Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Academic Family Tree: Building a single, interdisciplinary academic genealogy

The Academic Family Tree: Building a single, interdisciplinary academic genealogy
The Academic Family Tree is a nonprofit, user content-driven web database that aims to accurately document and publicly share the academic genealogy of current and historical researchers across all fields of academia. As a modern web application, The Academic Family Tree leverages the knowledge of thousands of individual users into a single, self-correcting database. Access to Tree sites is free, and users are able to contribute content directly.

The current project is an outgrowth of, an effort begun in January 2005 to document training relationships within the field of neuroscience and display them in an intuitive "family tree" format. Soon after Neurotree was established, we realized that mentorship in neuroscience draws substantially from other fields, and that the linkages between fields could be of as much interest as within-field data. We also received requests from researchers in other fields to help establish their own academic genealogies. In order to gather data for a unified academic genealogy, we developed a system that allows multiple genealogies--each one focused on a different academic field--to interface onto the same central database. Today, the database contains about 679,600 people and 592,500 connections between them, and it grows at a rate of about 600 people per week in a large, overlapping canopy of trees.

Central to our success and continued growth is the collaborative nature of the project. Users share the benefits of an accurate and complete database, and this motivates them to help maintain it. We value this principle and believe that it must be followed for the project to continue to thrive. 
[n.b. So far there is not much in The Academic Family Tree for disciplines represented in the study of antiquity. I urge those of you who are interested to sign on, build a profile for yourself, and add your mentors, students and collaborators]

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