The April 6, 2004, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) features nearly 20 articles by some of tomorrow's scientific mapmakers. Representing the computer, information and cognitive sciences, mathematics, geography, psychology and other fields, these researchers present attempts to create maps of science from the ever-growing and constantly evolving ocean of digital data.
"Science is specializing at high speed, which leads to increasing fragmentation and reinvention," said Katy Brner of Indiana University. "Maps of publication databases or other data sources can help show how scientists and scientific results are interconnected."
College students might use such maps to see how well a syllabus covers a field's major topics, while companies could map out plans for targeting their investments. Funding agencies could keep an eye on research frontiers or forecast how funding decisions might affect a discipline. An online version could provide an effective interface to major databases.
"Ultimately, I'd like to see a map of science in schools, as common as the political world map," Brner said. "'Continents' would represent the diverse areas of science, and closely related areas would reside on the same continent. Teachers might say, 'Let's look at the new research frontier in sector F5.' Students could say, 'My mom works over there.'"
The results featured in PNAS were originally presented at the May 2003 Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium on Mapping Knowledge Domains, sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences. Organized by Richard Shiffrin and Brner of Indiana University, the colloquium addressed the task of extracting meaningful and relevant information from largely unorganized data collections.
"Creating a map for all of science will require large-scale cyberinfrastructure," Brner said. "The endeavor will involve terabytes of data-publications, patents, grants and other databases-scalable software and large amounts of number-crunching power. Such computational effort is common in physics or biology but not in the social sciences. However, maps of science will benefit every field."
The research in the following papers in the April 6 issue of PNAS was supported in whole or in part by awards from the National Science Foundation.
Information about the Mapping Knowledge Domains colloquium is available at: http://vw.indiana.edu/sackler03/
"Scientists seek 'map of science'"
BBC News online
Posted April 09, 2004