New Research and New Roles

It’s been a while since the last news post, but VACLab researchers have been busy over the past several months!

We may have neglected to update the News section on this website for a while, but that doesn’t mean there has been no news! VACLab-ers have been busy pushing forward with new research, starting new projects, and taking on new roles. This news roundup highlights a few of these efforts as we kick of 2024!

New grant-funded exciting research initiatives. Two new grant-funded research initiatves are now underway. First, supported by an award from the Laboratory for Analytical Sciences (LAS), a new project has been launched to study how and why people decide when they’ve gathered enough information to complete an information task. This work builds on VACLab-er Wenyuan Wang’s PhD studies on this topic and his summer internship experience with LAS. It is also a collaborative project with Jordan Crouser from Smith College. Second, a new NIH-funded project has launched with the aim of reducing bias within retrospective health data studies through the design/development/evaluation of new health informatics tools. This work is being conducted in collaboration with staff from the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS).

New papers to start of 2024 with a bang! Two new papers have been published so far in 2024 to share results from our NSF-funded project exploring the use of counterfactuals to improve how people make causal inferences from data when viewing visualizations. First, a new article in IEEE CG&A shares a high-level perpective on the importance of this topic, our initial progress, and key research opportunities for the field to take on in future work. Second, we published results from one of our projects first studies in the journal Information Visualization. In this article, led VACLab-er Arran Wang as first author, we propose a new causal comprehension model that connects theories from causal inference with ideas from visual data communication. We use this model to examine, supported by data gathered from a user study, how counterfactuals impact the interpretation of causal relationships within datasets. Based on our findings, we discuss ways in which counterfactuals can be used within future data visualization systems.

David Gotz named Director for the Carolina Health Informatics Program (CHIP). After stepping foward as the interim director in 2023, David Gotz was appointed to the post of Director for CHIP in January 2024. He will oversee a vibrant and growing health informatics program that connects several UNC units including the Schools of Information and Library Science, Medicine, Nursing, Public Health, Dentistry, and Pharmacy, along with the Department of Computer Science from the College of Arts and Sciences. CHIP offers two Master’s degree programs (one online and one residential) as well as a PhD program. More information about CHIP can be found on the CHIP program’s website.

Of course, these are just a few highlights. We’ve also had students pass thesis milestones, welcomed new members, said “goodbye” (for now) to graduating alumni, published additional articles, and made a lot of progress on other research efforts. Stay tuned to learn more in the weeks and months ahead as our work continues!