Chairman Emeritus, ISIâ
Publisher, The Scientist â
3501 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Presented at the
Patterns in Scientific Communication –
The Matthew Effect in Science and beyond
Colloquium in Honour of the 70th Birthday of Dr. Manfred Bonitz
March 16, 2001
To properly review the work of a highly productive scientist like Manfred Bonitz would require a doctoral dissertation. If only I could afford the luxury of devoting the time and energy to such an endeavor. These introductory remarks can only touch very lightly on his career. And fortunately others more qualified than I will soon address you in greater detail about his accomplishments.
I do not recall the exact circumstances and events which led Manfred to enter the field of information science about 1970. Until that time he had a highly productive career as a nuclear physicist. In the United States during the 1950’s and 1960’s many nuclear physicists entered the fields of information science and science policy. Among the many who migrated from physics to information science were Don Swanson, Derek Price, Larry Halperin, William Goffman, among others. Their mathematical skills and training helped illuminate the laws of information science and scientometrics. They stressed the need to maintain a high level of discipline necessary to produce high quality science-based information and bibliometric research. In the East a similar migration from physical science to information science often occurred and calls to mind such outstanding scholars as Avril Avramescu, Vassily Nalimov, and Gennadi Dubrov, and our friends at VINITI A.I. Mikhailov, R. Gilyarevski, and A. Chernyi.
Thanks to Manfred Bonitz, my work became much better known amongst East and West German readers due especially to the series of book reviews of my Essays of an Information Science volumes which he published over a seventeen-year period. Further, he was an important constructive critic of ISI products, beginning with a review of the ISI Journal Citation Reports® in 1983.
In his work, Manfred has expressed the belief that only truth and scientific relevance should be the criteria for a scientific work to be accepted, that science is universal, and the world-wide scientific community – despite all "social perturbations" -- is a kind of ideal society: democratic, objective, just. If you are active in science then you have to compare yourself with the rest of the world. It took great courage for him to write about GDR-Science in the mirror of international journals, an article which I imagine caused him some trouble at the time. He expressed the view that the Science Citation Index® is an unique mirror of the world-society of science, that it is interdisciplinary and it is – at least – created by scientists themselves. This aspect of the SCI,® I guess, attracted him from the beginning. It made him one of the decisive defenders (even though not without criticism) of the SCI.
In this respect, I cannot fail to mention another unusual scientist from Vladivostok, Victor Vaskovsky who also saw in the SCI these qualities and, like Manfred, became my long-time personal friend and the first Russian member of the editorial board of the SCI.
Manfred’s work on "human behavior in scientific communication" was published both in German and English. And he has made numerous contributions, both as an author and editor, to the journal Scientometrics over the last decade. Manfred has always been extremely generous in publishing tributes to information pioneers as in the case of Nalimov, Price, and others. His investigations of the work of Wilhelm Ostwald is also noteworthy.
In the early 90s, Manfred began his work on co-structure cluster maps, leading in more recent times to the magnum opus the Atlas of the Matthew Core Journals. This was created with the help of his long-time collaborator Andrea Scharnhorst. This work followed from his encounter with Robert Merton’s 1968 classic paper on the "Matthew Effect" and its follow on in 1988. These papers ultimately brought him in direct in person contact with Professor Merton. I can personally attest that Merton has marveled at the way in which Manfred and his colleagues have developed this theme. As Dr. Merton also points out "Bonitz inaugurated an altogether new phase in the systematic investigation of the phenomena caught up in the concept of the Matthew Effect." The Atlas is a completely unexpected outcome of Merton’s original sociological observation of individual behavior which has now been given a global perspective. As Merton observed: "By ingenious and original use of the Science Citation Index, you have gone on to discover the Matthew Effect for countries."
So I will close this short introduction with a toast to Manfred on his 70th birthday which I am sure we will repeat many times during our social encounters here. I also want to thank you all for coming, and also wish to thank Andrea Scharnhorst, Professor Walther Umstätter, and Dr. Heinrich Parthey for inviting me to begin this happy occasion.