The North-East Visualization and Analytics Center began in 2005 with a grant from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). PNNL leads the Department of Homeland Security's National Visualization and Analytics Center, or NVAC, which is bringing academic expertise to the nation's efforts to discover information that may warn officials of a terrorist attack. The Penn State led North-East Visualization and Analytic Center (NEVAC) is one of five Regional Visualization and Analytics Centers (RVACs) that are now part of the NVAC Consortium.

NEVAC is coordinated through Penn State's GeoVISTA Center, and includes collaborators from the Department of Geography, the College of Information Sciences and Technology and the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies, as well as from Drexel University's College of Information Science and Technology in Philadelphia. NEVAC also includes partners from the private and government sectors.

The fundamental scientific goal of NEVAC is to better understand how individuals and teams use information technology to analyze complex information, build knowledge, and make decisions - then to use this understanding to develop information technologies that enable these processes. NEVAC researchers will address three core challenges related to visual representation and analysis of diverse information. They will develop methods for deriving and exploiting information, such as place and time, from a variety of data forms; link this information with stored knowledge and analytical reasoning practices to yield usable intelligence; and provide cognitive readiness and collaboration support enabling individuals and teams to assess situations, interpret evidence, make decisions and execute actions.

While the core application domain of this DHS-supported Center is homeland security, the scientific and technological advances that result from NEVAC efforts have much broader applications. They will be relevant for all domains in which an ability to make sense out of complex information and apply knowledge to real-world decisions is needed. Examples range from strategic analysis for business, through disease epidemiology, environmental science and management, to regional planning