Strategies for Open and Permanent Access to Scientific Information in Latin America: Focus on Health and Environmental Information for Sustainable Development

Citation indexing systems and the future of scientific publications in Latin America

Clemente Forero-Pineda

1. When Eugene Garfield conceived citation indexing, he had several principles and a utopia of scientific communication in mind.
    a. Principles
    b. Utopia

2. While the principles of scientific communication that he postulated did consolidate in more than half a century, his utopian thinking is far from being realized.
    a. International access has greatly improved, in many respects.
    b. Nonetheless, language barriers are a problem, especially in the selection of significant scientific results, and of topics of relevance e.g. in health.

3. The new possibilities of measurement in science have transformed scientific culture. Scientific literature is a representation of science; in turn, citations and citation counting are a representation of scientific literature. The measurement has transformed criteria for the financing of science worldwide. A culture of scientific citations and a cult of scientific citations have developed.

4. Citation indexes today.

5. In the case of Latin American science, this has had a profound impact. Two main consequences:
    a. A division of scientific communities in two subcommunities in each field and country: one sub-community is committed almost     exclusively to ISI journal publication; the other is oriented towards locally relevant research topics, local audiences, impact on local public     policies and local industries. An important fraction of scientists attempt to do both. Data is presented.
    b. Insufficient representation of local journals in international citation indexes. Data.

6. A prospective exercise.
    a. New trends in scientific communication
        i. Is Bradford's law (significant scientific results are published in a small fraction of scientific journals) stronger or weaker today?
        ii. Is the need for new knowledge globalizing or becoming more local?
        iii. May industrial countries progressively need more knowledge coming from developing countries?
        iv. Are social sciences in developing countries going through a process of balkanization?
        v. New citation indexing systems have appeared: Scielo (with citation indicators), Scopus, Psychinfo.
    b. Desiderata for a global system of scientific communication
        i. Selectivity
        ii. Disciplinary comprehensiveness
        iii. Overcoming topic divide
        iv. Relevance rankings relative to the interests of the searcher, perhaps through menus of DBs to include in citation counts.
        v. Open access.
    c. Six scenarios
        i. Vegetative prolongation of the present scenario.
        ii. Babel I: each country implements national citation and citation count systems in local language.
        iii. Babel II: citation systems by language.
        iv. A centralized system around ISI Thompson. All language systems and national indexation services become integrated, after a         selection process, into ISI.
        v. A cold war confrontation between ISI and Scopus. Scopus would start publishing indicators, and some regional or disciplinary         systems would survive with the help of national or international subsidies.
        vi. An interconnected Federation of all or most language or disciplinary oriented citation indexing systems.
    d. Viability of these scenarios.

  • The Global Alliance for Enhancing Access to and Application of Scientific Data in Developing Countries, of the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development, UN G@ID
  • U.S. National Committee for CODATA
  • Brazilian National Committee for CODATA.
  • CODATA Task Group on Preservation of and Access to Scientific and Technical Data in Developing Countries