Journal Article Impact II: How Many Citations?

Time to answer that question - how do you determine the number of times an article has been cited? Don't forget our rules of thumb from the previous post. Also, a lot of the information below is available here, so you can always find it.

I've chosen the following article for this demonstration:
Adams, M. D., et al. "The genome sequence of Drosophila melanogaster." Science 287, 2185-2195 (2000).

This is an important work and has had almost 14 years to acquire citations. Many databases list the number of times an article has been cited; just look up the article. (List is here.) Below are the counts from a variety of databases, as of 1/30/2014.

*So, what's with the asterisks? BIOSIS is a database on the Web of Science platform. The fine print told me that the 3002 citations BIOSIS lists are included in the 6077 Web of Science count.

No fair! The counts are all different! Since each database covers a slightly different set of journals, they each know part of the picture; an overlapping part of the picture. The very important journals like Science, Nature, and Cell are indexed by all of these databases.

So how many citations has this journal article really received? I don't know and I'm too lazy to do the work. To be sure, you'd have to export the citations from each database into your own database and run some sort of matching algorithm on them. Then you'd have a number that's probably very close to the actual citation count for this article. If you're OK with 'good enough', just average the numbers.

Next up will be altmetrics and how social media fits into this.

The History and Future of Libraries: “The wisdom of our ancestors”

What is a library? Is it a collection of books, a suite of digital resources, a space for studying? Where do our current ideas about libraries come from, and where will our new tools take us? Does the library have a future in our information-saturated digital environment?

These questions are at the heart of a spring 2014 undergraduate class, Library/Laboratory, in the Program for Museums & Society. But we know they have a much broader appeal. So, inspired by our very own Brody Learning Commons—designed in response to current student needs—a series of talks linked to the class will examine the past, present, and possible futures of the library. Each speaker in our series will spend an hour with the class, and then, in keeping with the spirit of a learning commons, we’ll open up the classroom to the community for a lecture and conversation. All talks are in the Macksey Room (M-level in the BLC), hours noted below, and are sponsored by the Sheridan Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center.

Please join us!

Tuesday, February 18, 4:30 pm

We’ll begin with the origins of the national library in the fourteenth-century court of the French king Charles V, who assembled a collection of several thousand texts in French—and yes, this was before the invention of printing with movable type! Many of the manuscripts in the royal library were beautifully illuminated, like this French translation of the Polycraticus of John of Salisbury, an important medieval treatise on politics, with a frontispiece portrait of the king himself immersed in a book.

Stephen Nichols, James M. Beall Professor Emeritus of French and Humanities, Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures: “The Library and Government Policy: Charles V Creates the First State Library.”

Tuesday, March 4, 5:30 pm

Moving forward a couple of centuries, we’ll land squarely in the era of hand-press printing—for a visit with one of its most imaginative patrons, Horace Walpole. Walpole, born into a modern eighteenth-century political family, preferred to investigate the past. With Strawberry Hill, the Gothic Revival mansion he built near London, he created a massive antiquarian monument and filled it with art, books, and ancient objects. He even started a private press in order to publish his own Gothic novel. His is the very model of a private gentleman’s library, a collection that is continuous with the space it inhabits.

Earle Havens, William Kurrelmeyer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of History: “The Antiquary in His Library: Horace Walpole, ‘Gothic Gloomth,’ and the Ambition of the 18th-Century Gentleman Collector.”

Stay tuned for more information about the final two talks in our series:

Tuesday, April 8, 4:30

Shannon Mattern, Associate Professor, School of Media Studies, The New School: “The Library as Emergent Infrastructure.”

Tuesday, April 22, 4:30

Kari Kraus, Associate Professor, College of Information Studies and Department of English, University of Maryland, College Park: “Bibliocircuitry and the Design of the Alien Everyday.”

Oh, and the quote in the title of this post? That comes from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: “Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors. The library connects us with the insight and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species.”

