London, Nov. 1955.

2.  back to text  "Breaking the Subject Index Barrier — Citation Index for Chemical Patents." Paper presented before the American Chemical Society, September 1955.

3.  back to text  J. D. Bernal, Royal Society Scientific Information Conference, London, The Society, 1948.

4.  back to text  J. R. Oppenheimer, Reprint of interview given to. E. R. Murrow, January 4, 1955.

5.  back to text  0. Neurath, International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, Univ. Chicago, 1938.p. 20.

6.  back to text  ibid, p.24

For a more complete discussion of the Citation Index the reader is referred to:

  • E. Garfield, Citation Index for Science, Science 122:108-11, (1955.)
  • W. C. Adair, Citation Indexes for Science Amer. Doc. 6:31 (1955.)
  • U. Schoenbach Science 123:61-2, (1956.)
  • * I am indebted to Dr. Robert Feinstein for calling this quotation to my attention.