a, Citation tree visualization that illustrates the visual influence of focal papers, drawing on past work and passing ideas onto future work. ‘Roots’ are references and citations to them, with depth scaled to their publication date; ‘branches’ on the tree are citing articles, with height scaled to publication date and length scaled to the number of future citations. Branches curve downward (brown) if citing articles also cite the focal paper’s references, and upward (green) if they ignore them. b, Two articles (the Bose–Einstein condensation and BWK-model articles) of the same impact scale represented as citation trees, to illustrate how disruption distinguishes different contributions to science and technology. c, Citation tree visualization that characterizes the visual influence of eleven focal papers from teams of different sizes. Disruption (D), citations (N), published year (Y) and team size (m) of papers are shown in the bottom left corner of each tree.