Special Collections After Dark Presents: Dirty Books & Longing Looks!

vdayGrab some smelling salts, reupholster those fainting couches, and get ready for a major attack of the vapors because it's once again time for Dirty Books and Longing Looks! Yes, the library's premiere venue for lessons in love, courtesy of our rare books collections, is once again here to make hearts flutter and monocles pop.

In addition to exploring the mysteries of the heart and learning about the murderous ways of baby-faced cupids, you can also make your very own vintage Valentine featuring images both saucy and sweet from Special Collections resources. It's also a great excuse for the prudish. "Did I see you at Dirty Books and Longing Looks last night," inquires a stern RA. "Why, yes. But I was only there to make my mother a Valentine. Isn't pretty," responds the clever freshman.

Want to attend? Of course you do! Then following all the blushing faces to the Special Collections Reading Room on Wednesday, February 12th from 6:30pm-8:30pm.

Ira Remsen, Professor of Chemistry

click any image to enlarge

Have you ever felt pressure to follow a career path favored by your parents, rather than studying what you really enjoy? Ira Remsen did both – but not at the same time. Born February 10, 1846, in New York City, of Dutch and Huguenot ancestry, Remsen was educated in public schools. He then attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he received the Doctor of Medicine in 1867.

Although briefly a practicing physician, he studied medicine only to please his parents. After satisfying this “obligation,” Remsen left for Munich to pursue his real interest: chemistry. He spent a year in Munich and then transferred to Göttingen, where he studied under the prominent chemist Rudolph Fittig and earned his doctorate in 1870. He then followed Fittig to Tübingen, where he was an assistant for two years.


Returning to the United States, he became professor of chemistry and physics at Williams College. He found Williams unsympathetic to scientific research, so he concentrated on teaching. He wrote Theoretical Chemistry, in which he reduced fundamental principles to a form simple enough for beginning students to understand. The book received immediate recognition, but, perhaps more important, it brought its author to the attention of Daniel Coit Gilman in 1876, who was searching for a candidate to occupy the chemistry chair.

Although just 30 years old, Remsen had made a reputation for himself, both as a researcher and as a teacher, despite the environment at Williams College. He jumped at the chance to equip and direct his own laboratory, and soon his lab became a center for chemical research, attracting graduate students who went on to become outstanding figures. His talent for teaching was such that it was said of him, “nobody ever understood the beginner better than Remsen.” In 1879 he founded the American Chemical Journal, which he edited for 35 years, and he contributed a number of textbooks that remained standards for years.


While working with postdoctoral colleague Constantine Fahlberg in 1878, they discovered a substance that became the artificial sweetener saccharin. Remsen had little interest in practical applications, preferring research for the sake of learning, but Fahlberg saw commercial potential and wasted no time in obtaining a patent on saccharin. Remsen did not object, but he became angry years later when Fahlberg tried to alter the account of the discovery. Fahlberg first omitted mention of Remsen as a participant in the research, then tried to make it appear that he, not Remsen, had been the senior investigator.

When Gilman retired from the presidency in 1901, after 25 years, the trustees turned to Ira Remsen to lead the university. He proved an adroit administrator, continuing Gilman's policy of judicious expansion. The undergraduate course was lengthened from three to four years in 1906, and a fund-raising drive allowed building to begin on the new Homewood campus. Remsen also chaired a national referee board on the safety and control of food products.

Ill health forced Remsen to resign from the presidency in 1912, but he recovered sufficiently to rejoin the professional world, serving as a consultant to industry. He died on March 4, 1927. Upon his death, the trustees named the recently completed chemistry building at Homewood in his honor and interred his ashes behind a plaque in the west stairwell.

The Game is Afoot!

Unless you've been living under a rock that's beneath a few more rocks, you've doubtless come across the revamped BBC/PBS production of Sherlock. Countless fans have had to wait countless months between seasons that count a mere three episodes each. The popularity of Sherlock the TV series and the numerous adaptations, homages, and spoofs speak to the genius behind the daring duo of Holmes and Watson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Thankfully, for anyone who has caught Sherlock fever, Hopkins is your Dr. Watson!

