A Spotlight Session looked at information visualization in science. Some good examples can be found in the O’Reilly book, Beautiful Visualizations.
Chaomei Chen, Professor at Drexel University and author of Turning Points: The Nature of Creativity and other books looked at visualization from three viewpoints:
- Hindsight–what happened in the past? How is it represented in the literature through citations, etc. Our attention is changing all the time, and we can indicate this through different representations (color, etc.). Indicators allow us to get a sense of what is happening before we read the documents.
- Insight–What is the mechanism for new discoveries? Visual attributes indicate values of different areas. You might be able to ignore some areas in the first pass. Networks have some special places that we should pay more attention to because they link different areas.
- Foresight–What is the nature of creativity and what will attract our attention? Are there generic mechanisms of creative thinking? Where is a creative idea likely to appear? Creative work tends to integrate different types of knowledge. Looking at how people are foraging lets us tell what’s important.
Kristi Holmes, Becker Medical Library, Washington University said that visualization lets us retrieve data from what we might consider noise. We begin to visualize at a very early age. The most iconic scientific visualization is the periodic table, where similar elements are visualized together. If you have a large amount of text and want to pull out the meaningful bits of information, a visualizations like Wordle can help you. In this visualization of terms used in Obama’s (on the left in blue) and McCain’s (on the right in red) nomination speeches, you can see what they agree on (the overlap in the center) and where they disagree.
There is a growing emphasis on information visualization, with a huge renaissance in mining bibliographic data to understand research outputs and identify impact, an increased emphasis of research, and increasing data sharing and management. Libraries hold the key to this because they understand data structures, curation, bibliographic data, and have technical expertise in these fields.
Gali Halevi, Director of Market Segment Marketing, Elsevier, reported on a recent symposium on mapping and measuring scientific output, which discussed research measurement metrics and visualization methods. A live webcast of the symposium attracted more than 500 people worldwide. Presenters’ slides are available here.
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