Eugene Garfield (1925-2017) occupies a prominent place in academia for shaping the way research was assessed globally. The pioneer in the field of citation analytics passed away on 26 February, 2017, at the age of 91.
Garfield’s remarkable career began at Columbia University in New York City where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, after which he completed his PhD in linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1955, he founded the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) where he developed the Science Citation Index (SCI), his biggest contribution to citation analysis. His formulation of the Journal Impact Factor (JIF/IF) took academia by storm. C. Sean Burns, an assistant professor of information science at the University of Kentucky, said, “Before [ISI’s] Web of Science, scientists and researchers had very inefficient methods for finding and tracing other scientific documents. The citation database was not just an intellectual achievement, but also an engineering achievement.”
From being a scale to measure a journal’s reach, impact factor quickly became a yardstick to measure the worth of researchers and their publications. According to David Pendlebury, an analyst at Clarivate Analytics who worked with Garfield for more than 30 years, Garfield openly spoke against the misuse of impact factor. However, his influence on modern science is unparalleled. Ivan Oransky, cofounder of Retraction Watch, stated, “Regardless of what you think about the impact factor, his contribution to helping scientists in academia think about metrics […] that field basically wouldn’t exist without him.” In 1992, Thomson Reuters acquired the ISI and its citation index, and since 2016 both are being maintained and run by Clarivate Analytics. The impact factor “continues to serve as a reliable and efficient guide to the sprawling world of research,” said Clarivate Analytics.
Although he is best known for being the founding father of SCI, Garfield has some other notable achievements to his credit. He founded The Scientist in 1986, which is a renowned news magazine for researchers. Vitek Tracz, the publisher of Faculty of 1000 and a former co-owner of The Scientist said, “He was a genius of a very special type. Not only because he had this incredible imagination and brain, but he had incredible tenacity and courage.” Survived by his wife Meher, kids, granddaughters, and great-grandchildren, Garfield has left his mark on science and generations of academicians will look up to his work.