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Jointly published by Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest Scientometrics,

and Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht Vol. 56, No. 3 (2003) 357–367

A new classification scheme of science fields and subfields

designed for scientometric evaluation purposes

*Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Steunpunt O&O Statistieken, Leuven (Belgium)

**Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Research Organisation, Budapest (Hungary)

A two-level hierarchic system of fields and subfields of the sciences, social sciences and arts &
humanities is proposed. The system was specifically designed for scientometric (evaluation)
purposes with the ultimate goal of classifying every single document into a well-defined category.
This goal was achieved using a three-step iterative process. The basic concepts and some
preliminary results are presented.


Classification of science into a disciplinary structure is at least as old as science

itself. After many centuries of constructive but yet inconclusive search for a perfect
classification scheme, the only sensible approach to the question appears to be the
pragmatic one: what is the optimal scheme for a given practical purpose? To this end,
ever so many systems have been conceived and installed by general and special
libraries, publishers, encyclopedias and, in ever growing number, by electronic
databases, internet based information services, web crawlers, etc. Classification systems
developed by the producer of the Science Citation Index (SCI; ISI – Thomson
Scientific, PA, USA), by institutions working extensively with this database and by the
producers of other multidisciplinary science journal databases are worthy of
distinguished attention (see, for instance, Narin, 1976). These classification systems are
mostly based on journal assignment, originally created for retrieval purposes. Most
existing systems, however, proved to have shortcomings when used in the context of
research evaluation. The classification of scientific literature into appropriate subject
fields is, nevertheless, one of the basic preconditions of valid scientometric analyses.
Publication activity and citation habits considerably differ among subfields. In
comparative studies, inappropriate reference standards obtained from questionable
subject assignment might result in misleading conclusions. This paper is, therefore,

Received October 11, 2002.

Address for correspondence:

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Steunpunt O&O Statistieken, Dekenstraat 2, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium
E-mail: h1533bra@ella.hu

0138–9130/2003/US $ 20.00
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W. GLÄNZEL, A. SCHUBERT: A new classification scheme of science fields

aiming at the development of a new classification system including also papers published in
multidisciplinary journals, and especially designed for research evaluation purposes.


For the given practical purpose, two different basic schemes are used: hierarchic and
fine-structured classification systems used in information retrieval and more “robust”
schemes emphasizing science organisation aspects and science policy needs.
In this paper, a two-level hierarchical classification scheme has been constructed, so
that the categories cover the whole scope of the sciences by and large evenly, and the
subfields behave consistently in scientometric evaluations, i.e., common standards
could be set in each of them regarding publication and citation habits.
The objectives of the work have been approached by three successive steps allowing
multiple feedback loops throughout the whole process.
1. The “cognitive” approach (setting the categories):
In this iterative process, an initial scheme has been elaborated on the basis of both
the experience of scientometricians and external experts.
2. The “pragmatic” approach (journal classification):
On the basis of existing journal classification schemes the majority of the journal
set extracted from the SCI has been classified into the preset subfields. The
classification scheme has been adjusted according to co-heading frequency to keep
multiple assignments within reasonable limits.
3. The “scientometric” approach (article classification):
Articles published in core journals can be unambiguously classified into the
subfield of the given journals. Articles of un-assignable or ambiguously assignable
journals are classified individually using the analysis of references. The results of
this classification exercise had a retroactive effect on the journal classification and
also on the basic fields/subfield structure.

Step 1 – The “cognitive” approach (setting the categories)

The application of the above methods resulted in a system with 12 first-level

categories (fields) and 60 second-level categories (subfields) of the sciences. For the
social sciences and the humanities 3 major fields and 7 subfields were obtained. The
results are presented in Table 1.

358 Scientometrics 56 (2003)

W. GLÄNZEL, A. SCHUBERT: A new classification scheme of science fields

Table 1. Fields and subfields of sciences, social sciences and arts & humanities
A1 Agricultural Science & Technology
A2 Plant & Soil Science & Technology
A3 Environmental Science & Technology
A4 Food & Animal Science & Technology
Z1 Animal Sciences
Z2 Aquatic Sciences
Z3 Microbiology
Z4 Plant Sciences
Z5 Pure & Applied Ecology
Z6 Veterinary Sciences
B0 Multidisciplinary Biology
B1 Biochemistry/Biophysics/Molecular Biology
B2 Cell Biology
B3 Genetics & Developmental Biology
R1 Anatomy & Pathology
R2 Biomaterials & Bioengineering
R3 Experimental/Laboratory Medicine
R4 Pharmacology & Toxicology
R5 Physiology
I1 Cardiovascular & Respiratory Medicine
I2 Endocrinology & Metabolism
I3 General & Internal Medicine
I4 Hematology & Oncology
I5 Immunology
M1 Age & Gender Related Medicine
M2 Dentistry
M3 Dermatology/Urogenital System
M4 Ophthalmology/Otolaryngology
M5 Paramedicine
M6 Psychiatry & Neurology
M7 Radiology & Nuclear Medicine
M8 Rheumatology/Orthopedics
M9 Surgery
N1 Neurosciences & Psychopharmacology
N2 Psychology & Behavioral Sciences

