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Chapter 1. Introduction to Bibliometrics and Current Data Sources

Laura Bredahl


The term bibliometrics is widely attributed to Alan Pritchard from his 1969 paper titled “Statistical Bibliography or Bibliometrics” (Andrés 2009; Gingras 2016; Pritchard 1969). However, before the term was coined, bibliometrics was already emerging as a viable scientific discipline in the 1960s, in large part due to the foundation of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) led by Eugene Garfield and the subsequent development of the Science Citation Index (SCI; Mokhnacheva and Tsvetkova 2020). The intention in creating the SCI was to “eliminate the uncritical citation of fraudulent, incomplete, or obsolete data by making [scholars] aware of criticisms of earlier papers” (Garfield 1955). Later, the ISI recognized the power of the data available in the SCI for creating networks among journals and their citations and developed what is now the widely used (and disputed) Journal Impact Factor (JIF), the average citations per publication. The JIF rose in popularity at Garfield’s suggestion that it would be helpful to librarians for managing library collections. However, less discussed in the literature are Garfield’s other suggested applications, which include use by individual researchers for selecting reading lists, by editors for evaluating journal performance, and in the study of science policy and research evaluation (Garfield 1972). Although there have been mounting critiques on the limitations of the JIF, many of these described applications remain core to bibliometrics more broadly, even though the JIF may not be the metric of choice.

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