This request, a commission, was different. The BarabásiLab began the process with a data-driven analysis of the whole history of the journal. The team then mapped out the massive co-citation network connecting the 88,000 papers Nature had published since 1900. Two papers were linked if another scientific publication had cited them both. The visualization of the network reveals the highly multidisciplinary scope of the journal and illuminates how various disciplines, which appear in different colors, are co-cited.
The original plan of a single cover image turned into a multimedia project consisting of a foldout cover of the co-citation network, and a three-page image illustrating the impact of several iconic Nature publications. The project was also accompanied by a video, and an interactive website.
While this map represents data specific to one journal, its bigger takeaways are about how discovery informs and alters our thinking, how ideas are born when disciplines collide, and how the knowledge that leads to the emergence of schools of thought is itself an enlightening and vibrant topic of inquiry.