Reproducibility, Collaboration, and Communication for Exploratory and Visual Analyses

Visualization is an important data analysis method that allows scientists to explore a dataset without preconceived questions, and is thus crucial for hypothesis generation. When combined with algorithmic approaches, it bridges the gap between exploration and confirmation. Visualization is also essential in communicating research findings.

Current visualization tools, however, have a crucial shortcoming: the interactive visual exploration process is not captured, which means that the analysis steps cannot be shared. Being able to reproduce visual analysis sessions and enabling third parties to understand, modify, and extend analysis sessions can have a significant impact on transparency, reproducibility, and innovation of analysis processes. Furthermore, there is enormous potential to utilize visual analysis sessions to efficiently communicate data.

Here we introduce a prototype that is a first step towards making this vision a reality. We capture the visual analysis process and enable users to comment on their decisions to make visual analysis reproducible. We leverage the data about the analysis process to allow scientists to create "Vistories", which are interactive and narrated figures, to communicate their findings. Vistories do not only efficiently communicate the findings, but also give audiences the ability to retrace and modify an analysis. Demos for our prototype for this approach are accessible below.



Comparing Wealth vs. Life Excepectancy over time, illustrating the basic concepts of Vistories.



Reproducing previously published Use Cases of the StratomeX visualization technique, highlighting reproducibility and storytelling aspects of Vistories.

The source code for our prototype is available on GitHub. Vistories are built with

(in alphabetical order)

Nils Gehlenborg

Department of Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School |  nils_gehlenborg |  ngehlenborg

Samuel Gratzl

Department of Computer Science at Johannes Kepler University Linz


Alexander Lex

Viuslization Design Lab, Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute, School of Computing, University of Utah |  alexander_lex |  alexsb

Marc Streit

Department of Computer Science at Johannes Kepler University Linz |  marc_streit |  marc_streit

We thank Nicola Cosgrove (@NicolaLady) for contributions to the prototype and the video.

Vistories are based on a paper that was published at EuroVis 2016:

Samuel Gratzl, Alexander Lex, Nils Gehlenborg, Nicola Cosgrove, Marc Streit
From Visual Exploration to Storytelling and Back Again
Computer Graphics Forum (EuroVis '16), vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 491-500, doi:10.1111/cgf.12925, 2016.