A visitor explores the macroscope kiosk at the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University.

Call for Macroscope Tools for the Places & Spaces: Mapping Science Exhibit (2017)

Background and Goals

The Places & Spaces: Mapping Science exhibit is designed to open people’s hearts and minds to the value, complexity, and beauty of maps of science and technology.

Drawing from across cultures and across scholarly disciplines, the Places & Spaces: Mapping Science exhibit demonstrates the power of maps to address vital questions about the contours and content of scientific knowledge. Created by 226 leading experts in the natural, physical, and social sciences, scientometrics, visual arts, science policy, and the humanities, the 100 maps and macroscopes have been displayed in 28 countries on six continents.

Macroscopes are software tools that help us focus on patterns in the data that are too large or complex to see with the naked eye. The term macroscope was first coined in 1979 by Joël de Rosnay in a book entitled The Macroscope: A New World Scientific System [1]. In it, he observes that a current challenge for humanity is its constant confrontation with the infinitely complex. “We are confounded,” he asserts, “by the number and variety of elements, of relationships, of interactions and combinations on which the functions of large systems depend.” To meet the challenges posed by the abundance, diversity and complexity of information, de Rosnay proposes the macroscope, a tool “not used to make things larger or smaller but to observe what is at once too great, too slow, and too complex for our eyes.” The goal of the Macroscope Phase of the exhibit is to empower the visitor to answer questions and pose new questions using interactive maps of science and technology.

The 13th iteration of the exhibit will feature macroscopes that communicate or forecast changes in the structure and evolution of science and technology. Macroscopes should be understandable by the exhibit’s international audience, which includes both scholars and educated laypersons aged 18-88.

Places & Spaces is a 20-year effort. Phase I started in 2005 and added 10 new maps each year, resulting in 100 maps total in 2014. Phase II started in 2015 and it will add 3-5 new macroscopes each year through 2024. Macroscopes from 2015 can be viewed at http://scimaps.org/iteration/11, and macroscopes from 2016 will debut in autumn 2016.

Submission Details

Interactive tools designed for desktop, mobile, touch-enabled, and/or large (e.g., tiled wall) devices are all welcome. To be incorporated into our exhibit kiosk, macroscopes must be 1) web-based, 2) touch-enabled, and 3) allowed to run inside an iframe element. Macroscopes that are deployed using other hardware are possible. If you would like to explore this, please contact the curatorial team to discuss your project in more depth. Each macroscope should be fully functional for at least two years. All macroscopes will be integrated into the exhibit kiosk for easy access and be deployed on a 46” multi-touch display running Windows 10 and Firefox, as shown below.

Macroscope kiosk at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum.
Photo courtesy of Mike Jensen.

Each entry must be submitted by January 31, 2017, and needs to include:

  • Title of macroscope tool
  • Author(s) name, email address, affiliation, mailing address
  • Copyright holder (if different from authors)
  • Link to online site that features the macroscope tool or to executable code. Both should come with detailed instructions on how to read, analyze, visualize data and how to interact with the user interface
  • Description of work: insight needs addressed, data used, data analysis, visualization techniques applied, and main insights gained (100-300 words)
  • References to relevant publications or online sites that should be cited
  • Links to related projects/works

Entries should be submitted via EasyChair by clicking here. Enter author info, a title, and submit all other information via the ‘Abstract’ field.

Review Process

All submissions will be reviewed by the exhibit advisory board. Submissions will be evaluated in terms of

  • Scientific value—quality of data collection, analysis and communication of results in support of clearly stated insight needs. Appropriate and innovative application of existing algorithms and/or development of new approaches.
  • Value for decision making—what major insight does the macroscope tool facilitate and why does it matter? Is the tool easy to use and are the visualizations easy to understand by a general audience? Does it empower and encourage viewers to learn more about science and technology?

Final Submission

Authors of winning entries will be contacted in March and invited to submit final entries by April 30, 2017. Each final entry should consist of:

  • Title of macroscope tool
  • Author(s) name, email address, affiliation, mailing address
  • Link to online site that features the macroscope tool or link to executable code.
  • Official macroscope tool description (200 words) including detailed instructions on how to read, analyze, visualize data using the tool and how to interact with the user interface
  • Ten high resolution screen shots
  • Biographies for all authors (about 100 words each)
  • High resolution portraits of all authors that are no smaller than 360 x 450 pixels, or 1.2" x 1.5" at 300 dpi. Larger is always better since we can always crop them down to our specific needs for both print and web.
  • Signed copyright and reproduction agreement

Authors are welcome to use the expertise and resources of the exhibit curators and designers.

Important Dates

  • Submit initial entries: January 31, 2017
  • Notification to mapmakers: February 28, 2017
  • Submit final entries: April 30, 2017
  • Iteration ready for display: August 30, 2017

Exhibit Advisory Board

  • Gary Berg-Cross, Spatial Ontology Community of Practice (SOCoP)
  • Bob Bishop, ICES Foundation
  • Donna Cox, Illinois eDream Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Bonnie DeVarco, Media X, Stanford University
  • Sara Irina Fabrikant, Geography Department, University of Zürich, Switzerland
  • Peter A. Hook, School of Library and Information Science, Wayne State University
  • Lev Manovich, Computer Science, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Eric Rodenbeck, Stamen Design
  • André Skupin, Professor of Geography, San Diego State University
  • Olga Subiros, Big Bang Data
  • Moritz Stefaner, Freelance Designer
  • Stephen Uzzo, New York Hall of Science
  • Benjamin Wiederkehr, Founder, InteractiveThings.com

Please feel free to send any questions you might have regarding the judging process to Katy Borner (katy@indiana.edu) and use the subject heading “Macroscope Inquiry.”


[1] de Rosnay, Joël. 1979. The Macroscope: A New World Scientific System. New York: Harper & Row

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.