Informal Meeting on Mapping Sciences

Brief Bio and (PR)2: Problems & Pitches – Raves & Rants by Jonathan Schull
In preparation for the Informal Meeting on Mapping Science on Dec 1 & 2, 2005 in Philadelphia, PA, we
ask you to provide a brief bio and your input to the questions below. Feel free to concentrate on a subset of
the questions – not all are equally applicable to everyone due to the rich diversity of backgrounds and
interests of the attendees.
We plan to make your input available to all attendees before the meeting and to use it to more effectively
structure the meeting.
It is our current assumption that maps of science might help give people a bird’s eye view of the structure
and evolution of science, a means to see what areas address the different challenges facing mankind, to help
people connect the dots, and to gain a more global understanding of what humanity collectively knows and
perhaps does not know.
Ideally, we would like to discuss ways to:
Give people an ‘up’ button that let’s them see patterns and trends, outliers and interconnections
among pieces of knowledge. (Currently, the user interacts with a linearly sorted result set without
any means of knowing if they have queried the right database, if the results they retrieved came
from one or very diverse schools of thought/practice, or how the retrieval results are interrelated.)
Educate the general public that Google and other Internet search engines are not the only way to
access the collective wisdom of mankind.
Biography (about 250 words)
(Please provide a photo of yourself and a link to your home page and relevant sites.)
General Questions
What is the public’s understanding of research and technology today? What do they know?
Many think that scientists are “brains” and that science and
technology is magic.
To what extent does the public’s understanding need to be improved? What should people know?
That science is a process, a method of inquiry, not a way of
How is science taught and communicated today, e.g., in school, via TV, etc.?
In school as fact to be learned.
cerebral activity for eggheads.
How should science be taught? What is missing?
On commercial TV, as a
The sense that it is about cultivating the pleasure of
uncertainty and curiosity, not about the collection or mastery of
How would the general public benefit by understanding how different areas of science are related?
The most valuable science occurs in the cracks between
disciplines, the more people see the connections and appreciate
the activity the better consumers and producers of science they
will be.
Mapping Science Questions
What main challenges do you foresee for generating maps of science that are of high quality and coverage?
Engaging and enlightening viewers.
usually vapid.
Eye candy is engaging but
What main opportunities do maps of science offer for what stakeholders?
Non-scientists would be better able to explore.
Scientists would be better able to reach out to other
How could a map of science be used as a visual interface to the web or digital libraries?
I envision a landscape with the distant past rising up in
distance, the present in the foreground. Significant events and
moments in history sit atop mountain peaks and their influences
flow down toward present developments.
People walk and fly
through this landscape as they do through contemporary
multiplayer online games, as avatars and in this way they
interact with objects they encounter…including web pages, ebooks,
They thus navigate time as well as space.
How would the public be empowered to indicate on a map of science their main interests?
Crowds of avatars will collect in areas of interest. Well-worn
footpaths will mark past aggregations. And they interact with
each other (as avatars) and with the environment, leaving
incriptions, drawing connections etc.
This is thus a wikipedia
as well as a time machine.
Over time the connections users draw (arcs between landmarks)
exert tectonic pressures that reshape the landscape itself. As
in science, it is the participant’s interest that determines the
layout of the map, and arguably (a la Kuhn) of the territory.
Science (and our map) is the aggregate of what people do while
Places & Spaces Exhibit Questions
What next seven iterations would you suggest for the Places & Spaces exhibit?
(Please keep in mind that they need to match the interests of the general public and to be doable in the next
nine years.)
I suppose I would make progressively rich, detailed, and
interactive iterations toward the vision described above.
1. Contrast four early maps of our planet with six first maps of science. Both types of maps were/are not
perfectly correct. As for the maps of science, we know that we don’t yet have the data to map science
completely and accurately. Yet, the maps do help people orient and navigate physical places and semantic
Philosophical response:
I’m not much of a relativist, but I am wary of the analogy that a
map of science can be perfectly correct. In geography we know
the map is not the territory but we rarely question that there is
a territory independent of the map. With science, there is a
legitimate question to be explored. The objects of study
certainly exist (I’m willing to stipulate), but when scientce is
the object of study its less clear that there is any territory
other than the map itself.
Helpful response:
Any port in a storm.
wonderful things.
Maps may be all we have but they are
2. Compare reference systems of four different sciences (chem, bio, geo, astro) with six potential reference
systems of science (circular, geo, semantic, etc.). All reference systems need to be easy to read and learned.
However, once they are learned, they may be used as a ‘base map,’ or common reference point, over which
information may be laid. (We would like to finalize the displayed maps/reference systems at the meeting.)
3. Invite cartographers, designers, and artists to render two different base maps of science. The best ten
maps will be selected and displayed. It is assumed that cartographers, designers, and artists have better
expertise and skills to render maps than computer or information scientists.
Please send the completed paper by Nov 28th, 2005 to Katy Borner <[email protected]> and
Deborah MacPherson <[email protected]>.
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