Interview with two Thomson executives on the citation indexes

When you work on a nearly daily basis with the products of Thomson ISI and have developed a love and hate relationship with the databases you sieve all information on these products you can find. It was therefore a welcome interview with Keith MacGregor, executive VP of Thomson’s academic and government strategic business unit, and James Testa, senior director, editorial development and publisher relations for Thomson that Nancy K. Herther published in the last issue of the Searcher (not free on-line).

The interview itself was rather too nice, the interviewer was perhaps too polite to raise really sensitive subjects. The parting thoughts listed by Herther at the end of the interview were the most interesting points of the whole article. A real pity that the two executives did not have a change to formulate their opinions on those points. In addition to the parting thoughts listed by Herther I would have loved to hear the opinion of these two gentleman on the stubborn ISI/Thomson Scientific policy not to change anything of the data collected in WoS. This results in all kind of inconsistencies in journal and author names when these are subject of study for a longer time period. I have the feeling that they try and correct some of the data in the software environment, but when you have to deal with the output as an analyst or collection development librarian, you end up with a load of data inconsistencies.

Only a few days ago I had to look into the citedness of T.B. van Wimersma Greidanus who published between 1969 and 1996. Impressive publication list, but really difficult to collect all those 300+ references from the cited ref search. For journal titles I have blogged already on this subject before and even before.

According to a few, Thomson is opening up a bit. However Herther wrote “I read a great deal of the published criticisms of citation data used for ranking individuals and institutions. I was therefore surprised at the absence of Thomson Scientific’s voice in many of these debates”. Which confirms my impression. But then again, perhaps times they are a-changin’.

Herther, N. K. (2007). Thomson Scientific and the citation indexes : an interview with Keith MacGregor and James Testa. Searcher 15(10): 8-17.