Mar 29, 2007

Science Maps

Well, I'm a little pissed off today because me and my wife discovered that, although I am one year out of Brazil, we will have to pay the income tax there as well as here. Yes, we can deduct what we paid here, but here I am also paying the National Health System and a pension scheme, which I cannot deduce. Not a good week...

Well, let us come back to the science world. I was browsing the emails sent by one of my friends as he always send me interesting things and stumbled with the picture above and this link:

Scientific Method: Relationships Among Scientific Paradigms

It is a map relating branches of science whose credits go to Kevin Boyack, Dick Klavans and W. Bradford Paley. The idea is that each area of science, which they call a 'paradigm' and is represented by a circle, shares a link with another area if there is a scientific paper citing both together. I was examining the picture. It is a very beautiful one! But I noted an absence of direct links between the biology branches and physics. I guess that if you read some of my old posts, you know that in Statistical Physics there is a lot of papers relating such areas. For example, I would consider that at least some papers about Neural Networks can be considered related to Brain Research. There are also a lot of papers about the spread of diseases or the working of the immune system in Statistical Physics, which would add some direct links from the bottom to the top of the picture. In a not-so-humble move, I emailed one of the authors today talking about that and suggesting to add a separate circle for Statistical Physics. Come on, I agree it is a biased opinion, but I think that Statistical Physics deserves it.

I also find this page of the project Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, which is an exhibition of similar maps of all kinds of science studies which is touring the world. There are very nice and interesting pictures there and, for those who live here in UK like me, they may come to London and Oxford although the dates are not confirmed.


I'm very pleased that Kevin Boyack answered my email so quickly. He explains the question I raised about Statistical Physics and his explanation helps in the understanding of the map:

1. The map is constructed by the most co-cited references, not the most recent ones. Therefore, it is natural that some more recent kinds of work are not present. Just the most refered to.

2. If Statistical Physics appears in these papers in a very interdisciplinary way, it would be spread out in the map and would not be easy to localize. But, as I said, if SP papers are not so cited as others, they will appear less.

3. The algorithm used to constructed the map only draws the strongest links to avoid a very crowded and difficult-to-see map. It is not that the links don't exist, they're just not so stronge as the other ones depicted.

Makes perfect sense. I would like to thank the author for such a nice and quick answer. This is really a very beautiful work.

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