Skip to content


Switch branches/tags

Name already in use

A tag already exists with the provided branch name. Many Git commands accept both tag and branch names, so creating this branch may cause unexpected behavior. Are you sure you want to create this branch?

Latest commit


Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time

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.

Set the skin property in the config to one of the following values to use the particular data integration skin:

  • "covis"
  • "triple"
  • "viper"

or leave it empty ("") for the default project website skin.

Make sure to have installed node version >= 14.18.1 and npm version >=8.1.1 (best way to install is with nvm, nvm install 14.18.1) 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

Note: you can also set the skin in this step as an argument to the npm start command (e.g. npm start -- --env skin=triple).

The browser will automatically open a new window with the example specified by the skin.

Alternatively, you can point your browser to one of the following addresses:


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

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. //


Maintainer: Peter Kraker (

Authors: Maxi Schramm, Christopher Kittel, Jan Konstant, 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
  • 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, Jan Konstant, 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.