Sankey for Inventors
Innovation patterns and inventive talent collaboration across state and national borders directly affect economic development, business creation, acquisition, and expansion. Education program design, particularly STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), is strongly influenced by projections of future knowledge and skills needs that are driven by technology advancements captured in patents. Today we initiate a new way to view these patterns that enhances and expands our Map Room depictions of inventor and patent owner patterns in and among individual states, US Regions and where the top patented inventions are coming from.
Picture = Lots of Words
One of the compelling issues in the quest to understand the innovation economy is understanding where innovation comes from and how it moves from place to place. Patents are one of the best way to see what innovations are coming soon. Before the informationization of science, all the inventors on a patent usually worked in the same labs at the same company or toiled in their own labs. Informationization — the internet, collaboration tools, email and digital science tools — have made collaboration among inventors doable in ways never envisioned in the 20th century. Our goal is to use patent data and data visualization in a meaningful way to understand cross-border collaboration patterns and what they mean.
The Map Room
The Way Better Patents Map Room is one way. The Map Room is part of Way Better Patent's weekly Coming Soon Digests. The maps there show inventorship and patent ownership nationally and within each US State. Each week these maps show what is happening this week and so far this year, cumulative, year-to-date, patterns. The maps give you a down to earth look at where innovation is happening without having to look at lots of tabular data. We are always looking at new ways to make this information accessible and usable.
The Chart Room
Today, we are pleased to introduce a new way of seeing US inventorship patterns that provides a strong complement to our current map series. The Chart Room is where you can find these innovative visualizations. Our latest charts are Sankey flow diagrams.
A Little History
Sankey diagrams are often used to depict energy or material flow, costs, and other factors that have a relationship between sources and sinks (or recipients). Some excellent examples of the modern use of this type of data visualization can be found in the energy sector (see this page at the International Energy Agency; reports from the US Energy Information Administration here; or a fascinating energy-land-water nexus illustration in a 2014 US Department of Energy report, page vii), finance, and hydrology (Colorado River water allocations.
Inventorship — made up of the skills, knowledge, experience, and creativity of individual inventors — is an economic resource as valuable as others to where this data visualization method is used to help viewers understand the source, flow, and recipients of its value.
The Eponymous Sankey Chart — About Mr. Sankey
This presentation form has historical roots in an 1898 civil engineering proceedings paper on steam engine energy efficiency by Matthew Henry Phineas Riall Sankey, an Irish engineer. His diagram, as is the case with much of the technical illustration of a century and more ago, is more art than science. His topic from almost 120 years ago is another demonstration that our forebears were also innovators in clean tech.
Charles Joseph Minard preceded Sankey by almost 30 years. Minard, a French engineer, produced a masterful graphic of the losses suffered by Napoleon's Grand Army in its 1812 Russian campaign. Well-known author and information scientist Edward Tufte has written that Minard's illustration
…may well be the best statistical graphic ever drawn.
Everyone at Way Better Patents, and our family, and our kids, and our colleagues has been to Dr. Tufte's course where we learned about Mr. Minards visualization among other fascinating things. If you have the opportunity to go to his course, you should go too.
Next — Interpretation
How do you read these diagrams?
From left to right.
The charts look at coinventorship between and among states and Census Bureau regions. The charts present the top 50 inventions that flow from the states and regions. The charts are presented for the week of March 3, 2015 and for 2015 production so far. The regions on these charts match the nine regions used in the Map Room.
The top invention charts for the 50 states show the top two invention classes for the week and for the year so far. For regions, the charts show the top five invention classes for the week and year-to-date. There Census nine regions allow inclusion of a larger list of patent classes.
On the co-invention charts, the left column of nodes in the diagram is the source of inventors from each state or region. The right column of nodes is the recipient in other states or regions of those inventors' expertise and innovation capabilities. The flow of inventive talent proceeds from source to recipient.
Hover and Explore
Holding the mouse over a source node (the colored rectangle) on the left or the recipient node on the right displays a pop-up of the total number of inventors from that node for the weekly or year-to-date time period of the chart. Hovering over an individual line on the chart reflecting the flow from source to recipient between the nodes displays the source and recipient names, and the number of inventors provided from the source. The recipient node displays the number of inventors that recipient received on patents that had inventors from the recipient location.
The invention charts show the number of inventors from the source states or regions who appeared on patents with inventions in the patent classes identified. Pop-ups for the source nodes show the number of inventors provided; those for the receiving nodes show the number of inventors in each listed topic.
Pop-ups are also displayed on the individual link 'ribbons' joining the source and recipient nodes.
These Sankey diagrams are another element of scientific presence and how innovation spreads as a result of collaboration among and between inventors and how where the top inventions are coming from. You can also explore a more comprehensive view of the elements of scientific presence by looking at the Scientific Presence Profile for each state. Start here.
Need Something Special
There are many other ways to slice, dice, and view this data. Contact us. We'd be happy to discuss your needs. Send us a note and let us know what you think about these charts.