The library is your one-stop shop for all things Sherlock. Here you can find the texts themselves, scans of the first appearances of novels and stories, Arthur Conan Doyle's collected letters, and even access to serious Sherlock scholarship! If you care to, check out this recorded interview with Doyle, wherein he discusses Sherlock and spiritualism, or read (in Vol. 3, No. 2) a Believer interview from 2005 with the deceased Doyle (fascinating).

Thanks to a recent court decision, we may end up seeing even more Sherlock spin offs and fan fiction. Either way, fans of Sherlock the television series need not fear. Though this season has passed, there is more to come!


Journal Article Impact I: Rules of Thumb

Whether you've published 1 or 101 journal articles, you must be curious about how frequently those articles are read, shared, and cited. Later posts in this series will examine the many programs and applications that can help you track that information. This post gives you two important Rules of Thumb.

No one tool (or ring) can give you an absolute answer about how often an article has been cited, read, or shared. Each tool can only report on what it knows. Web of Science doesn't index every journal published; Mendeley isn't the only way people share articles; even Google Scholar can't scoop up everything. So you can use a few tools to get an impression or 'average' of how often an article is cited or downloaded. Or you could choose the tool that provides the best coverage of your discipline, and use only that tool.

The numbers reported by these tools may not mean what we think they mean. (Inconceivable!) Say you've found out that one of your articles has been cited by 60 other articles. Wonderful! We generally take that to mean that 60 other authors have read the article, found it to be useful in their work, and have cited it. Many others may have read the article, but not cited it. Some people may not have read the article, but cited it anyway, because the article they read cited it. And what if someone cited your article because they disagreed with you? I think most citations are made for the first reason - the article was read and found to be useful. But those other scenarios are both plausible and possible.

Two more posts in this series will provide tips on tracking citations and utilizing altmetrics.

A Camera Snapping on D-Level: Photographing the Sheridan Libraries

The Sheridan Libraries hired two undergraduate photography interns to document a year in the life of the libraries. The undergraduates are John Belanger, JHU '14 and Eric Chen, JHU '16. Below are Eric's thoughts regarding his work on the documentary project so far. You can follow the project here.

Hi, my name is Eric and I’m currently a sophomore studying International Studies. I really enjoy traveling the world, and wherever I go, you won’t ever find me without my camera. Photography has been a huge hobby of mine ever since middle school, and I’ve been working on improving my photography and keeping a personal photography blog for a couple of years already. John Belanger and I are the two intern photographers at the Sheridan Libraries. I get paid to do what I love, and it’s an amazing feeling!

My aim as a photographer is to document student life in the library and create a collection of photos that will become part of the University's Archives. This turned out to be a much more complicated task than just snapping pictures around the library.

On the outside (or technically inside of the library), everyone is just studying, but what’s more difficult to notice is the diversity of thoughts and the spectrum of emotions people have in the library. Before I prepare to take a photograph, I’ll introduce myself to the person or group of people I’m taking a picture of, and ask what they are studying or how they are feeling. Then, I try to compose a shot that shows the reality of that moment.

Of course, that's easier said than done. What I would like to do is take a series of candid photographs that look more natural and less staged. It has definitely been a challenge, but this internship has been a wonderful opportunity for me to improve my photography and fully appreciate the diversity of people we have in our university.

Photography aside, this internship has allowed me to meet many different people and learn about many different subjects. It’s been a wonderful experience.  If you ever hear a camera snapping in D level past midnight, it’s probably me.

Photographing the Sheridan Libraries: An Exploration of Space and Composition

The Sheridan Libraries hired two undergraduate photography interns to document a year in the life of the libraries. The undergraduates are John Belanger, JHU '14 and Eric Chen, JHU '16. Below are John's thoughts regarding his work on the documentary project so far. You can follow the project here.

What does a library represent?

It is a guardian of words, thoughts, and ideas. It is a haven of knowledge for the intellectually curious and fundamentally ambitious. A preserver of the old and promoter for the new, it is a catalyst for the progression of humanity. What a wonderful place!

