Diagramming Scientific Papers – A New Idea for Understanding/Teaching/Sharing Science

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Richard Ward Saltus, USGS, Baltimore, MD, United States and Maurizio Fedi, University Federico II Napoli, Napoli, Italy
How do we best communicate scientific results? As the number of scientists and scientific papers steadily increases, one of the greatest challenges is effective and efficient sharing of science. The official repository of scientific knowledge is the peer-reviewed journal archive. However, this primary knowledge can be difficult to access and understand by anyone but a relevant specialist. We propose some new ideas for diagramming the content and significance of scientific papers using a simple and intuitive graphical approach.

We propose a visual mapping that highlights four fundamental aspects of most scientific papers: Data, Methods/Models, Results/Ideas, and Implications/Importance. Each of these aspects is illustrated within boxed fields which contain one or more labeled elements positioned to reflect novelty (aka originality) and impact relative to the vertical and horizontal axes. The relative position of the boxed fields themselves indicates the relative significance of data, methods, ideas, or implications to the paper. Optional lines between boxed elements indicate the flow and dependence of data/methods/ideas within the paper. As with any graphical depiction, you need to see it to best appreciate it -- this written abstract is only meant as an introduction to the idea.

We anticipate that diagramming may prove useful in both communication of scientific ideas among scientists as well as in education and outreach. For example, professors could assign diagramming of papers as a way to help students organize their thoughts about the structure and impact of scientific articles. Students could compare and defend their diagrams as a way to facilitate discussion/debate. Authors could diagram their own work as a way to efficiently summarize the importance and significance of their work. We also imagine that (in the future) automatic diagramming might be used to help summarize or facilitate the discovery of archived work.