This is the story of how a publisher and a citation index turned the science communication system into a highly profitable global industry. Over the course of seventy years, academic journal articles have become commodities, and their meta-data a further source of revenue. . . . During the 1950s, two men — Robert Maxwell and Eugene Garfield — begin to experiment with their blueprint for the research economy. Maxwell created an ‘international’ publisher — Pergamon Press — charming the editors of elite, not-for-profit society journals into signing commercial contracts. Garfield invented the science citation index to help librarians manage this growing flow of knowledge. . . . Sixty years later, the global science system has become a citation economy, with academic credibility mediated by the currency produced by the two dominant commercial citation indexes: Elsevier’s Scopus and Clarivates Web of Science. The reach of these citation indexes and their data analytics is amplified by digitisation, computing power and financial investment. . . . Non-Anglophone journals are disproportionately excluded from these indexes, reinforcing the stratification of academic credibility geographies and endangering long established knowledge ecosystems.