Department of Homeland Security names Penn State a Regional Visualization and Analyitics Center

Pennsylvania State University has been named a Regional Visualization and Analytics Center by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. 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.

DHS established the NVAC™ in 2004 to provide scientific guidance and coordination for the research and development of new tools and methods that DHS has identified as required for managing, visually representing, and analyzing enormous amounts of diverse data and information. Development of these visualization tools will enable analysts to more effectively identify signs of terrorist attacks in their earliest stages and ultimately to prevent terrorist activities before they can be carried out.

"Penn State is known world-wide for its contributions to geographic information science, particularly its work on strategies and technologies for exploiting geospatial and temporal information, which is a slice of visual analytics that isn't currently represented on the NVAC™ team," said Jim Thomas, PNNL's chief scientist for information technologies and NVAC™ director. "Their expertise is an exciting addition."

Penn State's RVAC, lead by the GeoVISTA Center, will address three core challenges related to visual representation and analysis of diverse information. Researchers will develop methods for deriving and exploiting information, such as place and time, from a variety of data forms; they will link this information with stored knowledge and analytical reasoning practices to yield usable intelligence; and will provide cognitive readiness and collaboration support enabling individuals and teams to assess situations, interpret evidence, make decisions and direct or execute actions.

"Individuals and teams in many contexts must find, assimilate and analyze continually changing information about place-based, evolving, real world situations," says Dr. Alan MacEachren, Director of the GeoVISTA Center at Penn State. "Our university's RVAC brings together an exceptional, interdisciplinary research group to address this challenge through innovative, knowledge-enabled visualization methods and tools in support of the DHS mission. Throughout the duration of the contract, our RVAC will connect geographic information science with the broader information science community and develop targeted education and training opportunities for today's analysts, emergency responders, and the next generation of visual analytics scientists."

In addition to researchers affiliated with the GeoVISTA Center, the RVAC team also includes collaborators at Drexel University, led by Dr. Chaomei Chen in the College of Information Science and Technology. The Drexel researchers will provide expertise in information visualization applied to understanding social and other networks and will work with Penn State researchers to facilitate exploration of the geographic and temporal components of these networks. Other RVAC partners include: VideoMining Corporation (, GeoDecisions (, and the New York and New Jersey Port Authority Emergency Operations Center (

For more information, contact Krista Kahler at

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