Blue Iguanodon


Information about the VAST Challenge 2008 (formally called contest) is up!

Check out the RESULTS OF 2007 with photos and summaries, and the solution…

Also of interest: note this new research project SEMVAST: Scientific Evaluation Methods for Visual Analytics Science and Technology

See History of changes and FAQs

Overview of the event

The VAST Contest is a participation category of the IEEE VAST 2007 Symposium (part of VIS 2007).  It continues in the footsteps of the VAST 2006 contest as its purpose is to promote the development of benchmark data sets and metrics for visual analytics, and to establish a forum to advance visual analytics evaluation methods.

The dataset consist of news stories and blog entries, along with background information and some multimedia materials (small maps and data tables). Participants are to investigate a major law enforcement/counter-terrorism scenario, form their hypotheses, and collect supporting evidence. There are several tasks that teams will need to tackle on the way. These include 1) processing the text and multimedia information to identify entities of interest (e.g. people, places and activities), 2) depicting this information visually using interactive visualizations and other tools to aid in the analysis of the information; 3) answering the contest questions based on the analysis; and 4) producing a video demonstration of their system showing how they arrived at those answers.  

The initial data set processing may be accomplished either by using software written by the teams, by using commercial software, by partnering with another organization, or by using the preprocessed version provided by the contest organizing committee.  

Contest entries will be judged on both the correctness of the analysis of the situation and the utility of the tools in conducting the analysis.

Participants will have several months to prepare their submissions. Selected entries will present their work at the conference. A small number of teams will be invited to participate in a special closed-door session. In that session they will work on a new but similar problem with professional analysts who will provide feedback and guidance to help refine the tools.

How does it compare to last year?

The general format and schedule of the event remains the same.
Most of the raw data will use the same format as last year, so you can use the 2006 materials to see how you are doing since the answers are available for 2006.

New this year: top entries will coauthor a journal paper.  We also provide a pre-processed version of the dataset (e.g. with entities already extracted) so that more teams can participate. Your team will need to decide whether to enter the contest using the preprocessed data or the raw data. 

Data set, tasks, and judging

- INFORMATION about the data set, tasks and judging criteria   (Flier to advertise the contest)


- Contest RESULTS and winners

Schedule and deadlines

Feb. 10st : Practice dataset (i.e. 2006 dataset) available, including preprocessed version
Mar. 1st: Release of 2007 dataset
Jul. 13th: Deadline for submission
Mid August: Acceptance notification
Early September: Camera ready materials due
Oct 30th to Nov 1st :IEEE VAST 2007 Symposium in Sacramento, CA

At the conference

Top entries will receive awards and will present their work during the contest result session. We will award prizes for best entries in several categories and present certificates of appreciation to other entries. The judges will decide on the exact categories based on the submissions. Possibilities include "Best Overall", "Best Student Entry", and "Most Original".

The top entries (3 or 4) will also be invited to participate in a special live session at the conference: Professional analysts will work with the contestants and developers on a new problem and data set. Our 2006 experience suggests that this session provides invaluable "personal" feedback to the teams, a unique opportunity.

Publication opportunities

NEW : The top entry(ies) will coauthor a joint journal paper with the contest chairs, which will appear in the Applications Department of the March 2008 issue of Computer Graphics and Application (CG&A)

All accepted entries will be posted on the Information Visualization Benchmark Repository.


The contest is open to all, except for the contest organizers and judges. All categories of competitors (academic and commercial) may participate. If in doubt, ask the contest chairs.

Student teams must have a faculty sponsor and provide this faculty's contact information in their registration. 

You may use any existing commercial product or research prototype and, of course, you may combine tools. We strongly encourage teams to find partners with complementary expertise (e.g. groups with text analysis or reasoning tools might want to seek partners with user interface expertise). If you need help finding partners, let us know.

At least one participant of accepted submissions must attend the Symposium.

"Partial answers" are acceptable but we encourage you to attempt and address all tasks. In other words, if your tool or approach only addresses part of the task, you can still participate in the competition.

Submission Information 
     What to submit?

A completed answer form and a recorded video demonstration.

We provide an answer form template for you to 1) answer questions about who/what/when/where 2) provide a debriefing about the situation and 3) describe the process you used. You are required to use the template so that all your answers follow a consistent format to facilitate comparisons.

The recorded video demonstration should focus on showing how you analyzed the data with a special emphasis on demonstrating interactive features of the tool. We require a demonstration with audio commentary because interactivity is an important component and is impossible to evaluate on paper. Audio commentaries are very helpful in explaining such interactions and items that could be missed without pointing the reviewers to them. Demonstrations should avoid exceeding 10 minutes in length.

We recommend that you save your video as Flash as most people will be able view them and these have a good compression ratio. If you are not familiar with recorded video demonstrations take a look at Camtasia or BB Flashback. Those tools will work very well for most systems (unless you have fast animation in which case you may need to record with an external video recorder). Always include audio explanations. Test your video by asking others e.g. your friends if they can read and play the video (e.g. a common mistake is to not provide the video codec). Avoid .AVI or other formats that generates huge files. If you anticipate having difficulties generating a digital video, please contact the contest chairs to arrange an alternative submission methods. 

Note: this year we do not ask for a 2-page PDF summary at the time of submission. We will request the summary only if you are selected as one of the top entries. The summaries of accepted submissions will be published in the VAST adjunct proceedings and in the IEEE Digital Library.

How to submit?

- First save the answer form as a web page somewhere on your own website, with links to the video and any other materials so that it can be checked for correctness.

- By Friday July 13th, 5pm EST, send an email to the Contest Chairs giving us the URL. Judging will begin within a few days so no extension can be given.


- We will check your materials (e.g. check that the standard form was used, questions answered, and that the video is readable and understandable)

- On Monday 16th we will email you instructions for uploading the final materials to an FTP site and you will have till Wednesday to do so. If needed we might ask for small corrections to be made immediately. (Please make sure that you use relative links in all your materials so that the links will still work when the pages are moved somewhere else)

- If you have problems or questions about this procedure, let us know.

Contest Chairs

Georges Grinstein, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Catherine Plaisant, HCIL, University of Maryland

Jean Scholtz, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory  

Email the Contest Chairs

Contest Committee Members

Theresa OConnell, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Sharon Laskowski, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Jereme Haack, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory  
Mark Whiting, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 

Related websites

VAST 2006 contest
InfoVis Contest 2003, 2004, 2005
2007 TVCG paper summurizing InfoVis contest results and lessons learned.
IEEE VAST Symposium 2006 and 2007
Beliv'06: workshop on evaluation of information visualization at AVI'06
Information Visualization Benchmark Repository

Questions? Email the Contest Chairs

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