IEEE VIS 2017 Conference Report

My first conference report not on, and not only that, a part of it is on, and a part of it is right here! I’ll write conference reports on this blog as well, that may not contain 100% medvis content. There’s a first time for everything 🙂 Why not the IEEE VIS 2017 conference report?

VIS 2017 took place in Phoenix, Arizona, and the transition from rainy Bergen, Norway, to this hot arid desert climate was not a smooth one. I got a lovely case of heat exhaustion, which unfortunately led to me missing some of the paper sessions. Less complaining, more reporting! My paper highlights are summarized in the guest post I did for, the rest can be found below.


I attended the ‘Sketching Visualization designs, and using the Five Design-Sheet (FdS) Methodology in Teaching’ organized by Jonathan Roberts, Christopher Headleand, and Panagiotis Ritsos. Unfortunately, Christopher could not attend, and Panagiotis even had to leave the session to give a talk in another track (that’s how amazingly parallel these sessions were). This was a really useful tutorial for me, since I plan to use this methodology in my teaching as well. The basic idea is to have students perform physical sketching of ideas before they start implementing. There is 1 sheet for brainstorming, 3 to work out 3 initial designs, and then 1 sheet to realize a final design. This works well not only for Data Visualization courses, but also for Computer Graphics, HCI, and other courses. The methodology has been around for a while, but what is new for this year is that the authors just released a book entitled ‘Five Design-Sheets: Creative Design and Sketching for Computing and Visualisation’. The session was filled with practical tips on how to bring the Five Design-Sheets into the classroom.

I only caught one talk from the ‘Visual Analytics of Cohort Study Data – From Individuals to Populations’ tutorial organized by Steffen Oeltze-Jafra, Uli Niemann, JĂĽrgen Bernard, and Adam Perer. Adam Perer presented several tools such as IBM’s CarePathFlow (VA of treatment order effects), Coquito (selecting cohorts with visual constraints), and Prospector (predictive modeling). Luckily for me and probably also you, the organizers made all their slides available here.


While I appreciate the Test of Time awards, given to papers ‘whose contents are still vibrant and useful today and have had a major impact and influence within and beyond the visualization community’, I thought the accompanying presentations were a bit lengthy. This setup made the opening session quite lengthy as well (from 8:00 to 10:30).

The best papers of all three tracks (InfoVis, SciVis, and VAST) were now all presented in a joint opening session, which was a great change to the approach in previous years (best paper talks in parallel). It was great to catch talks that I normally would not be able to attend, and I especially enjoyed the infovis best paper talk by Danielle Albers Szafir, entitled ‘Modeling Color Difference for Visualization Design’. More information, including the slides of her talk are available here.

The SciVis best paper award went to ‘Globe Browsing: Contextualized Spatio-Temporal Planetary Surface Visualization’ by Karl Bladin, Emil Axelsson, Erik Broberg, Carter Emmart, Patric Ljung, Alexander Bock, and Anders Ynnerman. This work is based on Karl Bladin’s master thesis, and was also presented by him. An amazing accomplishment to have not only a full paper at VIS, but even getting the best paper award for it. The software this work was integrated in, OpenSpace, is also Open Source.  A live tour of Mars was mentioned in the presentation, which can be enjoyed in this video:


Check my guest post over at to see what I thought of the papers 🙂


Compared to last year’s fail in Baltimore, where all the parties were in a single venue, this year’s VIS was lit! On Monday, IBM hosted an absolutely amazing party in the Cobra Arcade Bar. Retro arcade gaming in a bar: the stuff dreams are made of (well my dreams anyway)! There was a great West-Coast party on Tuesday, and an Austrian party featuring many lovely people in dirndls and lederhosen on Wednesday. On Thursday, I organized a small dance party with my fellow unofficial VIS Dance Party Chairs Gordon Kindlmann and Roxana Bujack. We somehow managed to pick a bar that was completely empty, but enough VIS people showed up (thank you!) to set the dance floor on fire anyway. I am sure next year in Berlin, we will do even better.


I organized a Blogging meetup with Robert Kosara, of fame, entitled ‘Blogging: How to Start and Keep Telling the World About your Work’. In the meetup, we discussed blogging and Twitter, shared personal experiences, and answered questions. We had a good turnout, but it is hard to say if we in the end really convinced anyone to (re)start blogging. Time will tell! Besides the great IEEE VIS coverage on eagereyes, I did already spot another conference report, written by Ming Yao. and T.J. Jankun-Kelly launched his blog.


I noticed from my summary that there not all that many ‘traditional SciVis-flavor medical visualization papers’ to write about. However, I did observe that closely related topics such as visual analytics in healthcare are very popular. I would love to see this field of research considering more imaging data in their approaches. The combination and integration of spatial and non-spatial medical data visualization seems to be a promising area of research. In conclusion, despite the heat, I really had a great VIS, and am definitely looking forward to VIS 2018, which will be held in Berlin, Germany.


    1. Thanks! At VIS, meetups are a formal part of the conference. There are meetup chairs that you can contact to pitch an idea for a meetup (and how many people you expect), and they help you find a room at the venue and a time to have the meetup somewhere during the conference week. There is more information on how it works here: Quite a cool concept!

Leave a comment, why don't you?