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Stanford selected as first regional center for DHS's national visual analytics work

News Release

February 07, 2005 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — Stanford University has been named the first Regional Visualization and Analytics Center to perform basic science and technology research to assist the Department of Homeland Security in identifying and thwarting terrorist threats to the nation.

The announcement was made today by the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which operates DHS's National Visualization and Analytics Center, TM or NVAC, in Richland.

DHS established the NVACTM in 2004 to provide scientific guidance and coordination for the research and development of new tools and methods that DHS has identified as required for managing, visually representing, and analyzing enormous amounts of diverse data and information. Development of these visualization tools will enable analysts to more effectively identify signs of terrorist attacks in their earliest stages and ultimately to prevent terrorist plots before they occur. The four core responsibilities of the NVACTM are research and development; education; technology evaluation and implementation; and integration and coordination of research programs across government agencies. In support of the NVAC, DHS and PNNL intend to establish several regional centers in 2005.

"In order for the national center to be successful, we must harness the nation's expertise in the field of visual analytics. That means partnering with agencies, other laboratories and universities, such as Stanford, to execute the research that is necessary to fulfill DHS's mission," said Jim Thomas, PNNL's chief scientist for information technologies and NVACTM director.

"In all aspects of our lives, we deal with large collections of data and information. Interactive visual interfaces are the most promising technology to help us analyze this information. Drawing on Stanford's strengths, we have assembled a multidisciplinary team of outstanding researchers to help DHS with this important problem," said Dr. Pat Hanrahan, Canon USA professor in the school of engineering.

Stanford's contract with PNNL calls for it to perform research on network traffic analysis for intrusion detection; cognitive and perceptual principles supporting reasoning with space and time; and methods to support exploratory analysis of graphs in relational databases. These three research elements will enhance analytical reasoning with complex information.

Computer viruses, network intrusions, and their consequences present significant problems for consumers, businesses, universities, and the nation. Stanford researchers will develop methods to analyze network traffic patterns in order to identify compromised systems. The work is expected to lead to better protection of the nation's computing infrastructure, and to prevent sensitive information stored on people's computers from being accessed and abused.

Visualizations use space and graphical elements to convey more abstract entities. A common example is maps. Although many other types of visualizations have recently been invented, the cognitive usefulness of these new methods has not been tested. Stanford researchers will perform psychological experiments to understand the utility of different representations of space and time. The result will be cognitive design principles and effective tools for creating a broad range of visualizations involving space and time. Visual representations of space and time are essential to reasoning about many processes, including genetic and environmental interactions in the body and complex, global situations as they develop.

Investigation of associations among entities is a common analytic process. For example, finding documents written on a particular topic during a certain span of time involves reasoning about the associations between authors, time periods, areas of expertise, and documents. However, existing graphical representations were not developed with consideration to the specific questions asked about these associations. Stanford researchers will explore ways to improve these graphical representations by reorganizing them to support analytical tasks.

In addition to the work mentioned above, the Stanford RVAC will establish a working model of a regional visualization and analytics center. Experience gained from establishing the Stanford RVAC will be used to guide the establishment of additional RVACs in 2005.

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Founded in 1885, Stanford University is recognized as one of the world's leading research and teaching institutions. Its current community of scholars includes 16 Nobel Prize winners, four Pulitzer Prize recipients and 22 MacArthur Fellows. Because of the academic excellence of its more than 1,700 faculty members, Stanford is uniquely positioned to pursue interdisciplinary solutions to the world's most daunting problems. The areas of excellence cross disciplines and range from the humanities to social sciences to engineering and the sciences, and the professions of business, education, law and medicine. Stanford's 14,000 students—7,500 graduate students and 6,500 undergraduate students—are drawn from an international pool of accomplished and talented young scholars.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate serves as the primary research and development arm of the Department, utilizing our nation's scientific and technological resources to provide federal, state and local officials with the technology and capabilities to protect the homeland.

PNNL LogoPacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on signature capabilities in chemistry, earth sciences, and data analytics to advance scientific discovery and create solutions to the nation's toughest challenges in energy resiliency and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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