Research Questions

  • How can we resolve the current difficulty in determining what sources influence the design of scientific animations?
  • How can an animation be parsed to be meaningfully associated with references?
  • How might one present an annotated animation and associated bibliography to audiences?



  • We can categorize various components of animations into elements and properties.
  • These individual properties and elements can be tied to specific references and data sources.
  • We can further specify how data was used: intact, filtered, or modified.
  • There are a variety of ways in which an annotated animation and associated bibliography could be presented to audiences.

Describing systematic methods for annotating science animations with informative citations


Journal cover design for Nature Methods depicting a 70S ribosome translating tRNA and an information graphic describing the various types of data included in the image

Project Summary

With scientic animations and other educational visualizations, it can be dicult for audiences to determine which parts of the display are based on various types of data. As a result, high quality pieces can be dismissed as mere speculation or, conversely, artistic license can be misinterpreted as fact. Even with standard bibliographies, it is challenging to connect visual elements with information sources. We discuss the importance of creating meaningful and transparent citation systems that allow audiences to understand the full complement of sources informing an animation.

Citation Hierarchy

Illustrations or, in the case of animation, representative thumbnails describing various shots can be broken down into elements such as characters and environments. Different properties of objects, such as structure or motion, can be informed by different sources or have missing information. These visual components can be informed by different types of references, whether qualitative or quantitative, or not be based on data and instead be Speculation or Artistic License. Finally, information can be used and manipulated in a variety of ways, such as cleaning up raw data or interpolating from reference images into three-dimensional structures.


During pre-production and production, an animator must collect, organize, and tag references according to how they inform the piece. The collection of references could be presented in a simple linear format organized by shot and element or in a more interactive dynamic format with each element linked to citations.


Presenting citations linked with content has several benefits. The creator of the visualization receives greater credibility. A viewer is able to determine the data behind elements and also have a list of resources for further investigation and learning. Different visualizations of similar subjects could more objectively be compared, and newer versions could be produced as further information is discovered. Not all formats would be suitable for every venue, so the output format must be tailored to the way viewers will ultimately access it. We anticipate further dialog around the reporting of reference use in scientific animation.

Flow diagram depicting relationships between Elements, Properties, Usage, and Reference Categories in the