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A new document classification is creating confusion and drawing fire from the bibliometrics community. Confusion over the new “proceedings paper” designation in ISI’s Web of Science has many questioning whether the new classification will alter journal impact factors.

The fracas erupted on the sigmetrics listserv earlier this month under the heading “Silent Changes in WoS.”  Many have asked ISI to respond to the list.  So far, staff at ISI have remained silent.

Sigmetrics is a listserv for the Special Interest Group on Metrics sponsored by the American Society for Information Science & Technology.

Juan Gorraiz, at the University of Vienna, questions whether journal impact factors will change abruptly as a consequence.  Iain Craig, a citation specialist at Wiley-Blackwell, believes the effect of the changes on Impact Factors will be neutral.

However, the net effect of the change is not the point: those who use the WoS for bibliometric research were not happy that these changes went unannounced.

Loet Leydesdorff, a high-respected researcher in scientometrics claims that 5 of his older papers were converted from article to proceedings. “I have no idea why their status was changed,” he wrote.

Christina Pikas, a science librarian expresses that implications of the change are not straightforward:

I look at a paper in WoS and it’s got, say, 100 citations. When I list the citing papers, only like 80 are in the list. It turns out that the other 20 citations came from proceedings papers, I guess, and my institution does not subscribe to this proceedings citation thingy. So these are mystery citations…. Actually, if I understood this a little better, I’d probably say what the impact is: none or huge?

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Phil Davis

Phil Davis

Phil Davis is a publishing consultant specializing in the statistical analysis of citation, readership, publication and survey data. He has a Ph.D. in science communication from Cornell University (2010), extensive experience as a science librarian (1995-2006) and was trained as a life scientist. https://phil-davis.com/


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