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Evaluating Earth Science Research with Adaptive Topic Maps

Authors: Sara Lafia*, UC Santa Barbara, Werner Kuhn, UC Santa Barbara
Topics: Cartography, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Communication
Keywords: atlas, spatialization, scientometrics
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Academic research units typically have to report on their productivity. While universities and funding agencies prescribe how to organize and summarize the vast amounts of data about grant proposals, publications, and other products, the problem of how to generate actionable information and support in-depth analyses has hardly been addressed so far. The difficulty is to complement the usual scientometric numbers with visualizations of research areas, their interconnections, and evolution. Spatialization is a technique that has been successfully applied to depict large and thematically diverse collections of information by using spatial distance on a map of themes to represent thematic similarity, sometimes augmented by networks that represent connections between themes. This research develops a prototypical atlas for a highly interdisciplinary earth science institute, which is comprised of maps (spatializations) providing distinct views of research activities at several levels of thematic detail. The capabilities of the atlas are designed to answer questions from reviewers, funding agencies, offices of research, and researchers themselves. The graphical views of scholarship that the atlas affords are adaptive, available to viewers at multiple thematic granularities that support user-driven questions about expertise and progress in the research unit. Insights within each map are reproducible, making it possible for researchers and reviewers to reference specific maps within the atlas for reporting and evaluation purposes. We conclude with a vision for the spatial curation of scientific knowledge to serve academic research units and the organizations they report to, as well as broader audiences, such as libraries and the general public.

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