Atlas of Science: Questions & Answers

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What is a science map?

While a cartographic map represents our three-dimensional physical world, a science map is a visual rendering of a much higher dimensional, abstract topic space. Science maps are calculated from data such as research papers, patents, and funding awards using advanced analysis and visualization algorithms. Like cartographic maps, science maps support navigation, resource management, and utilization and provide a clearer understanding of the entire landscape.

How does the Atlas relate to the Mapping Science exhibit?

Visitors of the Mapping Science exhibit—a ten-year effort to introduce maps of science to a general audience—expressed an interest in learning more about the maps. The Atlas of Science covers the first three years of the exhibit: Power of Maps (debut in 2005), Reference Systems (2006), and Forecasts (2007). It details the aim and interpretation of the maps, how they were created, and why, together with biographies of the mapmakers. The Atlas also gives an introduction to science maps, explains their history and how the maps are generated, and discusses a likely future of science maps.

Why is the Atlas of Science so inexpensive?

The complete layout and design of the Atlas—design and print preparation of all images, layout of text and imagery for all parts, compilation and rendering of references and index terms, jacket design, and the securing of more than xx copyrights—was done at the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center at the School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University. It is our dream that anybody can learn about and benefit from science maps. If you received more for your money than expected, please consider donating to the exhibit that brings large-scale maps and additional exhibit elements to science museums, libraries, and other public venues (see listing). You can also purchase any of the exhibit maps—the income is used to bring science maps to classrooms and museums.

Why static maps and not interactive tools?

The design of most maps shown in the Atlas started with a highly interactive exploration of the data, algorithm parameter spaces, and different visual mappings using tools like VxInsight, HistCite, the Science of Science Tool, and many others. The result of this exploration process is a theory-driven yet pragmatic selection of data sets, algorithms, parameter values, and visual designs that best communicate contemporary research. The Atlas does hint at the highly iterative process (p. 51) but cannot capture it on paper. Instead, it shows maps that visualize key insights. This is analogous to highly optimized cartographic maps and weather forecast maps included in newspapers. Most of the maps in the recent iterations of the exhibit have complementary online counterparts that support interactive exploration.

Why are some images hand drawn?

Explanatory sketches like on pages 51, 53, 55, 59, and 65 were drawn by the author to indicate their conceptual nature. Labels were recreated using script type fonts.

Why are citation links reversed in the maps?

In the Atlas, citation linkages are represented by arrows that point from older papers to more recent papers, indicating the direction of the information flow. Examples can be seen on pages 53, 55, 108, and 138 or in Eugene Garfield’s “HistCite Visualization of DNA Development” map on p. 121. Note that this norm is also used in the visionaries’ timeline (p.16-17), Derek de Solla Price’s rendering of the flow of authors through annual indexes representing different scientific disciplines (p. 56), Waldo Tobler’s FlowMaps (p. 161), the UCSD map (p. 171), and knowledge flows in chemistry research (p. 203). The Science of Science (Sci2) Tool ( implements this norm for the extraction, analysis, and visualization of citation networks for papers, patents, etc. Counterexamples are the Historiograph rendering on page 123 and the explanation of research fronts on p. 165 (arrows are labeled with ‘cites’). These two figures use the direction of arrows to indicate that newer papers actively cite older papers.

How can I gain access to high-resolution images from the Atlas?

More than 380 images from the Atlas together with their source credits have been made available at Exhibit maps are distributed at 150 dpi only. All exhibit science maps can be purchased as archival ink prints.

How can I find out if a particular author or work was cited?

Reading 35 pages of references just to find the source for one citation is time consuming. We recommend using when searching for specific references. Image credits and data credits are not included. The site also provides an EndNote file of all references cited in the Atlas. A visualization of the co-author network derived from the EndNote file can be found here. It has 1,223 author nodes (518 unconnected isolates) and 1,332 co-author links.

I have data, how can I map it?

There are many tools available that support the study and mapping of science (see Table 5 in a recent Scientometrics paper, Table 5). The Science of Science (Sci2) Tool was specifically developed for study at the micro, meso, and macro scale. If you see a map in the Atlas that you like, feel free to contact the map maker(s) to get more information, start a collaboration, or request a price estimate for a specific project.

Do you plan any future books?

Colleagues and I recently published a Springer book on Models of Science Dynamics that features in 2012 reviews of different computational models that aim to simulate and predict the structure and dynamics of science.

Plus, the Atlas of Science is the first book in a series with forthcoming volumes Atlas of Knowledge: Anyone Can Map (2015) that features iterations of the exhibit devoted to science maps for different users: Economic Decision Makers (2008), Science Policy Makers (2009), Scholars (2010), Visual Interfaces to Digital Libraries (2011) and Atlas of Forecasts: Predicting and Broadcasting Science that includes the last three iterations: Science Maps for Kids (2012), Science Maps Showing Trends and Dynamics (2013), and The Future of Science Mapping (2014).

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.