Tag Archives: School of Interactive Arts and Technology

Big bucks for visual analytics at Simon Fraser University (Canada) and at the University of British Columbia (Canada) + a job posting

Apparently, visual analytics are a step beyond visual data. And, Vancouver is an important centre for this activity or so the Dec. 2, 2013 Simon Fraser University (SFU) news release claims,

A new lab being established at Simon Fraser University will advance research and become a hub for training and education in visual analytics, further developing the emerging field.

SFU’s Visual Analytics Research and Instructional Labs (VARI Labs) will be housed in SFU’s IRMACS facility and managed by the Vancouver Institute for Visual Analytics (VIVA), a joint SFU-UBC [University of British Columbia] institute. A similar lab will be housed at UBC at the Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre (MAGIC) in the Institute for Computing, Information and Cognitive Systems (ICICS).

Western Economic Diversification Canada is providing $513,141 in funding for the labs. Another $1.5 million in-kind contribution is coming from IBM, $616,000 from funding The Boeing Company had previously pledged to VIVA and a further $303,000 in future operating revenue and working capital, to round out the total project cost at nearly $3 million.

The lab will also host the secure cloud infrastructure necessary to transfer visual analytics science from academia to industries and organizations in Western Canada.

VIVA is the Canadian leader in research and education at the cutting edge of scientific and technological innovation in visual analytics. [emphasis mine]

Visual analytics, or VA, is the science of analytical reasoning facilitated by the use of interactive interfaces.

VIVA’s focus is on effectively applying VA solutions to the actual problems faced by industry and government, a process that draws on interdisciplinary research within the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, the School of Computing Science and within a range of other departments across SFU.

“In addition to delivering industry-specific workshops to groups in healthcare, aerospace, energy, security and others, the VARI lab will enable us to develop additional courses for live and internet delivery,” says VIVA Director Fred Popowich, a professor in SFU’s School of Computing Science.

“We will continue to grow our support for academic programs at both institutions and provide support involving access for students to data and tools at each of the VARI labs, as well as opportunities for paid projects and internships, in collaboration with VIVA’s industry partners and institutional partners, like MITACS.”

Popowich says the many partners supporting the creation of the VARI lab have provided VIVA, students and the community with an advanced, flexible infrastructure for VA research, training and education.

“This forward looking private cloud delivery platform allows VIVA to engage with students and researchers at SFU and UBC,” he adds, noting the virtual nature of the platform extends it to other partners and members of VIVA throughout Western Canada, including Oceans Network Canada in Victoria and universities that are part of the growing CANVAC Network, such as the University of Calgary.

“Thanks to advanced tools for data management and security, this private cloud platform can serve as the basis for secure research data management that will improve access for researchers, and allow for data-driven research and innovation.”

Adds SFU V-P Research Mario Pinto: “We are grateful to the Government of Canada, IBM, and Boeing Canada for this investment. Having these tools available at SFU and UBC builds upon each institution’s considerable strengths in collaborative research and innovation and increases experiential learning opportunities for students in this in-demand field.

“Organizations from diverse sectors across Western Canada stand to benefit from the resulting growth in capacity of visual analytics expertise right here in British Columbia.”

• Researchers set out VIVA’s agenda nearly a decade ago and have been advancing research and education ever since. Created in 2010 through a gift of $1.25 million (US) over five years from The Boeing Company, VIVA is the national leader in scientific and technological innovation in VA, addressing the issues surrounding big data and Canadian industry and government.

• SFU is internationally known as a leader in VA and has established a Canada Research Chair in Visual Analytics.

It’s nice the Canadian leader in this field is in Vancouver but according to the CANVAC (Canadian Network for Visual Analytics) homepage,, there are 12 centres in Canada and that doesn’t seem like a lot of competition. As for SFU being a world leader ((no word about UBC’s ranking)) in this field, strangely (to me), no claim is made about Canada’s world leadership.

I was hoping to find more information about SFU’s leadership position.in this job description posted for SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology,

Canada Research Chair Tier I in Visual Analytics

November 18, 2013

School of Interactive Arts and Technology

Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology

We invite applications from leading scholars for a Canada Research Chair Tier I position in Visual Analytics. Visual Analytics is the science of analytical reasoning facilitated by interactive visual interfaces. It is an interdisciplinary field that draws upon a range of disciplines including Information Design, Visualisation, Cognitive and Perceptual Sciences, Data Analysis, and others.

SFU is internationally known as a leader in visual analytics. [emphasis mine] SIAT researchers are at the core of the Vancouver Institute for Visual Analytics (VIVA), a multi-university consortium hosted by SFU to support collaboration in VA across universities in BC. VIVA affiliates bridge fundamental cognitive and vision science research with advanced software development in applications that include scientific research, advanced manufacturing, aircraft safety, public health, financial risk, and emergency management.  With support from the Boeing Company, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and federal sources, VIVA has been a leader in promoting visual analytics across Canada and is working with industrial sponsors to establish a national aerospace research consortium.

