Jessica Hullman's research project on data visualizations earns $523,000 grant

explain_gap.gifJessica Hullman, an assistant professor at the Information School, has been awarded a grant expected to total $523,516 over four years for her work creating more effective data visualizations.

The National Science Foundation grant will support Hullman’s research project, “CAREER: Enhancing Critical Reflection on Data by Integrating Users' Expectations.” The project aims to take into account people’s expectations about data when they encounter interactive charts and graphs. Allowing users to compare their assumptions to actual data is a powerful tool for checking those assumptions and better understanding the data.

“I'm excited to develop new ways to incorporate expectations – which are critical in understanding the implications of data – in how we use visualizations for data analysis and communication,” Hullman said.

Jessica Hullman
Jessica Hullman

Hullman and others working on the project, namely iSchool Ph.D. student Yea-Seul Kim, intend to conduct experiments to find out how interacting with their expectations more directly in using visualizations affects people’s memory about data, how they update their beliefs based on data, and their ability to make accurate future predictions. They will extend existing software tools to support interactions with expectations and develop ways to call attention to places where the data and people’s expectations don’t match.

Incorporating people’s expectations into visualizations could make such charts and graphs more useful and expand the role that they play in data analysis as well as in data-driven journalism. Hullman’s work will focus on helping people better understand scientific research and expert analysis as applied to topics such as climate change or health care, where data-driven decisions can impact people’s lives.