Citations to chemical databases in scholarly articles: to cite or not to cite?

Robert Tomaszewski (California State University, Fullerton, California, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Publication date: 23 July 2019



Chemical databases have had a significant impact on the way scientists search for and use information. The purpose of this paper is to spark informed discussion and fuel debate on the issue of citations to chemical databases.


A citation analysis to four major chemical databases was undertaken to examine resource coverage and impact in the scientific literature. Two commercial databases (SciFinder and Reaxys) and two public databases (PubChem and ChemSpider) were analyzed using the “Cited Reference Search” in the Science Citation Index Expanded from the Web of Science (WoS) database. Citations to these databases between 2000 and 2016 (inclusive) were evaluated by document types and publication growth curves. A review of the distribution trends of chemical databases in peer-reviewed articles was conducted through a citation count analysis by country, organization, journal and WoS category.


In total, 862 scholarly articles containing a citation to one or more of the four databases were identified as only steadily increasing since 2000. The study determined that authors at academic institutions worldwide reference chemical databases in high-impact journals from notable publishers and mainly in the field of chemistry.


The research is a first attempt to evaluate the practice of citation to major chemical databases in the scientific literature. This paper proposes that citing chemical databases gives merit and recognition to the resources as well as credibility and validity to the scholarly communication process and also further discusses recommendations for citing and referencing databases.



Tomaszewski, R. (2019), "Citations to chemical databases in scholarly articles: to cite or not to cite?", Journal of Documentation, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

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