, Volume 114, Issue 2, pp 409–426 | Cite as

Science map metaphors: a comparison of network versus hexmap-based visualizations

  • Katy Börner
  • Adam H. Simpson
  • Andreas Bueckle
  • Robert L. Goldstone


Most maps of science use a network layout; few use a landscape metaphor. Human users are trained in reading geospatial maps, yet most have a hard time reading even simple networks. Prior work using general networks has shown that map-based visualizations increase recall accuracy of data. This paper reports the result of a comparison of two comparable renderings of the UCSD map of science that are: the original network layout and a novel hexmap that uses a landscape metaphor to layout the 554 subdisciplines grouped into 13 color-coded disciplines of science. Overlaid are HITS metrics that show the impact and transformativeness of different scientific subdisciplines. Both maps support the same interactivity, including search, filter, zoom, panning, and details on demand. Users performed memorization, search, and retrieval tasks using both maps. Results did not show any significant differences in how the two maps were remembered or used by participants. We conclude with a discussion of results and planned future work.


Mapping science Interactive data visualizations User studies 



The authors would like to thank Joseph Staudt, Huifeng Yu, Robert Light, Gerald Marschke, and Bruce Weinberg from the HITS metrics team for their expert comments on the design and functionality of the two visualizations. Michael Frisby and David Endicott from the Social Science Research Commons at Indiana University Bloomington provided data analysis support. Börner, Simpson, and Bueckle are partially supported by the National Institutes of Health under awards P01 AG039347 and U01CA198934 and the National Science Foundation under award EAGER 1566393, NCN CP Supplement 1553044, and AISL 1713567. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This study was accepted by the Human Subjects Office of Indiana University Bloomington as meeting the criteria of exempt research as described in the Federal regulations at 45 CFR 46.101(b), paragraph 2. The Human Subjects Office accepted the use of an information sheet.


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katy Börner
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Adam H. Simpson
    • 1
  • Andreas Bueckle
    • 1
  • Robert L. Goldstone
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, School of Informatics, Computing, and EngineeringIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Indiana University Network Science InstituteBloomingtonUSA
  3. 3.Cognitive Science ProgramIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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