Our next Vici Shortlist has been written by Laurens De Vocht and is looking at ResXplorer: Explore connections within the research society.
Research information is widely available on the web – both in the form of peer-reviewed research publications, or as resources shared via (micro)blogging platforms or other social media.
Usually, the platforms supporting this exchange of information have an API that allows access to the structured content. This opens up new ways of searching and exploring research information. ResXplorer demonstrates an approach that visualizes interactively an aligned knowledge base of these resources.
ResXplorer interactively visualizes resources – such as conferences, publications and proceedings – and exposes affinities between researchers and these resources. Each affinity, between researchers and resources, is characterized by the amount of shared interests and other commonalities.
The visualization of the relations between resources after matching the user input emphasizes the affinities among the resources by showing them on a radial map. It is based on the concept of affinity that can be appropriately expressed in visual terms as a spatial relationship: proximity.
To further enhance the guidance of users during search, ResXplorer uses three main visual aids:
1. Shape & Color
Every resource has a type and associated unique color. For a certain result set the user gets an immediate impression of the nature of the found resources. Sets of types are grouped and represented using a dedicated shape (as in the figure: conferences as stars).
Each resource is ranked according to novelty and its relation to the context and the visualization enlarges the ones that should attract attention from the researcher first. A possible goal of a search session could be to explore information not seen before which makes it difficult to define an accurate search goal a priori.
3. Highlighted Paths
Researchers can track the history of their search: the explored relations are highlighted and clearly indicate the context of a search. Researchers can click on a list of resources they have searched to focus the visualization.
Researchers can improve the definition of their “intended” search goal over several iterations. Each time a combination of various resources is visualized. The visualization suggests new queries: they are generally most useful for refining the system’s representation of the researcher’s need. In case they have no idea which entity to focus on or what topic to investigate next they get an overview of possible entities of interest, like points of interest on a street map.
Clicking on a resource centers it as the main focus and other resources are reorganized around the focused resource based on the existing relations. A detailed view provides explanation about the origin of the data and displays a legend of the currently visualized resources.
ResXplorer is an interface for semantic search providing both a technical demonstration and a visualization that could be applied in many other disciplines beyond Research 2.0. The main benefit for users is that it allows to interactively explore relations and affinities between the found resources.