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W. GLÄNZEL, A. SCHUBERT: A new classification scheme of science fields

Table 1. (cont.)
C0 Multidisciplinary Chemistry
C1 Analytical, Inorganic & Nuclear Chemistry
C2 Applied Chemistry & Chemical Engineering
C3 Organic & Medicinal Chemistry
C4 Physical Chemistry
C5 Polymer Science
C6 Materials Science
P0 Multidisciplinary Physics
P1 Applied Physics
P2 Atomic, Molecular & Chemical Physics
P3 Classical Physics
P4 Mathematical & Theoretical Physics
P5 Particle & Nuclear Physics
P6 Physics of Solids, Fluids And Plasmas
G1 Astronomy & Astrophysics
G2 Geosciences & Technology
G3 Hydrology/Oceanography
G4 Meteorology/Atmospheric & Aerospace Science & Technology
G5 Mineralogy & Petrology
E1 Computer Science/Information Technology
E2 Electrical & Electronic Engineering
E3 Energy & Fuels
E4 General & Traditional Engineering
H1 Applied Mathematics
H2 Pure Mathematics
S1 Education & Information
S2 General, Regional & Community Issues
O1 Economics, Business & Management
O2 History, Politics & Law
U1 Arts & Literature
U2 Language & Culture
U3 Philosophy & Religion

An interesting side effect of this new category system is that part of the life-science
related fields covered by the SSCI such as parts of Psychology & Behavior and
Paramedicine are integrated into the corresponding science areas (see subfields N2 and
M5, respectively).

360 Scientometrics 56 (2003)

W. GLÄNZEL, A. SCHUBERT: A new classification scheme of science fields

Step 2 – The “pragmatic” approach (journal classification)

The majority of the journal set extracted from the SCI could be classified on the
basis of existing journal classification schemes into the preset subfields presented in
Table 1. The scheme had to be adjusted according to co-heading frequency to keep
multiple assignments within reasonable limits. Examples for journal assignment
obtained this way are given in Table 2.

Table 2. Example for journal classification based on the ‘pragmatic’ approach

Journal title Vol. year F1 F2 F3 F4

Natural Product Reports 2000 B1 C3

Natural Resources Journal 2000 A3 O2
Natural Toxins 1999 R4
Nature* 2001 X0
Nature & Resources 2000 A3
Nature Biotechnology 1999 Z3
Nature Cell Biology 2001 B1 B2
Journal of the American Chemical Society* 2001 C0
Journal of the American Leather Chemists Association 1996 C2 C6
Journal of the American Musicological Society 2000 U1
Schweizer Archiv für Tierheilkunde 1998 Z6
Schweizerische Mineralogische und Petrographische Mitteilungen 2000 G2 G5
Schweizerisches Archiv für Volkskunde 2001 S2
Science* 2001 X0
These journals are subject to the ‘scientometric’ approach in step 3

The journals assigned to category ‘X0’, i.e., to multidisciplinary sciences, were

subjected to further treatment according to the ‘scientometric approach’ as described in
step 3. In particular, the papers published in the journals Nature and Science (see
Table 2) were individually assigned to both subfields and major fields. Similarly, papers
published in JACS will be individually assigned to second-level categories, whereas
they were automatically assigned to the first-level field Chemistry through the journal
assignment ‘C0’ (see Table 2).

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W. GLÄNZEL, A. SCHUBERT: A new classification scheme of science fields

Figure 1. Percentage shares of fields in the total (1998)

Figure 1 gives a first impression on the distribution of publications and citations

over fields. For this sample, all papers indexed in the 1998 volume of the CD-Edition of
the SCI as Articles, Letters, Notes and Reviews have been taken into consideration.
Citations have been counted for a three-year citation window beginning with the
publication year, that is, for the 1998-2000 period. The distribution by fields is more
balanced than it was in the case of the schemes comprising five and eight fields,
respectively, previously used at ISSRU, Budapest. Nevertheless, Chemistry is the
largest field in terms of publication output, followed by Physics and the the two clinical
and experimental medicine fields. The smallest ones are Mathematics, Neuroscience &
Behavior and Geosciences & Space Sciences. From the viewpoint of citations, the field
Biosciences (General, Cellular & Subcellular Biology; Genetics) receives the lion’s
share, followed by two Clinical and Experimental Medicine fields and the natural
science fields, Chemistry and Physics. This is in part a conseques of the known field-
biasses in scientific communication.
A breakdown by second-level categories has been made to visualise the distribution
of publication output and citation impact over subfields within major fields. Table 3
gives an insight into the weight and influence the individual subfields have on the field
total. The disciplinary citation impact ranges between 0.68 for H2 (Pure Mathematics)
to 10.14 for B2 (Cell Biology).

