Map of scientific collaboration (Redux!)

map_hiSeveral years ago, I created a map of scientific collaborations. The attention this map obtained surpassed my wildest expectations; it got published in the scientific and popular press all around the world! I had mainly forgotten about it until I received an email that rekindled my interest in this visualization and I thought it was high time to revisit this visualization.

Unfortunately, scientific papers (and associated data) are closely guarded and only a handful of firms have full access to them. I now work in a very different field, so I lost access to this dataset. But while perusing my Twitter feed, I came across the very active feed of Scimago Lab. Their social media presence and their incredible interactive visualizations convinced me that they might be interested in collaborating. I sent off an email to their founder, Félix de Moya and, lo and behold, he was interested in collaborating. Cool!

Read on for more maps and an overview of the methodology >>

After a bit of back and forth, I spent a weekend programming a tool to draw large geographical graphs. The tool I used a couple of years ago was riddled by projection bugs and was terribly inefficient (and the source was lost when I reformatted an old hard disk), so a rewrite was in order. The idea behind the tool is really simple. It loads up a graph in memory and then goes through the graph edge by edge to draw every edge following the curvature of the earth and projecting each line using the Plate Carré (overlappable on Google Maps) or Eckert III (which I find beautiful).

Click here to open this map in a new window

I shared my tool with Félix and after a trying a good deal of different settings, we were able to compute the following map using the Scopus database (papers published between 2008 and 2012). This map shows the collaboration networks between researchers in different cities. Apart from its aesthetic qualities, the map is useful to illustrate some interesting collaboration patterns. One of the most striking one is the importance of Paris in French science. It seems that every researcher in France collaborates with at least a researcher in Paris. Unsurprisingly, the map also shows quite clearly that the location scientific institutions follows the population density. Also, links between countries and their old colonies are also very obvious.

These following maps were rendered with different color schemes. Click on any map to enlarge.

Because the basic input for this tool is a large collaboration graph between cities, we can also use network analytical tools and methods. One of these methods, the Louvain method (available as a standalone tool or in Gephi) can identify communities in social network graphs. In our case, it can identify different collaboration patterns between cities; these patterns seem to follow linguistic or old colonial lines:

Map Clusters

My main preoccupation with this work was mostly aesthetic, but a lot of interesting analytical work could be done. For example, one could illustrate different fields (astronomy, biology, etc.), illustrate different institutions or even animate collaboration patterns during a specific time period, etc. If you think that this could be interesting or useful, please contact Scimago Lab. They’ll be able to answer your questions or even produce custom maps.

29 Thoughts on “Map of scientific collaboration (Redux!)

  1. Pingback: Map of scientific collaboration between researchers | Olivier H. Beauchesne

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  4. Hi Olivier,

    These illustrations are fantastic. I work in the Science and Research team at the British Council in the UK, where we provide opportunities for researchers across the world to form international connections.

    I’d very much like to use one or two of your images to highlight how international research is and so wanted to ask your permission to do so. They would likely appear online and/or in print, and would of course always be attributed to yourself.

    Best wishes,

  5. Manuel Barange on June 28, 2015 at 3:59 pm said:

    What happened to Canadian science? No collaborations?

    • Most universities are located near the border. Look at the zoomable google map, it should become clearer.

    • David Ostler on November 14, 2015 at 7:03 pm said:

      Good question, what did happen to Canadian science? Stephen Harper, that’s what. Since Canadian scientists (employed by government) were forbidden to speak of their research this may have affected the results. Also, there has been a tremendous shrinking of Federal research budgets with some completely asinine closures of world class facilities. Hopefully our new PM will have a more science friendly attitude, and not just one that promotes commercially advantageous projects.

  6. Dear Olivier,

    I work for Big Data Paris (congress and communication agency about Big Data). I love your illustrations and would like to use one of them in our annual big data book (there’s a section dedicated to scientific research and collaborations). Please let me know is this is possible.

    Thanks a lot.


  7. Fadzai Chikwava on October 29, 2015 at 8:44 am said:

    Dear Olivier

    These are great illustrations. I am interested in mapping collaborations for our university’s research output. Please advise the software to use or share the Code that we can use in R

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  9. Dear Olivier,

    Your work looks beautiful as always. Could we please use one of your images (the blue on black or colored one) for a workshop that we are organizing? It is on online collaboration in machine learning. We have created a website here:

    Thanks a lot,
    Joaquin Vanschoren

  10. I’d love to use this absolutely beautiful map cluster image on a page as well and I can pass credits, is this alright?

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  14. Elco Leenders on January 26, 2016 at 3:33 am said:

    Dear Oliver,

    Your illustations are beautiful! I’d like your way of designing and visualizing all connections. I work for Syneratio, an online knowledge sharing platform for researchers, companies, and students.

    I’d very much like to use one of your images for our website in order to visualize connections all over te world. Could we use one of your images?

    Thanks in advance!


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  26. Robert Insall on November 3, 2016 at 5:27 am said:

    You seem to have a lot of researchers in Oban! Why?

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