Visual Analytics Overview


Illuminating the Path: The research Agenda for Visual Analytics defines Visual Analytics as “the science of analytic reasoning facilitated by interactive visual interfaces”. Humans rely on their visual intelligence coupled with computing tools to provide better information. Visual analysts use a wide variety of computer techniques and models to provide timely, defensible, and understandable assessments of complex situations and then communicate those assessments to policy and decision makers. Visual analytics provides computer-based tools that enable decision-makers to synthesize information and derive insight from changing and often conflicting data.

Building VA in Canada

The proposed Canadian Network of Visualization and Analytics Centers ( is based on a partnership between universities, the private sector and government agencies.

CNVAC will support collaboration between research centres that will better enable them to conduct VA research and train students to address the design, evaluation, and integration of VA technologies into knowledge work opportunities that span public and private sectors.

The program builds upon recognized Canadian expertise in the development, evaluation, and use of information technologies that support human decision-making. Researchers at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia have a nucleus of expertise in all relevant areas, including: applied mathematics, computer graphic design, information visualization, cognitive science (especially visual cognition), human-centered information management and computer science. Other regions in Canada are well-positioned to build their own focused research and training programs that will insure that Canada maintains its position as a leader in this important new field.

Western VAC

CNVAC Centres will perform visual analytics research and develop university and graduate-level training programs. The initial phase for the Western VAC will be a focused research project between SFU and UBC , key industry partners (such as Boeing) and Canadian government agencies. We will focus on four key sectors, including manufacturing, finance, health and information communication technology (security). The development of the VA curriculum will be based on real-world experiences using large datasets and VA tools. University researchers and graduates will analyze, observe, and learn more about these datasets to “see” anomalies and patterns. The second phase will create a community of expert researchers and students capable of assessing and developing tools for a variety of domains.

Benefits to Canada, Canadian Industry and Government

This university-private sector collaboration will:

Perform research into visual analytic methods for analyzing complex systems. Ultimately, these techniques will be generalized to apply to a wide range of areas crucial to Canadian government and industry in the four focus sectors.

Perform research to identify new visual analytic techniques to help analysts communicate and collaborate with decision makers.

Advance the science of visual analytics to develop methods for the design of new interactive technologies for decision support and operational management.

Train highly qualified Canadian personnel in the context of real-world situations, technologies and applications and from this develop a core VA curriculum.