Open Knowledge Maps: a Visual Interface to the World's Scientific Knowledge

Peter Kraker*, Najmeh Shaghaei

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


Getting an overview of a research field and being able to identify a set of relevant findings pertaining to one’s information need are prerequisites for research, evidence-based practice and self-directed learning alike. Yet, the tools for exploring and discovering scientific content are often lacking. With traditional, list-based search engines, users have to examine articles and their relationships by hand, which is a time-consuming process.

Open Knowledge Maps is an attempt to transform discovery of scientific knowledge by providing an open, community-driven non-profit system that leverages the digital open science ecosystem. Instead of lists, we propose to use knowledge maps for discovery. Knowledge maps provide an instant overview of a field by showing the main areas of the field at a glance, and papers related to each area. This makes it possible to easily identify useful, pertinent information.

Our goal is to provide a large-scale system of open, interactive and interlinked knowledge maps for every research topic, every field and every discipline. This system will enable people inside and outside of academia to not only get an overview of a field and identify relevant concepts, but also to discover trends, recognize important researchers, and to understand connections between fields.

On our website, users can currently create a knowledge map for a topic of their choice based on either BASE or PubMed. Our software retrieves the 100 most relevant results for a topic and generates a knowledge map based on textual similarity between the records. The map is intended to give users a head start in their literature research.

With this service, we have created a lot of enthusiasm in the community. Our user base has quickly grown: since our launch in May 2016, we have recorded over half a million visits to the site and more than 120,000 maps have been created. Open Knowledge Maps has become an international collaboration with team members, advisors and partners from variety of fields, including research, librarianship, design, software development, citizen science, and the open knowledge and open science movement.

In the future, we want to turn discovery into an open and collaborative process. Most people are currently tackling discovery on their own – and therefore repeat the same process over and over again. By sharing the results of our discoveries, we can save valuable time and build on top of each other’s knowledge; for example, researchers and medical librarians can collaboratively map the newest research on a certain disease and openly share result of their efforts for the benefit of evidence-based practice and patients affected by this disease.

We see research libraries and librarians as central to this vision. The complex collaborative system outlined above cannot be realized without experts on knowledge stewardship and community engagement. Together with the other stakeholders from research and society, including researchers, students, journalists, citizen scientists and many more, we want to create system that enables us to create pathways through science for each other. So that we can all benefit from this unique knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date27. Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 27. Jun 2019
EventLIBER Annual Conference 2019 - Dublin
Duration: 26. Jun 201928. Jun 2019


ConferenceLIBER Annual Conference 2019


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