Web of Science: How to be robbed of 10 years of citations in one week!

Having studied Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic for many years, I would be the first to acknowledge these free databases have their fair share of accuracy problems. However, we shouldn't forget the Web of Science and Scopus are by no means perfect either, especially when it concerns non-traditional publications.


Over the years, my computer program Publish or Perish has accumulated quite a few citations. It is my most-cited work, not just in Google Scholar, but also in the Web of Science, narrowly beating my "When Knowledge Wins: Transcending The Sense and Nonsense of Academic Rankings" article. Obviously, in the Web of Science one can only find citations to Publish or Perish by using a "Cited Reference" search as it not a traditional journal publication and thus not included in the standard Web of Science database.

Over the years I have had to submit at least 50 data change reports for this publication as ISI data entry typists enter a reference to the program as a separate publication, even when differences with the master record are infinitely small, such as the referring author using one instead of two initials for my name or the referring author referring to a specific release of the software (and there have been over 200 of them!).

However, after all that work I had a "neat" master record with 261 citations. Or so I thought... Three weeks ago I noticed to my considerable alarm that all citations to Publish or Perish were now attributed to Peter Jacso, who I can assure you had nothing to do with the program! As can be seen in the screenshot below, the program has suddenly acquired a volume, issue and page number as well, as if it is a journal article. 

And lo and behold, if we click on "show expanded titles", we find that ISI has attributed all citations to my computer program Publish or Perish to Jacso's article about Google Scholar. This is particularly hurtful as many of Jacso's opions about Google Scholar voiced in this article are diametrically opposed to my own. Obviously, I immediately submitted another data change report requesting immediate reinstatement as the rightful "owner" of these citations and an apology for this egregious error.

Strangely enough the citations still seem to be linked to my name in some way as the above record shows up when you conduct the search shown below. It doesn't show up when you search for Jacso. But that's a small solace. I do hope I'll get the citations back at some stage, but I wouldn't be surprised if reinstating my ownership requires many more emails. Let's hope Clarivate, the Web of Science's new owner, proves me wrong.

Even so, don't assume that just because your university pays a hefty subsription fee for your Web of Knowledge subscription, you can rely on it to be fully accurate! Although Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic are by no means fully accurate, they never attributed all my citations for a publication to someone else in their databases, let alone someone completely unrelated to the publication in question.

Note 1: When double-checking before posting this blog I noticed I have received my citations back. Well done Clarivate! I am still waiting for the apology though!

Note 2: Eight hours after posting this blog, I received a formal apology.

First I want to sincerely apologize for this error and any inconveniences this error may have caused you. We have identified the root cause of this problem and are working with our production teams to take measures to prevent errors such as this in the future. We have made the necessary corrections to this citation, which now appears corrected in Web of Science.
I understand your frustration and how upsetting it is to see errors like this appear on your citations. We hope to have a solution in place in the future that will also help with merging your citations under the original publication year. This may take some time, but we are working on measures to improve this process and address your requests to merge your citations the first time.
My sincere apologies again for any inconveniences this has cause [sic] you.

Update 21 July 2017

About four months after I wrote this, Clarivate started to attribute all citations to Publish or Perish to yet another publication, my white paper "Reflections on the h-index", published in 2008. Although this white paper has acquired nearly 20 citations (that are now "lost"), I didn't expect it to acquire nearly 300 additional ones in one week :-) Again though the record does somehow still seems to be linked to Publish or Perish some way as this is the output when I search for harzing and publish*. So I submitted yet another data change report...

Update 27 July 2017

Another week, another round of data change reports to Clarivate. Two of them were innocent enough. Slight variations in e.g. page numbers, issue or author initials are enough for data entry operators to create separate records. I am used to that and submit data change reports for these virtually every week. However, the saga of the missing citations to the Publish or Perish software (2007) continues. This week, all its citations are attributed to the Publish or Perish Book, published in 2010. Well at least we are getting closer, but I wish they would stop messing with this record...

Update 2 August 2017

Hurray!! My change report seems to have done the trick. Citations are now attributed to the Publish or Perish software again. Phew... what a relief.

The expanded version even shows the full name and adds [computer software]. Neat!!! Can you now leave this record alone Clarivate? Pretty please? Just add the new citations to this record and I can stop adding new blunders :-)