Friday, June 27, 2014

Reviewers Needed For The Visual Analytics Science And Technology (VAST) 2014 Challenge!

The Visual Analytics Community and their member organizations (including the Department of Homeland Security, Pacific Northwest National Laboratories and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency), in coordination with the IEEE, sponsors a visual analytics challenge each year at the IEEE conference for students and researchers.  
In order to judge the output from the participants, the challenge organizers asks for analysts to participate as reviewers of the submissions.  Kris Cook, who is on the contest committee, has asked me to put the word out that the contest needs reviewers for this year’s challenge.  
This is an unpaid, all volunteer effort to assist a non-profit sponsored contest.  Kris’ note to me is reproduced below with additional links.  If you are interested in participating or have any additional questions, please contact her directly.  
For what it is worth, taking a look at the VAST entries is a very interesting and rewarding way to learn what is happening in the world of visual analytics.
Begin text of note:
We invite you to be a reviewer for this year’s IEEE Visual Analytics Science and Technology (VAST) Challenge.  The VAST Challenge poses interesting problems that contestants solve using visualization-based software tools that support analysis of complex data sets.
We are soliciting reviewers for three mini-challenges and a grand challenge this year. 
  • Mini-Challenge 1 challenges participants to identify the current organization of a fictitious terrorist organization and how that organization has changed over time, as well as to characterize the events surrounding the disappearance of multiple people.  Participants will use visual analytics to analyze the specified data.
  • Mini-Challenge 2 challenges participants to describe the daily routines of employees of a fictitious company and to identify suspicious behaviors. This task focuses on the analysis of movement and tracking data and is thus primarily a spatiotemporal challenge.
  • Mini-Challenge 3 challenges participants to identify a timeline of significant events in a fictitious city and identify important participants, locations, and durations by monitoring real-time data feeds. This task poses a streaming analysis challenge.
  • The Grand Challenge asks participants to synthesize the discoveries made across the three mini-challenges to form a high level description of the entire scenario. This task focuses on the identification of who disappeared, who was responsible, and the underlying motivations. Significant information gaps will also be addressed by the participants.
More specific information about the tasks may be found at

As a reviewer you will be responsible for reading 3-4 submissions and providing written feedback for the committee and the submitters. Each submission consists of an entry form describing the submitter’s software, their technical approach, and their answers to the mini-challenge questions, as well as a short video showing an example of the analytic processes used by the submitters. 
This year, the reviewing period is as follows:  Entries will be available for review by July 12.  Your reviews will be due by July 28.
All review materials will be accessible over the internet. Reviews will be conducted using the Precision Conference web-based reviewing system. Reviewers will be registered in the Precision Conference system and will submit their reviews using Precision Conference web pages.
If you are interested in reviewing please respond to no later than July 1.  Please indicate which mini-challenges you would be most interested in reviewing and how many entries you are willing to review. 
Thank you for your time and consideration!
VAST Challenge Committee

Kris Cook, Georges Grinstein, and Mark Whiting, co-chairs

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Visa-free Access: Who Has The Best Passport?

Having to get a visa is a hassle - just ask anyone who has gone through the process.  Likewise, being able to travel into and out of countries without a visa is a real benefit.  Who then, has the "best" passport?  Which country offers its citizens the most possibilities for visa-free travel?  The answers, in the infographic below (from Movehub), are interesting (H/T to Jeremy!):

World Passport Power