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Eugene Garfield Launches HistCite
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Posted On October 29, 2007
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After years of development, Eugene Garfield officially launched his algorithmic historiography software product, HistCite, on Oct. 15. Free 30-day trials are available to anyone interested in testing the product. HistCite was developed as a tool to help users work with large data sets from Thomson Scientific's ISI Web of Science (WOS). "HistCite gives users easy methods for identifying core literature from Web of Science, by marking literature in the database and moving it into the software for analysis," Garfield explained.

Since Garfield created the first citation database, Science Citation Index, in 1961, citation indexes have become a multimillion dollar segment of the database industry. Garfield has been a leader in the development of bibliometrics—using statistically based analysis of publishing and citation information to study relationships and spread of ideas or works over time.

A Growing Market for Citation Data

Traditionally, citation indexes have been used in competitive assessments and standard bibliographic research. In the past 15 years, however, citation data has become a standard qualitative measure in academe—for faculty tenure, ranking institutions, and departments—and is increasingly used by foundations and government agencies in funding decisions and institutional rankings. With increasing pressure on the research community to show research value and compete for dwindling sources of funding, citations are seen as evidence of impact, quality, and importance—and the more citations, the better.

This has led to the incredible growth of citation resources: from Google Scholar, CiteSeer, and other free Web-based systems to Elsevier's Scopus database—as well as the growing number of scholarly databases that are now including cited reference information. This growth in citation sources has exacerbated the need for tools to help collect, manage, and manipulate citations.

Researchers often use statistical packages, such as SPSS, Excel, and other spreadsheets, relational databases like Access, or other products to manipulate citation data. However, none of these programs have the needed analytical tools programmed into their software. HistCite has been designed to fill this gap.

HistCite Automates Citation Analysis

"HistCite goes back to an idea that I had 40 years ago in terms of visualizing and mapping the relationships to citation data," Garfield notes, providing key benefits to power users of WOS data. The number of WOS records that can be analyzed in HistCite is dependent only on the size of the free memory available on your computer—not the WOS limit of 500 records per download.

After conducting a search in WOS, marked records are imported into HistCite, allowing you to perform analyses that give you an organized view of the records you have identified. Output options include maps, graphs, or spreadsheet-type lists of information.  If you need to determine the most important paper, or most prolific or highly cited authors or journals, HistCite is designed to simplify the process by providing needed analytical tools at the touch of a button. For example, author searches can be analyzed by countries or institutions, most prolific or highly cited authors. Researchers can study various aspects of groups of papers—such as mean or median citation rates of papers, the number of authors per paper, etc. You can create timelines of authors' publications, graph publication dates of papers, tabulate the frequency of words in article titles, map co-author or citation relationships, etc.

Although the product works automatically with WOS records, you are able to manually add other records to HistCite. The company plans to incorporate tools for automatically downloading records from other bibliographic databases in future versions of HistCite.

From Long-Term Beta Testing to a Free Trial

First demonstrated at the University of Pittsburgh in 2001, Garfield worked with about 100 beta testers over the past 6 years, refining the software prior to its official launch. The software has already been used in various studies published in peer-reviewed journals, although no reviews of the software itself have yet been published (see www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/algorithmichistoriographyhistcite.html for examples of scholarly applications of HistCite).

Although still serving as Thomson Scientific's chairman emeritus, Garfield has created the company HistCite Software LLC to handle the new business. Garfield serves as the company's founder and president. Alexander Grimwade of AMG Science Publishing is the chief operating officer. The company's mission, according to its Web site, includes the goal of making "a major contribution to the pursuit of knowledge … [by offering] products [that] are designed to allow authors to work quickly, without drudgery, and with minimum help from support staff."

In its initial release, HistCite works only on the Microsoft Windows platform and uses the Web browser as the user interface. HistCite was optimized for Internet Explorer versions 6 and 7; however, some testing has also been done with Firefox and Opera.

Prices begin at $199 for licensing a single copy. Prices are scaled depending on the number of copies needed. Buying from 5 to 9 copies brings a 15 percent discount, 10 to 24 copies carries a 25 percent discount, etc. The price includes updates and reversions for that year. "If a campus or organization wanted to install the software on a larger number of computers," Grimwade noted, "we will negotiate larger discounts."

"After one year, you will no longer get free upgrades, and [you] will have to purchase upgrade insurance for another year," Grimwade explained. "However, the software will not inactivate itself after a year. The upgrade insurance prices are listed on the Web site—for a single user the price is $89."

The company's Web page (www.histcite.com) provides more information on HistCite as well as links to the free, 30-day trial of the product. You can also contact the company at HistCite Software LLC, P.O. Box 2423, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004; phone: (484) 270-8471.


Nancy K. Herther is American studies, anthropology, Asian American studies, and sociology librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries, Twin Cities campus.

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