I am very proud to have been selected as one of the two photography interns for the Sheridan Libraries during the 2013-2014 academic period. My task as an intern is to document student life within the library. However, students and other people are often absent from my photos because I am more interested in the physical space that people use than the actual people themselves. What excites me is trying to understand and document what a place such as a library might mean to other people and how it truly relates to me.

I take my pictures early in the morning when the library is nearly deserted except for the inevitable few poor souls cramming for tests or finishing papers. At dawn, I have the opportunity to explore freely and find compositions that might be overlooked by a stressed undergraduate or a hardworking library employee. I am drawn to frames that might point out a hidden detail, create a sense of infinity, or reveal a sensation of beauty in something ordinary. Or at least this is my intention.

I also want to pose questions with my compositions. How does the space influence the people who study in it? Are they aware of the power that a library holds? Do they appreciate it? I have always been interested in the idea of libraries and the importance they serve for society. To me, I guess they are a symbol of life, like a growing record of human existence.

It is an honor to work at the Sheridan Libraries. I am thrilled to have my work preserved in the University Archives and by the end of my internship, I hope to leave behind a large print or two on the very walls that I have learned to cherish during my time as a student at Johns Hopkins.

Anatomy of a Book? Like, Eeeeeeew???

Don't worry, all ye holders of weak stomachs! The anatomy of a book is not gross at all, unless you want it to be. Seriously, let me know and I will happily discuss bookish anatomy dealing with diseased polka dot guts from the 17th century.

Our specimen for today's highly scientific anatomical study is Henry Ridgley Evan's Magic and its Professors. Evans, you may recall, was an eminent Baltimorean known for his studies on magic. He was also known for having a rather dashing way with a popped collar.

Now onto the anatomical study! Let's first check out the binding. Pretty flashy, right? It promises the lure of ancient Egypt in garish colors! Who wouldn't want to read this? The binding technically isn't a binding at all, but something called a casing or a publisher's binding. Real old-school book binding meant that the textblock was sewn to the binding, but due to changes in book-making brought about by the Industrial Revolution, it became cheaper and easier to simply glue the text block directly to a case. As with so many things, cheaper and easier techniques led to books breaking apart. And at times this breakage is totally awesome because it reveals paper waste that was used to put the book together! The waste used to compile this book includes an old publisher's book list hawking such enticing titles as "What to Wear: Chit Chat on Dress" and the sure-to-be salacious "Gossip from Bookland." Plus, the lining of the casing itself reveals a rather fascinating prophecy: "European travelers take their own soap." But where they take it to shall forever be a mystery.

Now let's see what's inside! Dig this -- one of the endpapers contains a note from he-who-duels-with ghosts, Henry Ridgely Evans! This is called provenance, folks. Evans donated this copy of the book to the one and only George Peabody Library! Why not visit the Peabody or Special Collections in the Brody Learning Commons and conduct your very own study into the fine and serious art of book anatomy!

When Librarians Gather

ALA Annual Conference 2014 Several years ago, there was an amusing video making the rounds (well, it was amusing to librarians anyway), that was a parody of the then popular film March of the Penguins. It was a light-hearted look at a twice-yearly librarian ritual - the American Library Association (or ALA) conferences. Yes, twice a year, librarians from all over the US and Canada (and elsewhere) gather in some city or another to network and learn what's new in the profession.

You thought librarians never left the library, didn't you? Well, we've been gathering twice a year for many years now. And these outings give us a chance, not only to sample great local cuisine, collect swag, and do some awesome shopping, but also to keep up to date with what has become a rapidly changing and evolving profession. What do we do in 4 days in Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco or New Orleans?

  • Meet with library vendors to see and try out new technology.
  • Peruse publishers' new books. Meet authors and hear their readings.
  • Attend discussions and demos of technology and trends in the profession.
  • Meet with our colleagues from around the country.
  • Interview for jobs. Yes, there are jobs for librarians! Good to keep in mind during these times of job shortages for new graduates, when alt-ac has become more than a buzzword.

The upcoming midwinter conference (January 24-28) is in Philadelphia, and several members of the library staff will be in attendance. We'll look forward to the new ideas they'll bring back with them!