Some of you will recall my having initiated, a few years back, an online, collaborative, open and free bibliographical project for Buddhist Studies using the Zotero bibliography tool. I initially seeded this database with about 5,000 entries from my personal bibliographical collection, and, along with a few others, have been steadily adding to it, such that it presently contains over 9,000 entries.
I was recently introduced to a new visualization tool called VOSviewer, which specializes in the visual representation of bibliographical data. VOSviewer is very easy to use, and works splendidly with Zotero, being able to absorb the Zotero data via the RIS data transfer format. RIS files can be output from Zotero with a simple click of the mouse. I have experimented using VOSviewer with a range of theme-based outputs from our Buddhist Studies collection (China, Tibet, India; Yogâcāra, Zen; the works of individual scholars, etc.).
It worked best on my own oeuvre, since I have registered virtually everything that I have published into the Zotero system, and have richly keyword-tagged every entry. What came out, I thought, rather nicely represented what I have been doing for the past 30 years (see here). So I ran Zotero/VOS against a select group of other categories, all of which were interesting, though usually rather skewed due to imbalances inherent in the data based on the fact that 95% has been collected by me (thus, for the category of Korean Buddhism, I falsely seem to outshine Lew Lancaster and Robert Buswell, etc.). But all of these imbalances could easily be remedied by just a modicum of user participation. Please see here for the first group of provisional tests I have run.
Now, in addition to the skewing of the data due to its relatively small size and having been collected mainly by me, VOSviewer is a young application with a number of shortcomings—such as the inability to render diacritics and non-roman characters. So the output is far from perfect, but extremely promising. I have contacted the developers, and am urging them to remedy this issue.
I am hoping that this might serve to stimulate some other colleagues to use the Zotero Buddhist Studies database—at the very least to flesh out their own publications, and even better, to flesh out certain field areas. For instance, Pierce Salguero has already done this for Buddhism and medicine. (But keyword tagging is vitally important, and I'll address this in a following post)
Also, if you happen to be curious about this but are not sure how to start, and you will be at the IABS, I'd be happy to sit down with you and show you the basics. In fact, I'd even be willing to run an impromptu tutorial session if the organizers thought it viable.
** Note: If you want to add data to Zotero, you'll either have to learn how to do it yourself, or send me your data in some standard bibliographical data format (e.g., RIS, Endnote, BibText, Marc, RefWorks, etc.). Please don't send me your MS-Word bibliographies.
I'll be following up on this message with more technical specifics.