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 config.example.js in the root folder and rename it to config.js.

Make sure to have npm version 3.10.10 installed (it comes with Node.js 6.12.0, you can download installers here) 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. webpack is started in watch mode which means that changes to files are tracked and the created headstart.js 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 config.js to the URL of the dist directory:

  • Dev: specify the full path including protocol, e.g. http://localhost/headstart/dist
  • Production: specify the full path excluding protocol, e.g. //example.org/headstart/dist

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.


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 (pkraker@openknowledgemaps.org)

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



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., 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, Maxi Schramm, Christopher Kittel, Asura Enkhbayar, Scott Chamberlain, Rainer Bachleitner, Yael Stein, Thomas Arrow, Philipp Weissensteiner, Mike Skaug & Open Knowledge Maps team and contributors (2018). Headstart 4. Zenodo. http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1247320