ISKO and its Bookshelf 2008-2020*   no comments

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From 2008 through 2020 I wrote a series of editorials under the rubric “ISKO’s Bookshelf” for the journal Knowledge Organization (Smiraglia 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020). ISKO, of course, is the International Society for Knowledge Organization, the scientific society founded in 1989 by Ingetraut Dahlberg to promote the organization of knowledge as a discrete science ( Dahlberg was very concerned about the problems of the order of concepts and was emphatic that a scientific approach should be employed in the design of systems for ordering knowledge.

The idea of ISKO’s bookshelf—a bibliometric analysis of biennial ISKO international conference proceedings—was to highlight diverse approaches to the science of KO by empirical observation of not just what was being included in the conference papers, but more importantly, by empirical observation of the influences that were essentially the substrate of ISKO’s evolution as a scientific society. The method was inspired by Howard White’s 2001 paper “Authors as Citers Over Time” in which the notion of citation identity and citation image were developed. Citation identity is the unique set of authors cited over time by any particular author. Citation image is the set of authors with whom one has been co-cited over time. In other words, an author forms a unique identity by re-citing the same set of critical work over time, but an author bears the image of the set of authors with whom he is cited.

ISKO itself has both citation identity and citation image. These two metrical hypotheses, then, over time, tell us how Dahlberg’s domain is evolving intellectually. Thus, the biennial evaluation of “ISKO’s bookshelf” was (and is, as you will see) an evolving metric of the science of KO. In addition to White’s inspiring work, I was also motivated by the theoretical work of Collins’ 1998 The Sociology of Philosophies, including the evolutionary patterns of schools of thought (they mutate slowly, expanding and then contracting until theoretical positions harden). Thus, the identity and image of ISKO that emerges over time from the analysis of its “bookshelf” point to the ongoing careful growth and concretization of Dahlberg’s science around her concept-analytical theory.

Analyses of ISKO’s Bookshelf cover international conferences 10-16 from 2008 to 2o2o; some basic details are shown in Table 1.

ConferenceYearSitePapersReferencesMean ReferencesMode ReferencesAge of cited workAge mode
ISKO 102008Montréal5779313.610.492
ISKO 112010Rome6596714.8811.79
ISKO 122012Mysore5585014.4513.11
ISKO 132014Krakow761217161515.6
ISKO 142016Rio de Janeiro71133918.1915.21
ISKO 152018Porto1051841151514.81
ISKO 162020virtual65124115.714.8

Table 1. ISKO 10-16, papers, references, age of cited work. The global reach of ISKO is visualized in the map in Figure 1.

Figure 1. ISKO 10-16 global locator.

Over the twelve-year period represented here five conferences were held in the northern hemisphere and two in the southern, one in North America, one in South America, one in Asia and four in Europe. The “rhythm” can be sketched thus: North America : Europe : Asia : Europe : South America : Europe x4. The number of papers ranges from 55 to 105 with a mean of 70.5. The number of references ranges from 793 to 1841 with a mean of 1178. The number of references per paper is an indication of epistemological stance in the domain; it ranges from a mean of 13.6 to 18.1 with a mean of means of 15.39. Fewer references indicate hard science, which is cutting edge and cumulative. More references indicate a humanistic bent, which reaches constantly back to classical texts. ISKO overall consistently falls into a social scientific slot, and this is apparent in the mode of the mean number of references per paper, which is 13.45. Age of cited work is also an epistemological indicator; the mean over these conferences is 13.49 years but the mode, tellingly, is 1.25. Thus, not only is the tendency toward social scientific epistemologies, but most references overall (the mode) are to recent work on the cutting edge.

Except for 2018 the majority of references always are to journal articles, which is an indicator of a cumulative science. The relatively large proportion of references to monographs indicates a strong humanistic camp in the domain.

Knowledge Organization (KO), the society’s own journal, is always the most highly cited. This is a good indication of domain coherence; the society’s members rely on highly curated, peer-reviewed science in its own venue as their most important source. Humorously, Journal of Documentation and Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology jostle for second place in most instances. Only in ISKO 16 was CCQ in second place; in fact, the list in 2020 shows a definite shift in domain thrust (see below) in that conference. Also of interest is the rise of Ciência da Informação into the top tier from ISKO 15 onward, which parallels the prominence of Brazilian contributors.

