Re: Note from Gene Garfield On: English Language, Scientific Journals, and Thompson-Reuters ISI Coverage

From: (wrong string) élčne.Bosc <>
Date: Sun, 8 Feb 2009 09:05:32 +0100

Gene Garfield wrote :
"Now in the era of electronic publication I would encourage those who
are able to publish bilingually to do so since there is usually
enough space on the web for such bilingual postings"

I totally agree with this suggestion. Here is my recent story:
Two months ago, I archived in a French archive, an article ( 25
pages) published in French in a French periodical. Looking recently
at the number of downloads, I was very satisfied of its impact
refering to the number of supposed readers. But at the same time, I
was very surprised to see that a conference paper written in English
(that was in fact, something like an English summary of 5 pages of my
French article ) archived in the same archive only 3 weeks ago,
had already a very important number of dowloads and will probably
over pass the French article.
Writing again in English a long article is difficult and takes too
much time for the majority of authors in the world (specially
in Human and Social Sciences) but a long abstract of several pages in
English is feasable and would bring to the author the benefit of
reaching more readers .
Hélčne Bosc
      ----- Original Message -----
From: Stevan Harnad
Sent: Sunday, February 08, 2009 1:50 AM
Subject: Note from Gene Garfield On: English Language,
Scientific Journals, and Thompson-Reuters ISI Coverage

Posted with permission. -- SH
            GENE GARFIELD:


      Dear Stevan: Do you happen to know Charles
      Durand? At one point he appears to have been
      at the Univ of Sherbrooke in Quebec, but I
      have not been able to locate his email or
      other address or phone? 

      In a recent posting he attributed a statement
      to me that was not true.
      Here is the message I tried to send him but
      it was returned as undeliverable.

      Eugene Garfield, PhD. email:  garfield --
      home page:
      Tel: 215-243-2205 Fax 215-387-1266
      Chairman Emeritus, ISI
      3501 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA
      President, The Scientist
      400 Market Street, Suite 1250, Philadelphia,
      PA 19106-2501
      Past President, American Society for
      Information Science and
      Technology (ASIS&T)

      In a paper (doi: 10.2167/cilp085.0)  you
      posted on the www you claim that I said

                 "If It's Not in English, It's Not
      Worth Reading"

      You refer to a 1998 paper of mine, but there
      is nothing in that paper about this topic.

      Furthermore, I never said or believed what
      you attribute to me. Please inform me exactly
      where you obtained this misquotation.
      This is a complete distortion of what I have
      said about the use of English as the lingua
      franca of science.  I am fully sympathetic
      with desires of Francophones to promote the
      use of the French language in daily life. Now
      in the era of electronic publication I would
      encourage those who are able to publish
      bilingually to do so since there is usually
      enough space on the web for such bilingual

      I became aware of your views just today  from
      a posting at:




Hi Gene,


The issue of the posting is not so much language of
publication (though it does discuss that too) but the
language of notices on walls in Francophone universities
in Quebec: Sometimes they are in unilingual English --
which is regrettable, but it is sometimes unavoidable, if
the source of the notice is an American university that
does not produce French versions. This is something that
is felt less acutely in France, where the language is
strong and safe, than in Quebec, where its survival may
be at risk. (There is, however, little excuse for notices
produced by the Francophone University itself being in
unilingual English. That has a note of laziness and
inconsiderateness, if not of contempt. I think you might
be able to understand that plaint.)


I am sure you never wrote anything like what was quoted
above. That's typical hyperbolic distortion on 2nd hand
repetition. The issue was probably about how ISI selects
journals for coverage. ISI criteria are probably
objective ones, based on readership, regularity, maybe
citations, and it may simply be a demographic fact that
it was mostly English-language journals that met those
criteria at that time. Since then, coverage is cheaper
and broader because of the online medium, but it's
probably still true that most of the "core" journals in
most(scientific) fields are in English.


Those statistics, not of ISI's creation, are of course a
far cry from the distorted quote above.


If you give me permission, I could post our exchange on
AmSci, to set the record straight.


The essence seems to be:


      (1) Charles Durand repeated a common
      misinterpretation and misquotation of your
      view and writings.
      (2) You had written that ISI had to base
      coverage on objective criteria on journal
      usage and reliability, as it could not index
      them all.
      (3) In most fields, this meant that a
      majority of the journals covered, especially
      the "core" journals, were English-language
      (4) This was not a value judgment but a
      demographic fact.
      (5) Lately, the online medium has made it
      possible to widen ISI coverage.
      (6) But it still remains a demographic fact
      that in most fields, especially science, the
      "core" journals are in English.


Best wishes,



Received on Sun Feb 08 2009 - 11:36:20 GMT

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