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UMass Lowell, Boston Foundation Head Newly Formed National Visualization Consortium

Group Will Integrate Community and Regional Data

Georges Grinstein

02/11/2009
By For more information, contact media@uml.edu or 978-934-3224

(2/11/09)

Prof. Georges Grinstein, director of the Institute for Visualization and Perception Research, and Prof. William Mass, director of the Center for Industrial Competitiveness, together with Charlotte Kahn, director of the Boston Indicators Project at The Boston Foundation, are leading a newly created national consortium dedicated to improving access to important data about communities and regions.

The consortium aims to develop a new open-source software system for integrating, analyzing and visualizing complex economic, social and environmental indicators at the neighborhood, municipal, county and regional levels. Other members of the group include organizations from Atlanta, Boston, Columbus, Phoenix, Chicago and New Haven. The consortium’s initial funding is about $900,000 over two years.

“With the intensifying economic and political challenges of our times, improving timely access to information to the public and decision makers in all arenas is increasingly important,” says Mass. “The visualization of data in graphs, plots, charts and maps is a powerful approach for making complex information about multi-dimensional problems more manageable and better understood.”

The system will be browser-based, so it requires no special software and facilitates collaboration by simultaneous users at different sites for joint development, technical assistance, and training. “The consortium’s effort democratizes access to data and software and will extend the capabilities of organizations providing support to a broad range of users, from researchers, planners, educators and the media to the general public,” says Mass.

Computer Science Profs. Cindy Chen and Jesse Heines, post-doctoral fellow Jianping Zhou, and project manager Mary Beth Smrtic are also lending their expertise to the project, together with graduate students in the departments of Computer Science and the Regional Economic and Social Development as well as staff at the Institute for Visualization and Perception Research and the Center for Industrial Competitiveness.
 
“This community of open-source practitioners and developers will support innovation regionally, nationally and internationally, and that the freely available software will have great impact on increasing the public’s access to data,” says Grinstein.

The consortium hopes to establish fully operational websites in each participating region by the end of 2009. For more information, contact Grinstein at grinstein@cs.uml.edu, or Mass at William_Mass@uml.edu or at 978-934-3627.

- Edwin_Aguirre

William Mass