Resource: The BuzzCloud visualization of buzzwords

“Oh, you work on systems biology? So do I!”

New buzzwords to describe scientific disciplines and technologies seem to pop up every year. For the fun of it, I have developed a small web resource, BuzzClouds, that provides a visual overview of the latest buzzwords in biomedicine.

Without destroying your weekend with mathematical formulas, here is how the BuzzCloud selection and visualization method works:

  • A list of potential buzzwords is constructed by extracting all one- and two-word phrases ending on -ics, -ology, -omy, -phy, -chemistry, -medicine, or -sciences. These endings were select to get buzzwords that correspond to scientific disciplines and technologies.
  • The potential buzzwords are ranked according to a score that takes into account their frequencies within the past year and within the preceding decade (for details see this review article). To get a high score, a buzzword must be both frequent and new. The top-50 buzzwords are included in the cloud.
  • The size of each buzzword is proportional to the logarithm of its frequency during the past year. Common buzzwords are thus large where as rare buzzwords are small.
  • The brightness of each buzzword shows the frequency of the buzzword within the past year relative to the preceding decade. New buzzwords are thus bright whereas the older ones are darker.
  • Finally, each buzzword is assignd a tint that goes from yellow via white to cyan based on how often it occurs in scientific journals (yellow) as opposed to medical journals (cyan).

When run for the year 2007, the end result looks like this (BuzzClouds for other years are available from the web resource):

50 buzzwords identified based on Medline abstracts from 2007

I think the method does a pretty decent job despite the occasional mistakes such as nice technology and timely topics. In terms of scientific buzzwords, quantitative proteomics is booming, systems biology still hot although it is getting a bit long in the tooth, and synthetic biology is rapidly gaining popularity. And nanotechnology seems to be popular within the medical domain, giving rise to buzzwords like nanomedicine and nanotherapeutics.

Maybe I should write a buzzword-compliant, interdisciplinary grant application that combines click chemistry and synthetic biology to develop novel nanotherapeutics.

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4 thoughts on “Resource: The BuzzCloud visualization of buzzwords

  1. bgaeta

    It would be fun to do this on a country by country basis as well. I am wondering if there are differences/delays in buzzword “adoption” between countries. For example, I suspect that “biodiversity” and “biodiversity informatics” would be more prominent in Australia than in the US, but many other buzzwords would rise to prominence in Australia a year or two after the US.

  2. Lars Juhl Jensen Post author

    I have been thinking about doing some statistics on publications from different countries, but I doubt that it would work in case of BuzzClouds. The problem is one of signal-to-noise: to find fresh new buzzwords, I have to detect them as soon as the first few instances appear in Medline. If I were to geographically subdivide these already low counts, there would be no statistical power left. However, it could be interesting to analyze the usage of already established buzzwords in different countries.

  3. Pingback: Update: The BuzzCloud for 2009 « Buried Treasure

  4. Pingback: Update: The BuzzCloud for 2010 « Buried Treasure

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