Jevin D. West

"...work on interesting problems, problems that are messy and problems that get you excited; don't consider disciplinary boundaries; teach; write a few papers; and most importantly, surround yourself with good people..." --my inner research voice

Emergence of Neuroscience

I am an Assistant Professor in the Information School at the University of Washington (UW). I co-direct the DataLab, study the Science of Science, and coordinate Data Science education at UW and the eScience Institute.

I see information as a central unifying them in society, biology and our physical world. I spend much of my time developing methods for mapping large citation networks in order to understand the evolution of scholarly ideas; however, network thinking is useful for understanding the movement of [1] water molecules in stomatal networks, [2] infectious disease in human contact networks, and [3] passengers in airline transportation networks. I co-founded several research projects in the Science of Science including Eigenfactor.org and Viziometrics.org.

Life and information: In my lifetime, I have seen the advent of the home computer, the internet, email, and google. This revolution in technology, though, has produced more than just convenient forms of communication. The information age has delivered new data, new questions and new metaphors to a whole new generation of scientists. My vocabulary as a biologist includes words like code, compression and computation; my microscope consists of cellular automata, network models and genetic algorithms. This para-discipline of science - where economists talk like biologists and biologists talk like computer scientists - is where I think the some of the most interesting questions lie.

I am not an expert in any one field, but my training has given me several hats. I study the properties of citation networks and look for large-scale patterns within these networks (~ physics). Citation networks - model systems for information flow - are ideal for studying the birth and death of ideas (~ biology). I investigate biases in science; specifically, I investigate gender differences in authorship and promotion (~ sociology). And I develop algorithms for mapping and navigating science (~ computer science). Interdisciplinary is requisite of most research disciplines nowadays - the science of science is no different. My non-disciplinary training has prepared and motivated me to pursue the non-disciplinary.

People often ask me why I reside in an information school if my training is in biology and physics. My passion is in facilitating science as much as in participating science. The ethos of Information Science is to “make information work”. I want to do this for Science. I want to bring the latest and greatest from data mining, machine learning and computer vision to scientists and their day-to-day interactions with the literature.

snowy mountains
A little bit about me

I grew up in the small town of Ammon, Idaho. I attended Utah Sate University to play tennis and ski in some of the best snow on earth. After finishing a bachelors degree in biology, I combined a tennis-pro hiatus with a Masters degree. I worked with Keith Mott and David Peak investigating stomatal networks as distributed computers [1]. This work hooked my interests in networks, complex systems, and information theory.

In the fall of 2005, I began my PhD at UW working with Carl Bergstrom and Ben Kerr. I was interested in studying the role of information processing systems in the evolution of life. During this time, I was introduced to citation networks as a model system for studying information flows in networks. The specific problem was to figure out how to better measure scholarly influence and how to automatically map scientific disciplines. That research has led me to where I am today, which includes developing methods for mapping science[4], visualizing citation networks [5], investigating the role of gender in academia [6], understanding the economics of publishing and its role on science [7], and developing scholarly recommender systems. [8].

During my post-doc, I was fortunate to continue thinking about networks and applying community detection methods to large, citation networks. I worked with Martin Rosvall in the IceLab at Umea University (Sweden). One of the primary research projects from the IceLab is mapequation.org. The algorithms from this project form the basis for much of the work we do in our lab around the mapping of scientific literature.

I have been lucky in my research journey so far. I have worked with collaborators and students as passionate about science as me. I have had mentors that are both good researchers and good people. And I have worked in departments and universities that encourage the crossing of disciplinary boundaries.

"The whole is the sum of the parts plus the interactions..." -Martin Rosvall