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OpenKnowledgeMaps / Headstart

A framework for creating web-based knowledge maps

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Head Start

Head Start is a web-based knowledge mapping software intended to give researchers a head start on their literature review (hence the name). It comes with a powerful backend that is is capable of automatically producing knowledge maps from a variety of data, including text, metadata and references.

Head Start

Getting Started


To get started, clone this repository. Next, duplicate the file

in the root folder and rename it to

Make sure to have

version 6.11.3 installed (it comes with Node.js 10.17.0, best way to install is with nvm,
nvm install 10.17.0
) and run the following two commands to build the Headstart client:
npm install
npm run dev

We are using webpack to build our client-side application.

is started in watch mode which means that changes to files are tracked and the created
is automatically updated.

Now you can run a local dev server:

npm start

To run Headstart on a different server (e.g. Apache), you need to set the publicPath in

to the URL of the
directory: * Dev: specify the full path including protocol, e.g.
* Production: specify the full path excluding protocol, e.g.

Point your browser to the following address:


If everything has worked out, you should see the visualization shown above.

See client configuration for details on adapting the client.

Also see visualization options.

Modern Frontend

To enable testing features that have been ported to the modern frontend set the

environment variable to
. e.g. to use it in hot reloading development server mode:
MODERN_FRONTEND="true" npm start

The variable can also be set at build time:

MODERN_FRONTEND="true" npm run prod

The tests can be run with:

npm test

The modern frontend code can be linted (e.g. the code style etc. checked) using

npm run lint

Additionally, it is possible to set the flag for the modern frontend in the

file, for example as
modernFrontendEnabled: true
as demonstrated in
. Please note that any setting in the config.js will be overriden by command-line arguments.


See Installing and configuring the server for instructions on how to install and configure the server. Also, see HOWTO: Get the search repos example to work.


Maintainer: Peter Kraker ([email protected])

Authors: Maxi Schramm, Christopher Kittel, Asura Enkhbayar, Scott Chamberlain, Rainer Bachleitner, Yael Stein, Thomas Arrow, Mike Skaug, Philipp Weissensteiner, and the Open Knowledge Maps team


  • Interactive, web-based knowledge maps based on D3.js, following Shneiderman's principle of "overview first, zoom and filter, then details-on-demand"
  • Synchronized list representation of documents complementing the knowledge map
  • Integrated PDF viewer and annotation tool, courtesy of Hypothes.is
  • Powerful server component written in PHP and R for the creation of knowledge maps, including algorithms for clustering, ordination and labelling
  • Connectors to a number of academic search engines through rOpenSci, including BASE, PubMed, PLOS and DOAJ
  • Persistence and versioning system based on SQLite


  • Open Knowledge Maps: Creates a visualization on the fly based on a user's search in either BASE or PubMed.
  • VIPER - The Visual Project Explorer: Provides overviews of research projects indexed by OpenAIRE.
  • CRIS Vis: Enables the exploration of crowd-sourced research questions related to mental health.
  • Overview of Educational Technology: A working prototype for the field of educational technology based on co-readership.
  • OpenUP Dissemination Toolbox: A prototype showcasing an overview of innovative dissemination case studies.
  • Conference Navigator 3 [registration required]: An adaptation of Head Start for the conference scheduling system CN3. This version enables users to schedule papers directly from the visualization. Scheduled papers and recommended papers are highlighted.


The visualization has been successfully tested with Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Microsoft Edge. Unfortunately, Internet Explorer is not supported due to the fact that it is not possible to insert HTML into a foreignObject.


More information can be found in the following papers:

Kraker, P., Schramm, M., Kittel, C., Chamberlain, S., & Arrow, T. (2018). VIPER: The Visual Project Explorer. Zenodo. doi:10.5281/zenodo.2587129

Kraker, P., Kittel, C., & Enkhbayar, A. (2016). Open Knowledge Maps: Creating a Visual Interface to the World’s Scientific Knowledge Based on Natural Language Processing. 027.7 Journal for Library Culture, 4(2), 98–103. doi:10.12685/027.7-4-2-157

Kraker, P., Schlögl, C. , Jack, K. & Lindstaedt, S. (2015). Visualization of Co-Readership Patterns from an Online Reference Management System. Journal of Informetrics, 9(1), 169–182. doi:10.1016/j.joi.2014.12.003

Kraker, P., Weißensteiner, P., & Brusilovsky, P. (2014). Altmetrics-based Visualizations Depicting the Evolution of a Knowledge Domain. In 19th International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators (pp. 330–333).

Kraker, P., Körner, C., Jack, K., & Granitzer, M. (2012). Harnessing User Library Statistics for Research Evaluation and Knowledge Domain Visualization. Proceedings of the 21st International Conference Companion on World Wide Web (pp. 1017–1024). Lyon: ACM. doi:10.1145/2187980.2188236


Head Start is licensed under MIT.


If you use Head Start in your research, please cite it as follows:

Peter Kraker, Christopher Kittel, Maxi Schramm, Rainer Bachleitner, Thomas Arrow, Scott Chamberlain, Asura Enkhbayar, Yael Stein, Philipp Weissensteiner, Mike Skaug, Katrin Leinweber & Open Knowledge Maps team and contributors. (2019, March 7). Headstart 5 (Version v5). Zenodo. http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.2587129

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