Of Schemes and Memes Blog

How to create a map of science in your city

As many of you will have seen, we’re curating a series of Google Maps showing key scientific locations in cities around the world (so far: London, Münster, San Francisco). We’re very keen to add further locations, and are hoping a few of you will relish the idea of putting such a map together for your own city (or region). If so, here’s a recipe for creating your map.

Creating a map

  1. Before you start, email Matt (i.am.mattbrown – at – gmail.com) to check no one else has the city covered.
  2. You’ll need a Google account. If you haven’t got one, create one. If you have, log in and go to Google Maps.
  3. Once the maps page loads, click ‘My maps’ up in the light-blue band near the top.
  4. Click ‘Create new map’ and give it a name (e.g. ‘science in XYZ’) and brief description.
  5. You should now see three editing tools in the top left corner of the map
  6. The hand shape is to drag the map around.
  7. The pin shape lets you place a pin in the map. Give that a try now, by clicking the pin, then clicking on a scientific location in your region. Once it’s in place, a dialog box will appear asking you for a description. You’ll also then see a ‘rich text’ link in the dialog box – this allows you to make text bold, italic, insert pics, etc. You can also change the style of the pin by clicking the pin icon in the dialog box.
  8. The zigzag line lets you draw lines on the map of different thickness and colour. This might not be of much use for current purposes, but you might consider it for scientific ‘trails’ or walks. This tool (using the dropdown arrow) also lets you draw a shape like a square or oblong. It will fill the shape with a colour of your choosing. Again, perhaps best avoided for current purposes.
  9. The map will autosave after every few minutes. But if you want to take a break at any point, just hit ‘save’ over on the left to make sure.
  10. Once you’re happy, email Matt with a link to let him know the map is ready. To get the link, click the ‘Link’ text on the extreme right and copy the code from the top box.

Notes on content

What to include in your map will depend on the peculiarities of your city or region. For example, if there are hundreds of biotechs you may wish to leave them off, or only include the top 10. Likewise, if there are a handful of historic sites pertinent to science then include them all. If there are hundreds, then cherry-pick the most interesting/important. You can use different coloured pins for different types of institution. The suggested schema would follow that of the London map:

Red = museum

Green = learned society

Turquoise = university/college

Purple = publishing/library

Blue = historic site

(biotechs were left off this map, but could be given another colour)

After creation of your map, we’ll publish it on Nature Network’s Schemes and Memes blog. You should keep an eye out for comments and update the map in light of any reasonable suggestions. The idea is that the maps are ‘community generated’ rather than initially authoritative and comprehensive.

And that’s it. For anything more complex, get in touch with Matt.


  1. Report this comment

    Eva Amsen said:

    Toronto’s map is going to be squishy-squish in a few city blocks. They designed it that way – it’s the “discovery district” for a reason – but not much fun for map-making.

  2. Report this comment

    Richard Wintle said:

    Eva – ooo the people at York and Ryerson Universities are so not going to be happy with you – not to mention Sunnybrook, Bloorview, CAMH (Queen St.), the Aerospace Institute, SciNET (ok, somewhat-secret location, whatever) and probably others I’ve forgotten.

    That said, your point is a good one. Toronto would benefit from including biotechs, since a good number of them are out in airport-land rather than downtown.

  3. Report this comment

    Richard Wintle said:

    Forgot to say – cool post, NN team, and a great idea. Who’s taking custody of Toronto anyway (don’t be looking at me!).

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