The website paperscape.org creates a beautiful dynamic visualization of the citation network that connects articles on the arXiv preprint server, resembling a view in the night sky. As you will see, quantitative ecology is a small cluster of galaxies in the lower left corner of the open access universe, dominated by the large network nebula. It’s fun to see where one’s own papers are in the universe, sobering like a real view into the early universe. The paperscape blog explains how the visualization is created:
Each paper in the map is represented by a circle, with the area of the circle proportional to the number of citations that paper has. In laying out the map, an N-body algorithm is run to determine positions based on references between the papers. There are two “forces” involved in the N-body calculation: each paper is repelled from all other papers using an anti-gravity inverse-distance force, and each paper is attracted to all of its references using a spring modelled by Hooke’s law. We further demand that there is no overlap of the papers.