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Neurotree: A Collaborative, Graphical Database of the Academic Genealogy of Neuroscience
Published: Friday, October 05, 2012
Author: Stephen V. David et al.

by Stephen V. David, Benjamin Y. Hayden

Neurotree is an online database that documents the lineage of academic mentorship in neuroscience. Modeled on the tree format typically used to describe biological genealogies, the Neurotree web site provides a concise summary of the intellectual history of neuroscience and relationships between individuals in the current neuroscience community. The contents of the database are entirely crowd-sourced: any internet user can add information about researchers and the connections between them. As of July 2012, Neurotree has collected information from 10,000 users about 35,000 researchers and 50,000 mentor relationships, and continues to grow. The present report serves to highlight the utility of Neurotree as a resource for academic research and to summarize some basic analysis of its data. The tree structure of the database permits a variety of graphical analyses. We find that the connectivity and graphical distance between researchers entered into Neurotree early has stabilized and thus appears to be mostly complete. The connectivity of more recent entries continues to mature. A ranking of researcher fecundity based on their mentorship reveals a sustained period of influential researchers from 1850–1950, with the most influential individuals active at the later end of that period. Finally, a clustering analysis reveals that some subfields of neuroscience are reflected in tightly interconnected mentor-trainee groups.
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