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W. GLÄNZEL, A. SCHUBERT: A new classification scheme of science fields

Table 3. Percentage shares of subfields in the main fields and their citation impact
(Publications: 1998, Citation window: 1998-2000)

FIELD Subfield Share of subfield in the field total Subfield

Publiactions Citations Impact

Agriculture & Environment A1 8.6% 7.4% 1.55

A2 23.6% 18.6% 1.42
A3 38.3% 46.5% 2.20
A4 34.9% 33.2% 1.72
Biology Z1 15.7% 9.7% 1.96
Z2 10.3% 6.7% 2.07
Z3 41.0% 57.1% 4.42
Z4 18.4% 17.2% 2.97
Z5 10.2% 9.2% 2.85
Z6 11.0% 4.9% 1.40
Biosciences B0 7.4% 3.7% 3.34
B1 66.9% 72.3% 7.23
B2 21.1% 32.0% 10.14
B3 24.3% 23.5% 6.47
Biomedical Research R1 15.3% 13.6% 3.17
R2 7.2% 4.0% 1.97
R3 16.5% 29.5% 6.39
R4 47.5% 41.2% 3.10
R5 17.3% 14.5% 2.99
Clinical and Experimental Medicine I I1 20.4% 17.7% 3.98
I2 11.1% 11.9% 4.89
I3 27.3% 20.0% 3.36
I4 25.4% 31.8% 5.73
I5 20.3% 25.7% 5.81
Clinical and Experimental Medicine II M1 14.9% 11.7% 2.03
M2 4.4% 2.5% 1.49
M3 11.2% 11.0% 2.52
M4 7.6% 5.5% 1.88
M5 24.9% 28.9% 3.00
M6 15.1% 20.2% 3.45
M7 9.4% 9.0% 2.45
M8 4.3% 3.7% 2.21
M9 19.3% 15.3% 2.04
Neuroscience & Behavior N1 87.3% 93.8% 5.58
N2 21.5% 11.1% 2.67
Chemistry C0 14.3% 21.8% 4.06
C1 21.9% 23.8% 2.88
C2 11.7% 6.8% 1.54
C3 15.4% 20.8% 3.59
C4 22.3% 21.7% 2.58
C5 6.6% 6.6% 2.64
C6 23.6% 14.0% 1.58

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W. GLÄNZEL, A. SCHUBERT: A new classification scheme of science fields

Table 3. (cont.)

FIELD Subfield Share of subfield in the field total Subfield

Publiactions Citations Impact
Physics P0 17.5% 22.8% 3.70
P1 29.0% 22.5% 2.20
P2 10.9% 14.5% 3.79
P3 17.2% 12.1% 2.00
P4 6.2% 5.7% 2.58
P5 9.9% 12.1% 3.50
P6 28.3% 24.3% 2.44
Geosciences & Space Sciences G1 33.8% 54.0% 5.16
G2 50.4% 41.1% 2.63
G3 16.3% 17.5% 3.46
G4 25.2% 23.0% 2.94
G5 9.2% 3.5% 1.23
Engineering E1 26.6% 25.8% 1.11
E2 42.8% 49.2% 1.31
E3 22.6% 21.4% 1.08
E4 22.8% 16.9% 0.84
Mathematics H1 68.1% 74.0% 1.03
H2 48.8% 35.0% 0.68

Step 3 – The “scientometric” approach (article classification)

All papers published in journals not assignable to ‘well-defined’ subject categories

have to be assigned individually, i. e., paper by paper. Two levels can be distinguished,
first the Multidisciplinary Science journals like Nature, Science, PNAS US and, second,
the general journals not specialised to any particular subject within one broader field,
for instance, the chemistry journals Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS)
and Angewandte Chemie – International Edition. Among the possible approaches to
solve this problem, we just mention the method of delimiting subfields on the basis of
the analysis of cognitive words from the address field proposed by de Bruin and Moed
(1993) and the method of analysing the reference literature proposed by Glänzel et al.
(1999a, b). The ‘scientometric approach’ applied here is based on the methodology of
reference analysis according to Glänzel et al. (1999a, b). Tables 4 and 5 presents
examples for identified papers published in Nature and Science. As already mentioned
in the paper by Glänzel et al. (1999a), a considerable number of papers (mainly papers
without specific references and without institutional addresses) published in the two
multidisciplinary journals Nature and Science could be considered scientific journalism

364 Scientometrics 56 (2003)

W. GLÄNZEL, A. SCHUBERT: A new classification scheme of science fields

rather than original reports on scientific research. Nevertheless, ISI usually regards
these papers as scientific articles. Such papers might practically be excluded from
scientometric analyses.

