The First Visual Search Engine for Scientific Diagrams

Research from Po-shen Lee and colleagues at the University of Washington found graphics play an important role in the scientific process. The team downloaded 4.8 million figures from 650,000 scientific papers from the online database PubMed Central, and trained a machine-vision algorithm to recognize diagrams, photos, tables, data plots, and equations. The researchers analyzed how this distribution varied by journal, discipline, and over time, and found the most successful papers tend to have more figures. “We find a significant correlation between scientific impact and the use of visual information, where higher impact papers tend to include more diagrams, and to a lesser extent more plots and photographs,” the researchers say. The research provides the foundation for an entirely new kind of science the team calls “viziometrics,” the science of visual information. The researchers have made their database searchable and available online. The search engine returns diagrams, photos, and other figures related to a scientific term, enabling scientists to reason about science and data in a new way.

More info here: Technology Review (05/27/16)

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