About Inciteful

The seed of the idea for Inciteful came about as a result of a frustrating experience after helping my wife (the academic of the family) with some research. I was interested in a topic that was tangentially related to what she was working on but she wasn't familiar with that specific literature. As a result I went down a rabbit hole of going to Google Scholar to look for papers, scanning papers for references, looking at who cited those papers, and then returning to Google Scholar to repeat the process. All while keeping the results of my search in a notepad, noting connections between different papers to better understand how they are all related. After an embarrassingly long time, I realized I was just drawing a network graph. Probably an experience that most academics can relate to.

My background is in Computer Science and am a developer by trade so my mind quickly jumped to how this whole process could be automated. I also have a bit of ADD so the interest in my original research question was quickly and easily overtaken by this new project.

After spending the first year of life as a hacked together python notebook using the apis from Open Citations and Crossref, I decided to try and scale it up to something that others could use.

The biggest problem was the real time creation of the graph. My original solution took over 15 minutes to build the graph for a paper with only a few citations and 40-50 references. It was clearly too slow. After a number of fits and starts, where I ended up learning a new programming language (Rust), testing out a number of databases, changing the source of my data, and re-architecting the code a few times, I finally found a solution that I'm happy with and I hope you are too.

As this is built upon the back of data that I received for free, it feels like bad karma to charge for the service. That being said, it's pretty expensive to keep the site up and running ($500/month) as the backend servers need to be pretty powerful to give a good experience to the end users. In the future I might start accepting dontations to cover the cost of running the site or if you know of an institution who might be interested in sponsoring the project, an introduction would be appreciated.

It's still under active development so if you have any questions, suggestions or just want to say hi, please feel free to send me your feedback.