Sunday, May 5, 2013

Web of Science Botches Citation, Already Reported

I was excited when I discovered that the Institute for Scientific Information's bibliographic database Web of Science (WoS) indexes the references for articles from the journal Renascence. I was getting my "Dialectic of American Humanism" article published in Renascence, and my "Dialectic" article cited my online paper Evidence of influences on John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces," including Geoffrey Chaucer. That meant that my Evidence paper would get a citation in WoS, albeit a self-reference.

In the world of libraries, the place of ISI's citation indexes looms large. Faculty tenure decisions sometimes hang on the number of citations the candidate's work has in ISI's indexes. Over the last decade the upstart database that also provides citation indexing has been Google Scholar. Until recently, ISI was almost the only game in town, but it now has serious competition, because Google Scholar is free, while ISI's indexes have historically been very expensive. ISI over the years made a point of indexing only the most respected journals in a discipline, while Google Scholar is much less discriminating. So normally, an author will have more citations in Google Scholar than in WoS. For example, my big article from 1999, First 20 Precision among World Wide Web Search Services (Search Engines), has 209 citations in Google Scholar, but only 60 in WoS (as of May 2, 2013). Just to give you a sense of how questionable the items indexed by Google Scholar are, I managed to get Google Scholar to index my Evidence paper (thank you Google Scholar), which MLA Bibliography or WoS would never do.

But in order for Google Scholar to index a journal, they insist that it be available for their indexing robot to spider electronically on the Web, organized in a specific way. Because Renascence is not electronically available on the Web according to their standards, it is not indexed by Google Scholar. So I found it very amusing that my Evidence paper would be in WoS's citation index before that citation was noted in Google Scholar.

Needless to say, I was then chagrined to discover that my "Dialectic" self-reference to Evidence was mangled by WoS. WoS failed to record me as author of Evidence, and its URL was also faulty. So users of the WoS index cannot discover who wrote Evidence of Influences or get to it to read it. As a villain on Bugs Bunny might say, "Curses, foiled again."

Fortunately, WoS has a comment link where one can report errors in their citations to the company. I have reported the error.

If there are any readers out there with regular access to WoS, please let me know if and when it gets fixed.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hirsch's Validity and My Amazon Review

In addition to my scholarly and near-scholarly writings on Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, I wrote an Amazon review of the book. You might reasonably ask, what is the difference between the other work and the review? Recently, I have been reading E.D. Hirsch's Validity in Interpretation. The answer according to Hirsch is the distinction between criticism and interpretation (page 8, and many other pages). Criticism evaluates the work and judges whether or not it is good and worth reading. Interpretation analyses how the text was constructed and what the author may have meant by what was written. One needs a bit of interpretation before one can evaluate the significance of the work (Hirsch page 209), but the two are separate. My Amazon review is a critical evaluation, while my Evidence of Influences and "Dialectic of American Humanism" are interpretations.

Added note: In my Amazon review, I state that I use a theory of physical comedy articulated by Rowan Atkinson in the documentary called "Laughing Matters," which was part of a series in 1992 called "Funny Business." In my review, I state that the relevant sections of "Laughing Matters" (parts 4 and 5) are on YouTube. As of February 16, 2013, I can no longer find part 4 on YouTube. The permanent link to part 5 is at Laughing Matters Part 5. Perhaps part 4 had copyrighted film clips as examples. You could try to get a copy of the documentary through Interlibrary Loan, but it is very rare. This WorldCat record Number 1 is to a DVD of the documentary, with several copies held in Holland and one copy held in the United States. This WorldCat record Number 2 has many copies of the VHS version of the documentary, but only in Australia. This WorldCat record Number 3 links you to a VHS copy held in Nevada. And, for those of you in Germany, this WorldCat record Number 4 links you to a DVD copy held at a German university library.