Table 4. Example for identified papers published in Nature (2000, Vol. 408)
(Fi (i = 1, 2, 3, 4) – subject codes with rank i by frequency, % –frequency in per cent)

F1 % F2 % F3 % F4 % SCI 1st author 1st page Title

Flexible filaments in a
flowing soap film as a
P3 36.4 P4 27.3 P6 27.3 – [small] 11 Zhang J 835 model for one-
dimensional flag in a
two-dimensional wind
Fluorescent pigments
Z2 57.9 Z4 21.1 Z5 15.8 – [small] 19 Salih A 850 in corals are
monitoring by the
N1 61.9 N2 23.8 M6 19.0 M7 19.0 21 Stuphorn V 857
supplementary eye

Table 5. Example for identified papers published in Science (2001, Vol. 294)
(Fi (i = 1, 2, 3, 4) – subject codes with rank i by frequency, % – frequency in per cent)

F1 % F2 % F3 % F4 % SCI 1st author 1st page Title

Predictability of the
UK variant
I3 15.4 Z3 15.4 B0 15.4 – – 13 d’Aignaux JN 1729
disease epidemic
Oscillating rows of
P0 33.3 P6 25.0 P1 16.7 – – 12 Matsuda T 2136 vortices in
Seasonal variations of
G1 53.8 G2 53.8 G3 30.8 G4 30.8 26 Smith DE 2141
snow depth on Mars

The following examples are concerned with the individual assignement of papers
published in ‘general’ chemistry journals in 1993. In particular, the American journal
JACS and the German journal Angewandte Chemie – International Edition have been
chosen. Figures 2 and 3 show the results. Although the two journals have had similar
profiles in 1993, there are some differences that should be discussed. The largest share

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W. GLÄNZEL, A. SCHUBERT: A new classification scheme of science fields

of both journals (30% and 36%, respectively) is devoted to Organic & Medicinal
Chemistry (C3). The assignment of a relatively great share of papers to
Multidisciplinary Chemistry (C0) is due to journal self-citations. About 14% of the
papers published in JACS in the year under study is devoted to the subfield of
Biochemistry/Biophysics/Molecular Biology (B1), whereas about the same share of
papers published in Angewandte Chemie could be assigned to Analytical, Inorganic &
Nuclear Chemistry (C1).

Figure 2. Example for identified papers published in JACS (1993)

Figure 3. Example for identified papers published in Angewandte Chemie – International Edition (1993)

366 Scientometrics 56 (2003)

W. GLÄNZEL, A. SCHUBERT: A new classification scheme of science fields

The assignment of papers in both journals to Physics shows that publications can
well be assigned to other fields although the journal is a typical chemistry journal. This
illustrates that research has become increasingly interdisciplinary.
The share of unidentified papers amounts to 6.4% (JACS) and 13.9% (Angewandte
Chemie). For these papers, the assignment to the category Multidisciplinary Chemistry
(C0) seems to be justified. However, the two examples show that the majority of the
papers can be individually assigned to ‘well-defined’ second-level categories.


Beyond the standard use of the classification scheme like the determination of
publication profiles for institutions or countries, or the calculation of reference
standards for relative citation indicators the profiling of authors and research groups is a
further important application. Given the results of article classification, the disciplinary
affiliation of their authors can be determined, either individually or by group. The
authors’ activity is often not limited to a single subfield, it usually covers a range of
subfields with varying weights and their field/subfield profile can be constructed. Such
profiles are of primary importance in scientometric evaluation, since standards of
scientometric indicators can be set only within subfields, therefore it is only the activity
profile that can be accompanied by matching profiles of indicators like, e.g., impact
measures, citation rates or reference age.


DE BRUIN, R. E., H. F. MOED, Delimitation of scientific subfields using cognitive words from corporate
addresses in scientific publications, Scientometrics, 26 (1993) 65–80.
GLÄNZEL, W., A. SCHUBERT, H. J. CZERWON, An item-by-item subject classification of papers published in
multidisciplinary and general journals using reference analysis, Scientometrics, 44 (1999) 427–439.
GLÄNZEL, W., A. SCHUBERT, U. SCHOEPFLIN, H. J. CZERWON, An item-by-item subject classification of
papers published in journals covered by the SSCI database using reference analysis, Scientometrics, 46
(1999) 431–441.
NARIN, F., Evaluative Scientometrics: The Use of Publication and Citation Analysis in the Evaluation of
Scientific Activity, Computer Horizons, Inc., Washington, D.C., 1976.

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