Scientific research was the inspiration of an unusual art exhibition called “Beautiful Knowledge,” hosted in June by the Polonsky Academy of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute in Israel.
The multimedia exhibition was based on thousands of articles and citations from Scopus representing six decades of scientific research by Fulbright Scholars from the United States and Israel. The goal: to celebrate scientific knowledge and use art to tell the story of its development for future generations.
“Beautiful Knowledge” is one of more than 140 programs worldwide celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Fulbright program. It’s also part of a long-term initiative to curate material for a future conference celebrating Fulbright’s 100th anniversary in 2056.
“Knowledge is always moving,” said Dr. Avi Muller, curator of the Beautiful Knowledge exhibition. “We were looking for a way to make scientific research come alive as a journey of exploration and discovery that brings new meaning to our lives and an understanding of our interconnected role in the universe.”
“Beautiful Knowledge” featured numerous expertly curated exhibits that fused the past and the future through science and art. The centerpiece was a larger-than-life digital art installation titled “Bright,” which used heavenly spheres to represent connections between the scientific data produced by Israel’s Fulbright scholars and supplied by Elsevier, with each article serving as a star around which its citations gravitate.
Another installation displayed a brief history of the cultivation of wheat in Israel and different wheat species that dovetailed into striking graphic representations of the classifications of information. It also included a futuristic prediction in the form of several vials of DNA molecules encoding the lyrics of “Wheat” by Israeli author and poet Ronny Someck.
The exhibition was created by students of the Holon Institute of Technology Faculty of Design, including Ronen Wolfson, David Kantor, Maxim Bassin and Gil Zablodovsky. Drawing on Muller’s concept for the display, the group of multidisciplinary Israeli artists and designers put the idea behind the sprawling connections into motion.
The dramatic display visualized the disciplinary evolution of research work and the contributions made by Fulbright alumni to the creation and dissemination of knowledge. Elsevier’s Scopus is traditionally used by scientists worldwide to find the right information for their research and to chart their strategies. “Beautiful Knowledge” represents a novel application of Scopus as a foundation and inspiration for art. With each discipline represented by a different color, viewers were able to gain a better understanding of which disciplines utilized each article as well as its level of influence. The metaphor of “spreading light” was chosen to describe the global, academic process in which researchers cite articles published in journals. The movement of light from the center to the perimeter represented the genealogy of the citations: from a Fulbright researcher’s article and related citations that interconnect science to our daily lives.
“Molecular biology allows us to read and synthesize DNA strands at accuracy and cost levels that make the process affordable to everyone,” said Muller. “In a future world, the DNA version of Ronny Someck’s poem will be read just as easily as we look up text-based data on our smartphones today. It is my hope that exhibitions like this, and material we will gather in the future, will help the next generation of researchers find the same beauty we hope to leave them.”
Exhibition gala and support
The exhibition was the centerpiece of a gala reception at the Polonsky Academy attended by 300 dignitaries, including Daniel B. "Dan" Shapiro, the US Ambassador to Israel; Israeli government officials; and representatives from Fulbright and various academic and scientific institutions from the US and Israel. Dr. Michiel Kolman, co-author of this story and SVP of Global Academic Relations at Elsevier, gave the keynote, highlighting the quality and interconnectivity of Israeli and US science based on the latest Scopus data. His co-author, Alberto Zigoni of Elsevier’s Research Intelligence team, provided the Scopus data for the exhibition.
“Beautiful Knowledge” was made possible through the planning and funding of the United States-Israel Educational Foundation with additional support from Elsevier and the Holon Institute of Technology.
Elsevier and the Fulbright Association
Elsevier is honored to work with the prestigious Fulbright Association by sponsoring Fulbright scholars from the UK and the Netherlands to study at leading universities in the US. Moreover, several Elsevier and RELX Group colleagues were Fulbright scholars, including Erik Engstrom, CEO of RELX Group; Dr. Nick Fowler, Chief Academic Officer and Managing Director Research Networks for Elsevier; Dr. Michiel Kolman, Senior VP of Global Academic Relations for Elsevier; and Dr. Alison Bert, Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier Connect.