The CRC Tier I Chair is a highly prestigious position for distinguished scholars. Only senior investigators with outstanding publications will be considered and the applicant is expected to make an application for a Tier 1 CRC within the first year of appointment.  Candidates should demonstrate a strong record of academic accomplishments and the capability to provide leadership to SFUs Visual Analytics community and its collaborators in BC and across Canada. Applicants should be eligible for appointment at the rank of Full Professor and have the terminal degree in their discipline (normally a Ph.D.) in a field relevant to Visual Analytics. The applicant will have an opportunity to establish collaboration with and complement other research areas of strength within our School, including interaction design, human computer interaction, computer aided design, sustainable design, health informatics, cognitive and perceptual science, and learning analytics.

SIAT is a vibrant, multidisciplinary program connecting computing, media and design. SIAT’s teaching and research draw upon fields ranging from cognitive science, media arts, electronic games, design and interactive technology. SIAT offers degrees at bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, and is the home of the SFU Visual Analytics graduate certificate program. The School currently enrolls about 800 undergraduates and approximately 110 graduate students, over 65 of whom are at the doctoral level. SIAT’s infrastructure includes purpose-built, state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories at SFU’s Surrey campus.

Simon Fraser University at Surrey is the University’s newest campus located in the greater Vancouver region of British Columbia. The area is home to Canada’s cultural and entertainment industry and much of its digital media production. The region’s rich cultural, natural and intellectual resources make it one of the world’s most desirable places to live and work. SIAT works as a unit of the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology (FCAT), which additionally includes the School of Communication, The School of Contemporary Arts, The Master of Publishing Program and the Master’s in Digital Media Program (MDM). In Visual Analytics area, SIAT faculty collaborate closely with colleagues from School of Computing Science in the Faculty of Applied Sciences.

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority. Simon Fraser University is committed to employment equity and encourages applications from all qualified men and women, including visible minorities, aboriginal peoples, and persons with disabilities. The successful candidate will begin work on 1 September 2014. Screening of applicants will commence on January 1, 2014 and will continue until position is filled. The successful applicant will develop with the Simon Fraser University the Canada Research Chair application for the October 2014 deadline. All appointments are subject to the availability of funding.

Applicants should seek additional information, about the School at http://www.siat.sfu.ca/ to understand better the character of SIAT and their possible contributions within it.

To apply, candidates should send a recent curriculum vitae, a concise description of their research area and program, a statement of their teaching philosophy to:

Dr. Marek Hatala, Director
School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Simon Fraser University
250-13450 102nd Avenue
Surrey, BC CANADA V3T 0A3

Email: mhatala@sfu.ca

CC: dirsec_siat@sfu.ca

Contact information for three academic referees will be requested of candidates moving to the second stage.

Under authority of the University Act personal information that is required by the university for academic appointment competitions will be collected. For further details see:


Unfortunately, only a simple declaration (the same as in the news release) “SFU is internationally known as a leader in visual analytics”, is made with no supporting information. Maybe one day we will find out what makes SFU a world leader in visual analytics (VA).

I did manage to find some more information about VA from the About Visual Analytics page on the VIVA (Vancouver Institute for Visual Analytics) website (Note: Bibliographic references have been removed),

Visual analytics (VA) was initially proposed as a means to help United States intelligence analysts meet the challenge of dealing with the masses of security-related information made available to them following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. They literally were lost in a data deluge.

Visual analytics is defined as “the science of analytical reasoning facilitated by interactive visual interfaces.

It is a multidisciplinary field intended to help people understand how to synthesize information in order to derive insights from massive, dynamic, ambiguous, and often conflicting data. In practice, it helps skilled analysts rapidly explore large, complex data sets to gain new insights using interactive visualizations. It draws upon research in a number of relevant areas, including information visualization, human computer interaction, machine learning, statistics, and cognitive science.


  • Raw data has little intrinsic value.
  • Data mining can help find expected patterns, e.g., prospect for gold and find gold in the data.
  • Visual analytics will help analysts see and explore their data to not only find the expected, but also discover the unexpected, e.g., look for gold and find gold, but also possibly find silver or copper in the same data.

Humans have very impressive visual and cognitive capabilities, but humans change very slowly, e.g., brain volume has only doubled in approximately 2.5 x 106 years.

Computing technology, however, has been changing very quickly, e.g., Moore’s Law demonstrates that integrated circuit capacity has consistently doubled in approximately 2 years periods.

One goal of visual analytics is to build better tools and develop better methods to take advantage of human visual and cognitive problem solving capabilities.

Getting back to this new facility, VARI (Visual Analytics Research and Instructional Labs), it will be located at SFU’s  Interdisciplinary Research in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences (IRMACS) Centre on the university’s Burnaby Mountain campus. As for the new facility mentioned for UBC, I’ve not not been able to find any information about it.