Capital Award in Support of Early Career Researchers: "Edinburgh Vishub"

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: College of Science and Engineering


This proposal puts forward the idea of a collaborative data visualization space for interdisciplinary research, teaching, and public engagement - the "Vishub". This will support highly-innovative collectives of researchers in all disciplines in their data driven research, as well as driving innovation in interfaces to better engage with and understand data. It will be situated in The Bayes Centre, which hosts staff across academia and businesses with a strong interdisciplinary focus on translational research, education and collaborations. The Bayes Centre is a university-wide hub for Informatics technology transfer, providing company incubation and engagement space, with a special focus on data science.

Successful research and engagement with data and data science requires effective interfaces for humans to control, explore, and present data and the associated analytical processes. Our project builds up a strong potential for a world class lab around data science, driven by a world-leading collection of expertise. Our Vishub will be equipped with state-of-the-art display, interaction, and fabrication devices, providing early career researchers (ECRs) with dedicated equipment and space to engage with their data through research, collaboration, teaching, and exhibition. The equipment will include three key technologies that underpin research into interactions with data: a) physicalization and fabrication, b) immersive displays (AR/VR, large surfaces), and c) touch and tangible input. Our initial network of ECRs covers researchers in Informatics (machine learning, NLP, text and data mining, bioinformatics), but extends to biology, medicine, geosciences, digital humanities, social sciences, art and design, music, and more. The Vishub will give ECRs access to otherwise equipment that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive. Beyond this, it will help researchers in visualization, human-computer interaction and data science to establish novel collaborations with domain scientists. This will stimulate advances in visualization techniques that benefit the wider research community. This allows the Co-Is and the Bayes center to build up expertise around interfaces for data visualization and beyond.

We will provide six interactive visualization kits addressing a variety of needs in the ECR community, supporting novel forms digital research and data analysis. We emphasise mobile kits that can be used across the university for workshops, demos, and situated research. We will run a set of information events and workshops, targeting specifically ECRs across the university, in order to extend our collective of collaborators, projects, and potential grant applications. Equipment will be bought in stages to make sure the most appropriate kits are built up and develop inclusive strategies for managing access. We forsee:
a Mobile Augmented and Virtual Reality workshop, to enable research with multiple people, within the general urban environment and other places outside a traditional lab setting.
- a Mobile Physical Data Visualization lab that supports cutting-edge data physicalization to be carried out with research partners.
- a Stationary Physicalization lab for larger scale, high-end data physicalization and exploration of novel forms of data physicalization.
- a Surface Interaction Studio supporting visualization with touch screens and related devices, that can be lent to partners for situated research.
- an Augmented Projection Kit, that allows seamless projection on walls alongside interaction through tracked devices
- a Mobile Touch Wall allowing for different configurations of the individual screens to allow for individual projects or large-scale visualizations.
Taken together, these will provide a nucleus for the visualization and exploration of the vast amount of data in the University, extending our possibilities for collaboration both across disciplines and with external partners.

Planned Impact

Our project will have the following impact onto the research and careers of ECRs, with the goal to increase their impact.

- Provide easy access to otherwise hard-to-obtain equipment for visualization and data analysis, enabling especially ERCs without funding to experiment, do research, obtain expertise and apply for research grants. By having access to the equipment and working with it, ECRs and their research staff can develop their own skills with respect to technology, potential, and applications. This will foster the next generation of ERCs fluent in cutting-edge data visualizations and data analysis, supporting the digital transformation in existing research areas.
- Raise awareness of the potential of supporting data analysis through visualization and interactive data science across the University and concentrate the different related efforts across different departments. This will help ERCs and other research staff to include visualization-based methodologies (exploration, monitoring, collaboration, presentation) in their research.
- Support the data-centric infrastructure and research at Bayes Centre, helping to improve its significance as a centre for data science and provide a strong environment for future hires in data-centric disciplines.
- Conduct research for as well as through the next generation of interfaces for data visualization and analysis. This will result in novel cross-disciplinary research as well as novel interfaces for data visualization and interaction, published at academic conferences. These techniques aim to be published at major international conferences and will in turn support researchers from other domains, locally as well as globally.
- Provide equipment for teaching students and future ERCs in the novel technologies.
- Increase the visibility of research output at Edinburgh University, increasing public awareness of data-driven research, and attract new collaboration. This will happen at workshops at the university, in the city, at national or international conferences, degree shows (Edinburgh College of Art degree show), workshops open to the public ( as well as public science festivals (Edinburgh International Science Festival; attendance at two Royal Society Summer Exhibitions) and a yearly showcase in the centre of the Edinburgh Festival.


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