Making sense of the evolution of a scientific domain: A visual analytic study of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey research

Chaomei Chen, Jian Zhang, Michael S. Vogeley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


We introduce a new visual analytic approach to the study of scientific discoveries and knowledge diffusion. Our approach enhances contemporary co-citation network analysis by enabling analysts to identify co-citation clusters of cited references intuitively, synthesize thematic contexts in which these clusters are cited, and trace how research focus evolves over time. The new approach integrates and streamlines a few previously isolated techniques such as spectral clustering and feature selection algorithms. The integrative procedure is expected to empower and strengthen analytical and sense making capabilities of scientists, learners, and researchers to understand the dynamics of the evolution of scientific domains in a wide range of scientific fields, science studies, and science policy evaluation and planning. We demonstrate the potential of our approach through a visual analysis of the evolution of astronomical research associated with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) using bibliographic data between 1994 and 2008. In addition, we also demonstrate that the approach can be consistently applied to a set of heterogeneous data sources such as e-prints on arXiv, publications on ADS, and NSF awards related to the same topic of SDSS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-688
Number of pages20
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is supported in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under grant

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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