The most prominent contributors are affiliated with institutions in Brazil. On occasion (e.g., ISKO 13) authors with affiliations in the USA are more prominent than Brazil, but usually rank second. Authors with Canadian affiliations are consistently present hovering around 7%. Not surprisingly, other countries (e.g., India in 2012, Poland in 2014, Portugal in 2018) have large numbers of affiliated contributors when the conference is situated with them.

Domain thrust represents the most visible concept spaces in each conference—as opposed to the “long tail” granularity of new topics each time. Typically these terms are compiled from a combination of sources—the conference themes are reflected in the interpretation of author co-citation and co-word analyses. In other words, what we see here is what was uppermost in the research front across time. Typically concept theory, epistemology and KOSs are part of the thrust although the prominence varies from conference to conference. What is perhaps most interesting here is to see the sort of probe of new concept spaces, e.g., IR or data-mining, or the encroach (as it were) of archives and domain analysis, both important aspects of the domain but only occasionally arising to prominence in the overall conference.

Array of most-cited authors shows the shifting citation “identity” of ISKO. That is, ISKO can be identified by the only slightly mutating impression of authors cited heavily and repeatedly by conference participants. Obviously, Hjørland is the most important aspect of ISKO’s identity and arguably during the period under observation also Dahlberg. All of the other names represent theoretical poles at different times. The constancy of Ranganathan and Beghtol, for example, are hallmarks of the foundations of the domain.

To summarize one might say the ISKO international conferences are global events, shifting between Europe and Asia, and the Americas on an irregular schedule. There typically are about 70 original research contributions, and these typically cite 16 papers, which lends a social scientific bent to the domain. The age of cited work is 13 years but the mode is consistently between 1-2 years, thus pointing to the dichotomic nature of the domain. That is, most citations are recent, indicating empirical research, but enough are more classical in nature because of the substantial proportion of humanistic contributions. Almost always work cited is mostly from journals but on one occasion (ISKO 15 in Portugal) monographic contributions predominate and on one other (ISKO 14 in Poland) they are roughly equivalent to journals. The proportion of conference proceedings cited is consistent across time until ISKO16, when the proportion of monographic citations is much smaller than usual; perhaps these are reflections of the domain during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal citations are dominated by the journal Knowledge Organization, which is a good sign of domain coherence. Conference participants are predominantly from Brazil, the USA, and Canada, but India, Italy, Spain, Germany and France are all prominent. Concept theory, epistemology and KOSs dominate thematic space, and ISKO’s citation image includes Hjørland and Dahlberg consistently.


Collins, Randall. 1998. The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Dahlberg, Ingetraut. 2011. “How to Improve ISKO’s Standing: Ten Desiderata for Knowledge Organization.” Knowledge Organization 38: 69-74.

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2008. “ISKO 10’s Bookshelf—An Editorial.” Knowledge Organization 35: 187-91.

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2011. “ISKO 11’s Diverse Bookshelf: An Editorial.” Knowledge Organization 38: 179-86.

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2013. “ISKO 12’s Bookshelf—Evolving Intension: An Editorial.” Knowledge Organization 40: 3-10.

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2014. “ISKO 13’s Bookshelf: Knowledge Organization, the Science, Thrives—An Editorial.” Knowledge Organization 41: 343-56.

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2017. “ISKO 14’s Bookshelf: Discourse and Nomenclature—An Editorial.” Knowledge Organization 44: 3-12.

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2018. “ISKO 15’s Bookshelf: Dispersion in a Digital Age—An Editorial.” Knowledge Organization 45(5): 343-57. doi:10.5771/0943-7444-2018-5-343

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2020. “ISKO 16’s Bookshelf: Knowledge Organization on the Verge of the Pandemic—An Editorial.” Knowledge Organization 47: 619-30. White, Howard D. 2001. “Authors as Citers Over Time.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science & Technology 52: 87-108.

*Excerpted from: Smiraglia. Richard P. 2022. “ISKO’s Bookshelf 2022: Mysteries of a Pandemic, Part 1.” IKOS Bulletin 4, no.2: 54-64.

Written by admin on December 29th, 2022