Workshop: Evaluating Visual Analytics

Friday May 29, 2009

in conjunction with the
26th HCIL Symposium
University of Maryland

Update after the workshop:

-         We will write a summary and post it here (in July 09 most likely)

-         Slides of the introduction to the VAST Challenge. 

-         A reporter for the Washington Post attended the beginning of the workshop and mentioned our discussions in “The Next Frontier: Decoding the Internet's Raw Data”, an article which appeared on Monday June 1st.

-         For participants: materials where emailed to you by Catherine on 5/26/2009, and photo on 6/1


Catherine Plaisant – HCIL, University of Maryland, College Park
Jean Scholtz - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


Visual analytics is the science of analytical reasoning facilitated by interactive visual interfaces. Evaluation is difficult in many domains, and for visual analytics the problem is compounded by 2 main factors: 1) Highly interactive visual analysis systems are not suited for traditional evaluation methods 2) Researchers rarely have access to users (analysts) and their data, and to the type of problems they face. 

In the past 3 years, an important step was taken toward increasing awareness of visual analytics problems and evaluation methods with the organization of a successful competition (see the VAST Challenge 2009 and 2008).  Synthetic datasets with embedded ground truth and analytics problems with known solutions are made available, and participants have several months to analyze the data.  Their answers and a description of the analytic process they used are evaluated using both quantitative accuracy ratings and subjective ratings from experts and professional analysts.  Awards are given to the teams whose tools received the best reviews. These challenges have been very successful, considering the feedback received from tool developers, the information analysis community, participants, and the visual analytics community challenge. The success of the competitions and the growing need for evaluating complex interactive systems warrants the development of infrastructure services that facilitate the following activities: 

·         Gathering a collection of datasets with ground truth and analytic problem descriptions

·         Supporting the online management and judging of analytic challenges

·         Supporting self-assessment by researchers developing visual analytics tools

·         Facilitating training and education

·         Coordinating community evaluation activities

Call for participation
(the deadline as passed, but if you feel that your participation would be valuable to the workshop, please go ahead and submit a position abstract):

A position abstract of no more than 300 words should be submitted to Dr. Catherine Plaisant at . The recommended deadline to submit is May 1st. Please explain your experience with evaluation of visual analytics, how you can contribute to the discussion and your goal in attending the workshop. Please include the participant name, affiliation, email and phone number.

The number of participants will be limited to 20 to facilitate discussions.

We aim to gather participants who will represent the following groups:

·         Designers and developers from academia, industry or government (who need to evaluate and improve their visual analytics tools) 

·         Educators and students (who teach or are been taught Visual Analytics classes)

·         Analysts (professional who are end users of visual analytics tools).

·        Stakeholders (representatives of governments agencies, educational organizations or corporations that would benefit from useful and useable visual analytics tools (e.g. intelligence agencies for terrorist threat analysis, banks and financial institutions for surveillance of criminal activities, public health organizations for monitoring potential epidemics, etc.) 

Tentative agenda:

The workshop will begin at 9:30am and will end at 5:30pm. Coffee, snack, lunch and copies of materials will be provided.

9:30 Welcome and introduction of participants

10:30 Overview of the VAST Challenge and quick survey the evaluation strategies used by researchers (Catherine) + discussions
11:30 Selection of breakout topics. 
     The focus will be on developing the needs and requirements for a shared infrastructure for evaluation, from different user groups’ perspectives
     Examples of possible topics:

·         What are the needs of instructors and students?

·         What is needed to help stakeholders develop good datasets and ground truth?

·         How to design subjective evaluation services to collect feedback from peers reviewers and analysts?

·         What accuracy metrics can or cannot be computed automatically?

·         What services that might help stakeholders run their own competitions or evaluations programs? 

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Break out sessions
2:00 Presentation from groups
3:00 Break with cookies and fruits
3:30 Discussion (sustainability, community building activities, funding mechanisms)
5:00 Next steps.  Wrapup

5:30 (at the latest): END

Background materials:

The SEMVAST project website

HCIL Symposium

Participants are encouraged to join us a day early for the main HCIL Symposium day on Thursday May 28 for talks and demonstrations of HCIL research.


Please contact Catherine Plaisant (


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