Announcing Connected Papers — a visual tool for researchers to find and explore academic papers
After a long beta, today we are really excited to release Connected Papers* to the public. To use it, simply enter a paper of interest and we will generate a graph that shows that section of paper-space and its interconnections.
* Please use a desktop browser. Mobile browsers are not supported yet.
To create each graph, we analyze an order of ~50,000 papers and select the few dozen with the strongest connections to the origin paper (more on that below).
Each node (circle) in the graph represents a paper which can be previewed on the right side panel. By clicking the “Build a graph” button, that paper becomes the origin to a new graph that’s created in the background. Every such hop can refine or expand the search to reveal more relevant papers. Congratulations, now you’re t̶h̶i̶n̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶p̶o̶r̶t̶a̶l̶s exploring paper-space.
Almost every research project in academia or industry involves phases of literature review. I’ve written before about the pains of finding and managing academic papers.
Many times we find an interesting paper, and we’d like to:
- Find different methods and approaches to the same subject
- Track down the state of the art research in the field
- Identify seminal works and background reading
- Explore and immerse ourselves in the topic and become aware of the trends and dynamics in the literature
Previously, the best ways to do this were to browse reference lists, or hope to find good keywords in textual search engines and databases.
Introducing Connected Papers
Connected Papers started as a side project between friends. We’ve felt the pains of academic literature review and exploration for years and kept thinking about how to solve it.
For the past year we’ve been meeting on weekends and prototyping a tool that would allow a very different type of search process for academic papers. When we saw how much it improved our own research and development workflows — and got increasingly more requests from friends and colleagues to use it — we committed to release it to the public.
You know… for science.
So how does it work?
Connected Papers is not a citation tree. Those have been done before.
In our graph, papers are arranged according to their similarity. That means that even papers that do not directly cite each other can be strongly connected and positioned close to each other in the graph.
To get a bit technical, our similarity is based primarily on the concepts of co-citation and bibliographic coupling (aka co-reference). According to this measure, two papers that have highly overlapping citations and references are presumed to have a higher chance of treating a related subject matter.
Reading the graph
The Connected Papers graph is designed to make the important and relevant papers pop out immediately.
With our layout algorithm, similar papers cluster together in space and are connected by stronger lines (edges). Popular papers (that are frequently cited) are represented by bigger circles (nodes) and more recent papers are represented by a darker color.
So for example, finding an important new paper in your field is as easy as identifying the dark large node at the center of a big cluster.
In some cases it is convenient to work with just a list of connected papers. For these occasions, we’ve built the List view which you can access by clicking “Expand” at the top of the left panel. Here you can view additional paper details as well as sort and filter them according to various properties.
Prior and derivative works
The Prior works feature lists the top common ancestral papers for the connected papers in the graph. It usually includes seminal works in the field that heavily influenced the next generation.
Meanwhile, the Derivative works feature is the opposite: it shows a list of common descendants of the papers in the graph. It usually includes relevant state of the art papers or systematic reviews and meta-analyses in the field.
We have found these features to be especially useful when we have a paper from one era of research and we would like to be directed to the preceding and succeeding generations of research on the same topic.
Spread the word and join the discussion
Please share Connected Papers in your scientific community!
We are very eager to see how the broader academic community adopts and responds to this tool. We welcome all forms of feedback and would love to brainstorm together about how it can further evolve and improve.
We’d like to extend a special thank you to all of our beta testers and friends who helped us reach this release.
— Eddie, Alex, Itay