Science Mapping: Which tool to use?

May 17 2011 Published by under bibliometrics, Information Science

Update 5/18/2011: A product marketing manager from Wiley has informed me that she has made this article free to view for 30 days because of this blog post. Thanks!

Update 6/22/2011: The first author contacted me to let me know the full citation since the article is fully published now.

Science mapping is using the network formed from the links between articles (citations, co-authorship), patents, or other information things, to understand the structure of science (Börner, Chen, & Boyack, 2003),  look for turning points or bursty periods in which lots of publishing happens, locate research specialties (Morris & Martens, 2008), locate important research institutes, look for geographic concentrations, and trace the history of an idea.  It’s been around for a while, but it’s gotten even more popular with better visualization techniques and more powerful computers. It’s particularly hot right now with the two major data providers, Thomson Reuters and Elsevier, heavily marketing analysis products. Elsevier sponsored a webinar last week in their Research Connect series on this topic and had more than 500 people dialed in (slides will be posted but I haven’t  been notified that they are yet).

In addition to a bunch of different really expensive commercial products that cover some aspects of this process, there are a ton of tools available from universities and research centers that are either free or inexpensive for non-profit or educational use. This article reviews the field – the general techniques – but mostly reviews the tools. For more on the whys and whats refer to the ARIST articles cited earlier or, really, read articles that cite them or are cited by them.

The article:

Cobo, M., López-Herrera, A., Herrera-Viedma, E., & Herrera, F. (2011). Science mapping software tools: Review, analysis, and cooperative study among tools Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62, 1382–1402. DOI: 10.1002/asi.21525

This article is pretty readable and really useful – with the proliferating tools, it’s nice to compare them without having to install them all. They review: Bibexcel, CiteSpace, CoPalRed, IN-SPIRE, Ledeysdorff’s software, Network Workbench, Sci2, VantagePoint, and VOSViewer. Hey CiteSpace now takes data from ADS – that’s cool! IN-SPIRE is kind of weird – different – since it doesn’t do the thing with bibliographic data. Likewise Leydesdorff’s software is more a series of utilities to deal with bibliographic data. VantagePoint is commercial and somewhat expensive (I have it at work) but it’s really cool how it does data cleanup. They also provide helpful tables to compare the tools.

Interestingly, they tested things like I typically use them: all at the same time. They use one to to clean, another to analyze, and a third to visualize. Science Sci2 is free, powerful, and well documented, it looks like a good bet. I’ve tried CiteSpace before but it looks like it has improved a lot since then.


Other references

Börner, K., Chen, C., & Boyack, K. W. (2003). Visualizing knowledge domains. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 37, 179–255. doi: 10.1002/aris.1440370106

Morris, S. A. and Van der Veer Martens, B. (2008), Mapping research specialties. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology 42, 213–295. doi: 10.1002/aris.2008.1440420113

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