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ICA Commission on Visualization and Virtual Environments : Research Agenda December 2000 (PDF)

This is a preprint of the overview essay/executive summary (PDF) which appears in the Special Issue of CAGIS and introduces each of the following research sub-areas. Papers #1 - #4 (below) are extended versions of the papers which appeared in this special issue of CAGIS.

Alan MacEachren and Menno-Jan Kraak


#1. Cognitive and Usability Issues in Geovisualization (PDF)

Terry A. Slocum, Connie Blok, Bin Jiang, Alexandra Koussoulakou, Daniel R. Montello, Sven Fuhrmann, and Nicholas R. Hedley

#2. Representation and its relationship with cartographic visulization: a research agenda (PDF)

David Fairbairn, Gennady Andrienko, Natalia Andrienko, Gerd Buziek and Jason Dykes

#4. User Interface Issues for Spatial Information Visualization (PDF)

William Cartwright, Jeremy Crampton, Georg Gartner, Suzette Miller, Kirk Mitchell, Eva Siekierska and Jo Wood

Complete Research Bibliography - Fall 2000

A comprehensive bibliography of relevant literature complied by Commission members - contains over 600 references. This was used as a starting point for the current research agenda.


Research Agenda Development Process

Alan M. MacEachren, Penn State University, USA
Menno-Jan Kraak, ITC, The Netherlands

The International Cartographic Association (ICA) Commission on Visualization and Virtual Environments took the lead in developing a comprehensive geovisualization research agenda, reported on here. The Commission assembled international teams of researchers to address four themes: representation of geospatial information, integration of visual with computational methods of knowledge construction, interface design for geovisualization environments, and cognitive/usability aspects of geovisualization. The teams included both Commission members and others active in geovisualization and related areas. Participants represent a range of disciplines and include representatives from government and the private sector as well as academic researchers. Each team was assisted by an expert from outside geographic information science who provided critical review of white papers prior to completion of final manuscripts. The full set of manuscripts was then submitted to formal peer review. Preliminary drafts of each paper are posted here. Below, we detail the process that lead to this research development effort, starting with a few comments about the roots of the Commission itself and include discussion of the multistage review process used to arrive at finished agenda documents.

The ICA Commission on Visualization (predecessor to the current Commission on Visualization and Virtual Environments) was charged, during its 1995-1999 term, with identifying and addressing the core research problems associated with extending cartographic methods into an increasingly dynamic technological environment. The second, equally important, charge was to identify complementary research efforts in computer graphics, information visualization, exploratory data analysis (graphical and computational statistics) and related fields and develop mechanisms for coordination between these and cartographic visualization efforts. An important mechanism for such exchange of ideas was cooperation between the Commission and ACM SIGGRAPH that resulted in creation, within the later organization, of the "Carto Project" (a three year project focused on cross disciplinary sharing of knowledge that was led by Theresa-Marie Rhyne - a SIGGRAPH Director at large as well as a Commission member).

One step toward meeting the first charge was to organize a special issue of Computers & Geoscience focused on the state of the art in visual exploration of geospatial data (MacEachren and Kraak, 1997). Another was to organize a workshop (held in Gvle, Sweden, May 1997) to outline key research topics that could provide focus for collaborative research by Commission members over the next several years. An overview of that effort can be found in (MacEachren and Visualization, 1998), available through the Commission's web site at: These initial discussions guided subsequent research, some of which appeared in a special issue of the International Journal of Geographical Information Science in the summer of 1999 (Kraak and MacEachren, 1999). As those papers were being prepared for publication, a plan for a second 4-year term under an expanded title and terms of reference was developed. A primary goal in that plan was to develop a more complete, formal, and updated research agenda that could serve as a guide for research, not only by Commission members, but also by the geovisualization (and related) research communities more generally.

The first stage of the process involved creating four international teams of geovisualization researchers to develop 'white papers' that addressed the state of the art and associated research challenges within the following themes: representation, integration of visualization with geocomputation and spatial databases, user interfaces, and cognitive-usability issues. We met in Ottawa (Aug. 1999) to consider the state of the art within each theme and discuss research priorities, outlines for the agenda papers, and ways to deal with crosscutting topics. At that meeting, we also developed a formal process leading to this special issue. This issue, thus, provides the vehicle for disseminating critical research challenges delineated through our international discussions to the wider research community.

Once each agenda team completed draft white papers, the second stage in the process involved solicitation of comments from the geovisualization community (including members of other agenda teams) followed by a three-day meeting in Melbourne, Australia to discuss and work on each paper. Papers were revised based upon comments received and discussion at that meeting. Then, further input was solicited from Commission members generally and from four recognized experts outside geographic information science whose own research is relevant to each paper (one per paper). These individuals were asked to provide three kinds of reaction: (1) an appraisal of the challenges identified with particular attention to any critical omissions (as seen from the perspective of their own discipline); (2) suggestions about ways in which the research challenges identified for geovisualization might complement work in related disciplines (through projects that advance geovisualization by building on work in other areas, projects that advance visualization generally by taking advantage of progress in geovisualization, and joint work by interdisciplinary teams); and (3) an appraisal of whether the challenges (and arguments for them) will be clear and compelling to non-GIScienists and suggestions on ways in which the paper might be strengthened in this regard. This stage in the process was not a blind review. We requested input from individuals whose work we respected and whom we considered able to offer constructive, while critical, feedback at this important stage of the research agenda development process.

Lead authors and their teams considered comments from outside experts and from other Commission members. Final versions of each paper were then prepared and submitted to a formal, blind review (as is standard for publications in Cartography & GIS, but as a set rather than individually).

Our outside experts and the papers they focused on are: Representation - Alex Pang, Department of Computer Science, University of California, Santa Cruz; Integration - Daniel Keim, Department of Computer Science Institute, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg; Interfaces - Catherine Plaisant, Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory, University of Maryland; Cognition/Usability - Mary Kaiser, NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA. Their input was invaluable and we offer our gratitude for the time and effort they committed to this task. We believe that this critical feedback has allowed each paper included here to do a substantially better job of delineating fundamental research challenges and of identifying ways that these challenges share components with those being faced in related disciplines. Each paper also benefited from suggestions and reaction provided by other Commission members and by the anonymous reviewers. Although, as is clear above, many individuals provided valuable input to the process, the content, conclusions, and recommendations detailed in each paper are the product of the individual, dedicated teams.

Kraak, M.-J. and MacEachren, A., 1999. Visualization for exploration of spatial data. International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 13(4): 285-287.

MacEachren, A.M. and Kraak, M.-J., 1997. Exploratory cartographic visualization: advancing the agenda. Computers & Geosciences, 23(4): 335-343.

MacEachren, A.M. and Visualization, a.I.C.o., 1998. VISUALIZATION - Cartography for the 21st century, Proceedings of the 7th Annual Conference of Polish Spatial Information Association. Polish Spatial Information Association, May 19-21, Warsaw, Poland, pp. 287-296 (also:


Preliminary Commission Agenda: 1997-1999


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