Academic journal article Journal of Digital Information Management

Augmenting Digital Libraries with Web-Based Visualizations

Academic journal article Journal of Digital Information Management

Augmenting Digital Libraries with Web-Based Visualizations

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

As a researcher sets forth to develop new and novel concepts, ideas, and inventions, he or she more often than not expands upon previous published research. Therefore, a researcher needs to search for related publications in his or her field. Once the researcher has found a set of articles, papers, or books, the next step is to explore other works through their references. Even if the person is an established researcher in a given field, finding valuable and pertinent material can be a difficult and time-prohibitive process.

The publication rate of research papers has been accelerating in recent years. As a result, scholars have to sift through too much published material of varying quality to find research relevant to their topic of interest. The National Science Foundation (National Science Board, 2008) noted that the global publication rate of science and engineering papers has grown at a steady yearly rate of 2.3 percent between 1995 and 2005. Furthermore, between the years 1988 and 2005, the amount of interinstitutional collaboration between authors grew from 40 percent to 61 percent. As a consequence, it is pivotal to develop new and improved methods to help researchers through the use of technology, particularly on the web.

1.1 Digital Libraries

Digital libraries are not a new concept that were created with the help of the web. Starting in the 1960s and 1970s, standalone systems and systems that used the early Internet were developed (Lynch, 2005). Unfortunately, these systems were very specialized and, due to limitations of the technology of the time, inaccessible to most researchers. However, with the popularization of the web in the mid-1990s, web-based digital libraries were developed.

Although the web has made it easy to search and find publications, a new challenge has arisen: how to effectively manage and alleviate information overload. It is easy for a researcher to get lost in the clutter of irrelevant publications and never find any papers of actual value to his or her interests. The search features offered by contemporary digital libraries make it simple to narrow down the domain of papers, but the webpage-based user interfaces used today are inadequate. The current user interface paradigm of the web constrains the user and results in a poor user experience: searching, viewing, and foraging for papers is through the navigation from one webpage to another. As a result, it is difficult to see where the user is coming from and where he or she may go next. A single paper in a digital library is represented as a webpage that contains links to other papers that reference it. It is not simple for a user to see where the paper belongs in the wider context of the digital library and, without navigating away from the paper that is being viewed, it is not possible to view second order references, and so on, or in other words, the greater citation network. In order to view a paper's reference, the researcher needs to navigate away from the current page or open a new browser. Unfortunately, both of these solutions result in poor usability because the researcher now has lost the context of the original paper he or she was viewing.

As a result, it is important to create systems that allow for the navigation of bibliographic meta data where a paper can still be focused on screen and still facilitate the easy and seamless retrieval of the surrounding citation network to provide context of where the focused paper belongs. Such an application does not necessarily need to replace contemporary web-based digital libraries, but rather just augment them to provide additional information and context that a webpage cannot provide by itself. However, it is important to remain web-based so that it is possible to seamlessly switch back and forth from the webpage in a digital library to the visualization-based user interface. The hypothesis in this work is that by replacing a traditional webpage-based representation of a paper within a digital library with a suite of visualizations that expose several different perspectives of the same bibliographic meta data, a researcher could gain new insight and find previously non-apparent relationships. …

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