I’m attending the Spring meeting of the VAC Consortium at Stanford. This is a collective effort of gov, edu, and com people surrounding the new field of “Visual Analytics.” Significant seed and foundational funding comes from the Department of Homeland Security, but Academia, other Government Agencies, and even Industry will fall in on this amazing start. The quite well-formulated R&D Agenda, as authored by an all-star cast of researchers and scholars, integrates information sensemaking, information visualization, information presentation, and analytical processes as a new integrated pursuit that can have an impact on big challenges facing the country (and the world).
This overall effort exhibits broad thinking about the fuller and longer game of creating and sustaining progress in applying sensemaking and action-creating technologies. It’s not just about funding research, but also about stimulating many other elements of the ecosystem from educational to commercialization. The R&D agenda (and funding) is strong enough that many researchers will recategorize work, special issues of journals will appear, rebranding of workshops and conferences, and eventually somebody will declare themselves the first tenured professor in Visual Analytics. Lest you laugh from commercial land, worry the day you may be reporting to a CVAO.
The first meeting was last Fall at the National Visual Analytic Center created at Battelle’s Pacific Northwest Lab. This second meeting at Stanford marks the rollout of activity to four RVACs (Regional), and the first GVAC (Government). Each center will be presenting their initial research directions and activities.
The Opening Keynote by Marti Hearst, focused on the tighter tying together of front end presentation (visualizations) with back end processing (e.g. text analysis). Her talk itself mirrors the pulling together of topics a little more tightly now. She has certainly worked in the consitutent areas (in fact I worked with her on these years ago at PARC), but provoke by her looking closer at what was happening, she created a new talk rather than sequence through talklets from courses and other keynotes.
Tomorrow, I’ll moderate (not a verb that comes to friends’ mind for the noun me) a panel focused on how this tremendous collaboration of participants can accelerate knowledge, inventions, innovations along the technology pipeline from research to mission impact. The panelists represent the practical realities of building solutions and serving real users in the most challenging and complex techno-social environments I’ve ever seen. As part of this panel, we borrow a move from the hotter Internet world: the 5 minute (you-get-hooked) Demo or Showcase pitch. There will be five such pitches in the middle of a discussion about how we can reshape our activity all the way back from the point of impact to improve arrival time and rate.