Last month, the International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics (ISSI) convened in Wuhan, China for the International Conference on Scientometrics and Informetrics (ISSI2017). This biennial event provides the community with the opportunity to sustain and create new relationships, celebrate the accomplishments of our scholars, and learn about the latest research in the field.

It was an unforgettable week.

The speeches on the opening day acknowledged the shoulders of giants on which our community stands. Robert Merton was mentioned here and throughout the conference, emphasizing our historical and contemporary connection to sociology of science. Clarivate Analytics provided a video that elegantly summarized the contributions of Eugene Garfield, who brought us the tools necessary to allow bibliometrics to develop and flourish. The works of previous Price award winners such as Henry Small and Henk Moed were also noted in their contributions to the empirical foundations of the field.

The second half of the opening day focused on workshops, including the traditional doctoral forum. I was absolutely thrilled by the dozens of students who attended the doctoral forum: 16 students--from 12 institutions located in six different countries--presented their novel and innovative work. These students were mentored by six senior scholars in the field, each hailing from a different country. The mentors commented on the breadth of the research inquiry and the passion of the students. It is clear that the field has a promising and international future.


The other two workshops on the opening day spoke to some of the most critical issues in our field. The workshop on computational linguistics and bibliometrics demonstrates the growing alignment between these fields and scientometrics and the opportunities that full-text analysis brings to answering some of the most important questions in science of science. For decades, our community has been searching for better answers to understand the context of citations. As Weiping Yue implied in her opening plenary, data is the easy part, context is difficult. The growing research area of citation context analysis is truly a transformative area for our research field and one that is likely to produce significant innovations in the coming years.

The second workshop focused on reproducibility, arguing for openness in data, code, and education. This is a critical area of conversation. In scientometrics, reproducibility is greatly hindered by the corporate control of our research datasets. We should advocate strongly for initiatives—such as the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC)—that provide high quality and freely available data on science. At present, research is concentrated in the centers that can afford bibliometric databases. The issue at stake here is one of both equity and methodological integrity—we must ensure that all members of the community are able to participate in and validate the research in the field.

The conference presentations demonstrated the continued breadth of the Society—covering theory, methods, applications, indicators, policy, and ethics. Altmetrics remained a prominent area, but with several innovations. For example, Rodrigo Costas from CWTS demonstrated innovative ways of bridging altmetric and bibliometric data for a more nuanced analysis at the individual level. At the paper level, Fei Shu demonstrated the relationship between visibility on Twitter and citations, showing that Chinese papers that are tweeted have higher citations. Many other sessions emphasized the importance of openness for science.

Identifying and correcting for biases was another major theme that permeated throughout the sessions. Paul Donner noted the effect of publication month on citation impact and discussed appropriate ways to correct for it. Jens Peter Anderson examined gender biases between indicators based on Web of Science and Scopus. Several other presentations noted the gross inequalities in coverage by language and country in our standard datasets. Indicators are pervasively used in decision-making contexts for science and higher education. I am therefore strongly relieved to find that the community is working on creative solutions to account for biases of many flavors.

Early indicators were built in a time when research teams were smaller, more local, and more mono-disciplinary. The sessions at ISSI2017 emphasized the challenges that arise when dealing with science that is now highly collaborative, international, and interdisciplinary. Furthermore, indicators are not just publication-based, but must account for other modes of production—such as patenting—and other indicators of impact. It is clear that the community must continue to find methodological improvements to account for the complexity of the contemporary scientific ecosystem. This includes looking not only at the accumulation of scientific objects in isolation, but understanding the scientists who produce them.

We took a moment to acknowledge some of the scholars in our own field, through three of the most prestigious awards in our field—acknowledging outstanding work at every stage of the lifecycle of a scholar. Philippe Mongeon was awarded the Eugene Garfield Dissertation Award for his creative and important work on paper-patent pairs. Jesper Schneider—winner of the ISSI Paper of the Year award—presented a compelling address on the myths and misapplications of significance testing. Derek de Solla Price awardee Judit Bar-Ilan, a core member of our community for many years, provided a history of her work and provided advice to young scholars.

I, too, provided some advice in my closing summary of the conference.

The object of our study is science. However, we cannot assume that because we are quantitative, we are value-neutral. In fact, the creations of our field are often used to construct value in science. We must acknowledge that the decisions we make in our field have consequences for the scientific system—indicators are often used to decide who gets to make science, whose voices are heard and valued, and what topics are studied. We must take great care, therefore, to ensure that we are a positive force in science and that the output of our field serves to advance, rather than to destroy the object of our study. We must continue to call out indicators that are poorly constructed or misapplied. We must continue to create standards for data collection and analysis that mitigate biases. And above all, we must continue to strive for a deeper understanding of the structure of science.

ISSI is not alone is this endeavor. In fact, there are several meetings that occur throughout the year, many of which happen simultaneously and tend to fragment our community. It is therefore with great pleasure that I announce our partnership with STI-ENID for the ISSI2019 conference in Rome. I am confident that in bringing together these two vibrant communities we will have more informed and more innovative conversation on the future of science. I look forward to seeing you all in Rome!

You can view the pictures taken at the conference here.

About the author

Cassidy R. Sugimoto

Cassidy Sugimoto is Professor at the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University Bloomington. She researches within the domain of scholarly communication and scientometrics, examining the formal and informal ways in which knowledge producers consume and disseminate scholarship. She has edited and co-edited four books and has published numerous journal articles on this topic. Her work has been presented at numerous conferences and has received research funding from the US National Science Foundation, Institute for Museum and Library Services, and the Sloan Foundation, among other agencies. Cassidy is actively involved in teaching and service and has been rewarded in these areas with an Indiana University Trustees Teaching award (2014) and a national service award from the Association for Information Science and Technology (2009). She served as the President of the faculty at Indiana University in 2015-2016 and is currently serving as President of the International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics. Cassidy has an undergraduate degree in music performance, an M.S. in library science, and a Ph.D. in information and library science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

comments powered by Disqus

Join our society

Become a member         Subscribe to our mailing list