Innovation Is Not Reheated Pizza. Citation Analysis Is Still Fresh Pizza.

April 22, 2016

Do you remember Eugene Garfield? He was the go to person in the field of citation analysis. The jargon attached to his figuring out how to identify who cited what journal article snagged old school jargon like bibliometrics. Dr. Garfield founded the Institute for Scientific Information. He sold ISI to Thomson (now Thomson Reuters) in 1992. I mention this because this write up explains an “innovation” which strikes me as recycled Garfield.


Navigate to “Who’s Hot in Academia? Semantic Scholar Dives More Deeply into the Data.” The write up explains:

If you’re in the “publish-or-perish” game, get ready to find out how you score in acceleration and velocity. Get ready to find out who influences your work, and whom you influence, all with the click of a mouse. “We give you the tools to slice and dice to figure out what you want,” said Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for AI, a.k.a. AI2.

My recollection is that there were a number of information professionals who could provide these type of data to me decades ago. Let’s see if I can recall some of the folks who could wrangle these types of outputs from the pre-Cambridge Scientific Abstracts version of Dialog:

  • Marydee Ojala, former information wrangler at the Bank of America and now editor of Online
  • Barbara Quint, founder of Searcher and a darned good online expert
  • Riva Basch, who lived a short distance from me in Berkeley, California, when I did my time in Sillycon Valley
  • Ann Mintz, former information wrangler at Forbes before the content marketing kicked in
  • Ruth Pagell, once at the Wharton Library and then head of the business library at Emory University.

And there were others.

The system described in the write up makes certain types of queries easier. That’s great, but it is hardly the breathless revolution which caught the attention of the article.

In my experience, it takes a sharp online specialist to ask the correct question and then determine if the outputs are on the money. Easier does not translate directly into accurate outputs. Is the set of journals representative for a particular field; for example, thorium reactor technology. What about patent documents? What about those crazy PDF versions of pre-publication research?

I know my viewpoint shocks the mobile device generation. Try to look beyond software that does the thinking for the user. Ignoring who did what, how, when, and why puts some folks in a disadvantaged viewshed. (Don’t recognize the terms. Well, look it up. It’s just a click away, right?) And, recognize that today’s innovations are often little more than warmed over pizza. The user experience I have had with reheated pizza is that it is often horrible.

Stephen E Arnold, April 22, 2016


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