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Recent years have seen landmark milestones for the Web of Science. In 2014, the Science Citation Index (SCI), the Web of Science’s original forerunner, marked the 50th anniversary of its 1964 debut.

Five decades later, the SCI has grown and expanded far beyond its original print format, as well as beyond its initial focus on the sciences, to include the social sciences and the arts and humanities. In its modern incarnation as the Web of Science, with coverage now extending back more than a century, the database currently offers access to more than 12,000 of the world’s premier scientific and scholarly journals, along with conference proceedings, book contents and other materials.

In addition to capturing the salient details of each indexed “source” item (i.e., a published work’s title, abstract, keywords, author information, funding acknowledgements, etc.), Web of Science records all the footnotes, or citations, that the original authors incorporated into each work. These citations—each one an acknowledgement of the significant and useful work that underpin the newly indexed item—form a trail of influence and intellectual progress across time.

A New Milestone

A half-century of methodical coverage of the world’s most consequential research has now brought the Web of Science its latest milestone: in 2015, the cited references captured by its indexing surpassed 1 billion, and still counting. This vast network of connectedness embodied in the Web of Science, and the ease with which it can be comprehensively searched, is unprecedented and unique, offering more than a simple tabulation of citations.

Most significantly, the Web of Science’s meticulous indexing of all cited references extends its reach beyond the scholarly journals and publications indexed in other bibliographic databases. Collectively, the 1 billion citations refer to more than 200 million different source items. This means that, in addition to items formally indexed by Thomson Reuters, users are able to follow references to every dissertation, letter, item of artwork, book or other sources cited in a publication indexed in Web of Science. 

Key to the usefulness of the cited references in Web of Science is the capacity to search the references across time and across disciplines. No matter when the original item was published—last year, or at the beginning of the last century—Web of Science users can trace the progression of an idea or discovery and its impact over the years. This enables researchers, librarians, research managers, and others to uncover connections between publications and understand the influence of innovative ideas—tangents that might be missed when using less-comprehensive databases.

Unmatched Capabilities
Web of Science enlarges the analytical capabilities of cited-reference searching by allowing users to build a Citation Map that reveals the evolution of conceptual and practical advances pertaining to a given topic over time. With this mapping utility—unique to Web of Science—research managers, for example, can establish the links between basic research, subsequent applied research and wider economic and societal outcomes.

A singular strength of the Web of Science is the painstaking selection and curation of its source data, as journals undergo a rigorous process of evaluation before being selected for coverage. Web of Science will build on this selectivity while also broadening the scope of its coverage with the addition of new journals via the Emerging Sources Citation Index. This will enhance coverage of regional research as well as of exciting new fields.

As it constantly evolves and expands, the Web of Science is the only resource that provides access to more than 1 billion searchable cited references and the trove of connections they represent.