At this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, Thomson Reuters announced a new product, Book Citation Index, to add to its suite of citation indexes. To get the story behind this announcement, NewsBreaks went to the company’s vice president for editorial development and publisher relations, James Testa.
Testa joined Thomson Reuters (then ISI) in 1983. From 1983 through 1996 he managed the publisher relations department and was directly responsible for building and maintaining working relations with the more than 3,000 international scholarly publishers whose journals are indexed by Thomson Reuters. In 2007, he became responsible for both editorial development and publisher relations.
What exactly is the Book Citation Index and what is the product intended to provide for users?
With Book Citation Index, we are rounding out our citation coverage of core research literature. We have what we believe are the top tier regional and international journals in the Web of Science (WoS) citation indexes. The selection criteria for those indexes are well-known. We also have the Conference Proceedings, which provides comprehensive coverage of the conference literature back to the early 1990s, with cited references going back to 1999.
The other major format is the world of books. We know that they are extremely important in the social sciences and the humanities. But they are also important in the sciences. Social scientists use them heavily and cite them heavily. We want to make sure that we best serve that community by complementing the other two forms of publications—serials and proceedings—in the book arena as well. That’s our primary goal.
You announced the product at the Frankfurt Book Fair a few weeks ago. When will the product be ready for release?
We are currently looking at a product launch in the second quarter 2011. We’ve been working at this for a couple of years now.
How have you been handling the product development—beta testing, working with individuals? Has this been largely an internal development?
Certainly we’ve used focus groups and other types of market research and development. My major area has been working with major publishers and university presses to inform them of our efforts and working out arrangements to get their books into the index. We’ve had a very positive response.
How large will the index be at the time of the launch?
At launch, there will be about 25,000 volumes in the database. Book Citation Index will include publications from major publishers, university presses, and other major book sources. We would like to see all of the major publishers participating.
Right now, we are accepting books in the sciences published from 2005 to the present. In the social sciences and humanities, [we accept] anything with a copyright date of 2003 to the present. It’s a good question of how far back we might go. We have a good deal of book citation data in the WoS citation indexes now. Some of this goes back to the late 1950s and we would like to include as much of this retrospective material as possible in the Book Citation Index. We have about 175 book series now in WoS journal databases.
How are you defining a 'book' for the purpose of the index?
We are only looking at scholarly books with full research articles with references, or they could be reviews as well. We will not be including undergraduate textbooks, atlases, compendia, reference books, manuals, study guides, consumer health guides, and things like that. Also we will not include books that only include abstracts. Also, it’s not a journal or a proceeding. Any information professional knows what that means. It has to be a scholarly book with original research or new material.
What are the selection criteria? Will the system be a parallel or match for the expectations with the other citation indexes in WoS?
In terms of publishing standards, and editorial content—yes, this is a clear parallel with what we look for in journals and other works for WoS citation indexes. In terms of citation analysis, it’s been true in terms of the book series that we’ve put into WoS to date. We’ve built up a foundation that we can work with for really focused citation analysis of books going forward.
Comprehensiveness of the literature will be a more complex issue with books than journals. With books you don’t have the regular pattern of publication and publishers are more individualistic in terms of their mission and work. So things are a bit more chaotic. Are you vetting books as they come in just as publishers are selecting what they want to send you?
Basically, yes. Publishers know what we are interested in. It reminds me of what Gene Garfield did when he started the citation indexes in the early 1960s. He threw out a wide net to publishers that he knew were publishing the most important research and he got the foundation of the database with that. We aren’t doing the exact same thing, but we’ve been working for many months on relationships with publishers and we have made it clear to them what our standards are for subject specificity, for publishing standards, scholarly content and fully referenced articles, fully identified authors, and so on. Publishers are used to these concepts from their work in publishing scholarly series.
We are also interested in stand-alone, free-standing monographs—books in series and books not in series. A higher percentage of the books that we’ve selected so far have been from series.
Do you feel that you are getting the numbers of publishers that you would expect on-board now?
I don’t have an exact number of publishers that I can give you right now. Certainly we have been working for many months under confidentiality, non-disclosure, with publishers—up until the announcement at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Now that it is public, we are openly inviting any and all scholarly publishers to submit books—in both print and electronic [formats]. In the last 6-8 months, we have made a special effort with university publishers—which do an excellent job publishing in the social sciences and humanities—small presses, and so on.
There are so many different possible ways in which authors may cite or attribute precedence in books—where the standards aren’t as tight as in journals. Has this been a problem so far?
No problem, we deal with this in the journal world as well. It takes an effort, but we deal with both.
Are you including every citation, every notation, or footnote reference?
We include every citation in every book that fits our selection criteria. We are being comprehensive.
Are you focused on the publishing community or focusing more on specific discipline areas for coverage now?
We are working with publishers to be comprehensive of what is being produced. The size of the index across the disciplines is really an organic thing and we respond to what is being produced. I think we are seeing that the sciences are about 45% and the social science and humanities are about 55% of the Book Citation Index as it stands today. There’s just that much more being published in book form in the social sciences and humanities. The behavioral and social sciences are the largest publishing area at this point.
How will the Book Citation Index be integrated into WoS?
WoS is one of the files in Web of Knowledge. Under WoS you have the SSCI, SCI, and A&H as separate indexes; and you can get the two separate editions of the Conference Proceedings as well—Science and Social Sciences & Humanities for purchase. Similarly, the Book Citation Index will be offered also as two separate editions: One will be the Sciences and one will be the Social Sciences & Humanities. It will be possible to search across all of the formats in one federated search as well.
Will this impact the Journal Citation Reports database?
JCR won’t be affected by this. If a journal is cited by a book, that information will be visible in Web of Science. However, citations from books will not be integrated into the JCR.
What about the University Science Indicators?
Of course, everything that we index is integrated into any indicator product that we are creating.
You enter a crowded marketplace: Google Scholar, Google Books, Scopus, the Open Access movement. Why did Thomson Reuters enter this marketplace now?
We want to make sure that researchers and scholars have the opportunity to search across all of the major formats. What we can offer, as with our other citation indexing products, is a strict and consistent standardization of elements and impeccable bibliographic control. When we represent a book and a citation to that book, it will be a stable bibliographic entity—just as it is as for the proceedings and journal literature coverage in the other citation indexes. Just as it is our commitment to bring you all of the most important books for research and discovery and for any other sort of evaluative or other activity that universities and other institutions might be involved with.
I think it is important to remember that when you are dealing with an information universe that is as complex and vast as the one that we are in, bibliographic control is the ‘last stand’ for some sort of order. This is what we hope to bring forward—order and quality.
Thomson Reuters is now moving into a marketing phase, with information releases scheduled at upcoming library and information shows and conferences as well as PR over the web and in professional publications.