Distill: Supporting Clarity in Machine Learning

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Science isn’t just about discovering new results. It’s also about human understanding. Scientists need to develop notations, analogies, visualizations, and explanations of ideas. This human dimension of science isn’t a minor side project. It’s deeply tied to the heart of science.

That’s why, in collaboration with OpenAI, DeepMind, YC Research, and others, we’re excited to announce the launch of Distill, a new open science journal and ecosystem supporting human understanding of machine learning. Distill is an independent organization, dedicated to fostering a new segment of the research community.

Modern web technology gives us powerful new tools for expressing this human dimension of science. We can create interactive diagrams and user interfaces the enable intuitive exploration of research ideas. Over the last few years we’ve seen many incredible demonstrations of this kind of work.

An interactive diagram explaining the Neural Turing Machine from Olah & Carter, 2016.

Unfortunately, while there are a plethora of conferences and journals in machine learning, there aren’t any research venues that are dedicated to publishing this kind of work. This is partly an issue of focus, and partly because traditional publication venues can’t, by virtue of their medium, support interactive visualizations. Without a venue to publish in, many significant contributions don’t count as “real academic contributions” and their authors can’t access the academic support structure.

That’s why Distill aims to build an ecosystem to support this kind of work, starting with three pieces: a research journal, prizes recognizing outstanding work, and tools to facilitate the creation of interactive articles.

Distill is an ecosystem to support clarity in Machine Learning.

Led by a diverse steering committee of leaders from the machine learning and user interface communities, we are very excited to see where Distill will go. To learn more about Distill, see the overview page or read the latest articles.

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