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End-user volume viewer application (left) displays a composited image from raycasting volume rendering processes running in parallel on the four cluster nodes (right). AVS/Express pre-test version for the MRBV (Massive Remote Batch Visualizer) project running on a CRAY XT4 .

Making choices: metadata and paradata

Rules can be broken with the addition of appropriate metadata, and this has been known for a long time. The addition of good metadata including all forms of annotations is very important even if it takes time and careful thought. Metadata can include all details describing the source of the data, the methods used to pre-manipulate the data and create the visualization, as well as the contact details of the author, creation date etc. Recently there have been tools developed to help record this process. These include the development of software within e-Science, creating a set of middleware linking computing resources together – adding semantic tags which define meaning to these components – and creating ontologies, which describe how human terms relate to computer terms.

A proposal is to add paradata that extends the concept of metadata to consider issues of choice and alternatives by recording the subjective decisions. For example, Figure 5 shows fourteen different visualization variations for a simple vortex fluid flow data set. Often only one or two images will be used to illustrate a specific scientific phenomenon, but it is very rarely considered in detail what decisions have been make and it is even rarer for these decisions to be written down, as to why a particular version has been chosen. The use of paradata would now allow and even force the authors to describe the reasons for their choices.

It is said that an image is worth a thousand words, but we can rephrase this to say a good visualization may need a thousand words of annotations, in both metadata and paradata, in order to properly describe it.

Fourteen different versions of scientific visualizations for the same data flow field (McDerby 2007).

A couple of solutions to address visualization are the introduction of recordable and shareable workflows ( myExperiment ), and the controlled recording of researchers' choices creating a visualization provenance ( VisTrails ). These and similar tools are going to be more available within VREs ( Virtual Research Environments ) that are already considering the use of collaborative environments; including an emphasis on the web 2.0 generic principles of being able to store and annotate everything.

Conclusions: “lying” with visualizations

They always say you can lie with statistics, but similarly you can lie with visualizations as well. This is especially true as visualizations not only can be selective in choice of data, but as they employ the human visual system they can create visual illusions as well. Often this process is not deliberate but is accidentally misleading, caused by authors who only have space for a few visualizations and make quick, possibly uninformed, decisions.

We have presented a few very simple examples to describe how small changes can improve the presentation of information. Also we have given a warning that without defining and describing the choices made, through metadata and possibly paradata, there can be confusion. Fortunately there are now methods, just starting to be introduced, to help in the process, although more need to be actively used, tested and developed.


At the University of Manchester, Research Computing Services, starting with the Computer Graphics Unit, has for over 30 years been considering how to efficiently create and present visual stimuli and is still learning the best way to integrate and transfer information from computer source to the human user. Thanks to all those who indirectly have contributed ideas to this short article from numerous sources (including the MSc module taught at Manchester ). It is recommended that readers explore the topic further as this barely covered the topic. Dr Martin J. Turner, the University of Manchester, and part of the JISC funded national vizNET support network, Martin.Turner@manchester.ac.uk.


Schroeder, W., Martin, K. and Lorensen, B. (1998) The Visualization Toolkit Prentice Hall 1998 2nd Edition

Tukey, J. W. (1977) Exploratory Data Analysis. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA

Tufte, E.R. (2001) The Visual Display of Quantitative Information Graphics Press, Cheshire, Connecticut 2nd Edition

Tufte, E.R. (1997) Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative Graphics Press Cheshire, Connecticut

Questions & Answers

where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
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Source:  OpenStax, Research in a connected world. OpenStax CNX. Nov 22, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10677/1.12
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