24 May 2013 by William

design research tools  Mendeley labs project turns heads at Webscience 2013

Head Start, a Mendeley Labs project, has been nominated for best poster by conference participants at Web Science 2013. Head Start is intended to facilitate and improve the process of literature search. The visualization aims at providing an overview of an academic field, based on Mendeley data.

You know the problem… when you’re first exploring a research area, it is very hard to get an overview of the field. First, you might enter some keywords into an academic search engine such as Google Scholar. Then, you might read through the top results and read their references, provided your institution has access or if they’re available from an open access journal. With time and patience, you build a mental model of the field. There are several drawbacks to this approach: it is very laborious and time-consuming, and it’s very hard to read papers in their order of importance or even to know if you’ve found all the most important papers.

Peter Kraker from the Know-Center at Graz University of Technology has taken on the challenge to overcome these problems. During a research stay at Mendeley for the EU project TEAM, he has developed Head Start in cooperation with the Data Science group led by Kris Jack. The application presents you with the main areas in an academic field, and lets you zoom into relevant publications within each area. This allows a researcher to do most of the exploration in a single user interface.

The overview is generated (almost) automatically using Mendeley’s data about readership of academic papers within a discipline. Readership co-occurrence is used as a measure of subject similarity. The more often two books are checked out of the library together, the more likely they’re on the same subject, and so with academic papers – the more often two papers occur in someone’s Mendeley library, the more likely they are to be on similar subjects. The documents are then grouped by subject area and displayed using D3.js, a JavaScript library for making interactive visualizations on the web, made popular by the New York Times graphics department.

Peter will present Head Start at a webinar of the Web Science Trust Laboratories. The virtual presentation will take place on Wednesday, June 12 at 16:00 London time. Attendance is free; it just needs a simple registration following this link. More information is also available from this paper.

Please check out Peter’s demo and poster and let us know what you think!

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