1st CRA-W/CDC Broadening Participation in Visualization (BPViz) Workshop – A Success Despite the Polar Vortex!

By Dr. Vetria L. Byrd & Dr. Lori Tanner

Originally Printed in the Winter/Spring 2014 Newsletter

Participants at the BPViz conference in 2014.

Participants at the BPViz conference in 2014.

Visualization plays a significant role in the exploration and understanding of data across all disciplines with a universal goal: gaining insight into the complex relationships that exist within the data. The need to diversify a field with such far-reaching influences is imperative. On February 10-11, 2014 Clemson University hosted the 1st CRA-W/CDC Broadening Participation in Visualization (BPViz) Workshop.

The idea for the workshop was born out of an understanding of the importance of visualization in all aspects of research and scholarship and a keen awareness of the lack of representation of women and underrepresented groups in the field. The workshop offered keynote speaker sessions, poster/visualization showcase by participants, panel sessions, and opportunities for mentoring and networking.

The intent was to provide diversity in representation of re-search, in workshop content and in membership participation. Just as visualization is multidisciplinary in nature; organizers of the workshop took a multidisciplinary approach to recruitment. Participants were recruited via a number of different venues and organizations targeting women and underrepresented groups including:  The Anita Borge Institute/Grace Hopper listserv, association listservs, Broadening Participation Communities and discipline-specific mailing lists. Considerable effort was made to reach all fields of scholarship where visualization techniques provide insight.

Despite inclement weather—a rare winter snowstorm in South Carolina—the workshop proved a success! Our grant funding supported many of our participants and the selection proved difficult as we had a highly competitive pool of candidates. Care was taken to have a good representation of experience, disciplines, and underrepresented groups participating as students and presenters. The two days were packed with events and sessions, which were condensed into a single day due to the weather. The events making the most dramatic impact on the student participants included: First Impressions, Meet the Panelists, Fast Forward, and Poster/Visualization Showcase.

First Impressions. When participants first arrived, we asked them 1) how do you define visualization? 2) what is the purpose of visualization? And 3) why is visualization important? The responses indicated there was a real need to define and explain what visualization is and provide examples of its applications. Meet the Panelists. This was key in the success of our work-shop wherein participants were given the opportunity to meet and talk with panelists one-on-one. This proved to be appreciated by all participants but even more so by those who described themselves as beginners to visualization.

Fast Forward. Each presenter had one minute to articulate the key points of their research and convince the audience to visit their poster or audio-visual presentation. This event preceded the poster/visualization showcase session. Presentations reflected the range of visualization knowledge among the participants: from those very experienced to the novice. The aforementioned Fast Forward event succeeded in advertising the showcase.

BPViz Broadens Participation in STEM. Visualization in-corporates techniques and methods applied and refined in science, technology and engineering fields and as such the field of visualization is subject to the same diversity deficiencies found in STEM fields. We were motivated by the same disparities that exist in STEM fields: little to no representation of women and underrepresented groups in visualization. To address the lack of awareness of opportunities in visualization, and understanding of visualization principles, the BPViz Information website is under construction. Eventually this website will serve as a starting point (for beginners) and as a resource for persons with interests in visualization. The website will feature visualization news, notices of upcoming visualization events, visualization challenges and participant spotlights as an avenue for sharing success stories and mile-stones. Workshop participants are encouraged to continually contribute to the development of this site.