An interview with Dr Eugene Garfield


Publication: Inform - by the Institute of Information Scientists
#200, p.5-6, December 1997

This year sees the 40th anniversary of the Institute of Scientific Information, well known initially for Science Citation Index and Current Contents, and now offering a wide range of electronic and print products containing full text as well as citations.

Founder, and now Chairman Emeritus, of ISI is Dr Eugene Garfield. He is an Honorary Fellow of the IIS. Dr Garfield has been a fluent and prolific communicator, producing key papers in the area of bibliometrics, and thought-provoking short essays in Current Contents and The Scientist.

The Inform Editor carried out a short email interview with Dr Garfield. He will be present at the Online Information conference in London this month, so you may get a chance to hear him or speak to him there.

Q: Do you (particularly as originator of The Scientist) think that web sites will continue to provide as much free information as at present?
A: Since the information provided is not always 'free' the question needs to be subdivided. Do I think that advertisers will support web sites? Of course. Do I think publishers will want to charge for their material? Of course. Will publications like The Scientist continue to be offered free of charge? Yes, as long as their paid printed and controlled circulation supports the maintenance of the print and electronic editions.
However, there will also be fully paid electronic versions as e.g. the Wall Street Journal. It is clear that bundling is going to be a dominant method. In other words I subscribe to the print version of the New York times, so they let me have the electronic version free. Science charges extra for the electronic access even though I pay for membership.
Many non-profit organisations will provide free services to the public since it would be unseemly for them to try to charge, for example, for advice on how to find the right cancer physician, or whatever.

Q: Do you think that the growth of networked articles will have a significant effect on the study of the use of documents?
A: I don't think there can be any doubt about this. We already look at the statistics gathered for each issue of The Scientist, the fortnightly newspaper that I publish. We know which are the most popular sections and stories we publish. All of this is similar to reader studies that estimate use by various
measures. Citation studies provide a similar but different insight since what readers use may not be reflected in what they cite and vice versa. Much of what scholars cite is in their personal files or databases.

Q: Data showing 'hit' rates for electronic articles is interesting: but might commercial publishers be unwilling to reveal it?
A: It is not impossible that eventually librarians and users would become aware of how much is cited very little and also read very little. For the publisher it is a calculated risk, but we at The Scientist do not keep the statistics a secret. Eventually there will be the equivalent of audit bureaux to tell librarians how much use is made of the material they acquire. This is similar to the audit bureaux used by advertisers to judge the quality of a magazines readership etc.

Q: How many volumes of Essays of an Information Scientist are there now, and have you an intention to publish them on the Web?
A: I wish that all questions were that easy. There are fifteen volumes of my essays printed and available. The whole is $300 plus postage and individual volumes are $35. They are available from ISI in Philadelphia. The complete contents pages are available on my personal web site and can be searched with a browser. And yes, it is my intention to put all my essays up on my web site but it will take a little time to convert them from print. That is one reason I am seeking a bibliographic assistant. The conversion job is never as simple as Adobe and others would have you believe, but it is certainly doable. We've already convened files of The Scientist back to 1989 and will also put these on the Web site once we finish convening the more recent files to HTML.

Q: Do you still go windsurfing?
A: Last Sunday I was visiting relatives in Miami Beach and had a chance to do a little wind surfing and also teach the children of my best friends. It is a great sport.