Recent years have seen a tremendous growth of interest and activity in an emerging interdisciplinary research field called information visualization. The list of involved disciplines is long and growing and includes, among others, computer science, library science, information science, geography, and various types of engineering. With such diversity of backgrounds, a formal academic infrastructure has been slow to crystallize, even though there has been a long history of activities that would now fall under this rubric. The attempts of the 1980's to represent hypertext networks in a map-like form come to mind here. A more formal, academic infrastructure began to emerge with the annual IEEE Information Visualization Symposium starting in 1995. With its highly competitive peer-review process, that symposium quickly became the flagship research outlet of the young discipline. Further opportunities for presenting research and establishing collaborative ties emerged with the IEEE Information Visualization conference held annually in London. An increasing number of research grants in the late 1990's, and continuing into the new millennium, also evidenced the growing relevance of information visualization. However, there remained one significant void. When it came to publishing results in peer-reviewed journals, researchers had to choose among a wide array of journals, whose emphases (and peer reviewers' interests and expertise) were often quite different from research contributions that appeared to straddle various disciplines.
A new academic journal now aims to fill exactly that void. Aptly named Information Visualization, its stated goal is to "act as a dedicated forum for the theories, methodologies, techniques and evaluations of information visualization and its applications." In terms of the journal's content, a veritable who's who of information visualization on the list of editors and editorial board members should ensure continually high quality. The digital libraries community should be especially pleased with the choice of Chaomei Chen as Editor-in-Chief. Chen's history of successfully bridging information science, library science, and computer science, e.g., with novel visualizations derived from citation analysis, bodes well for the future of this journal. Ben Shneiderman, computer scientist, expert in human-computer interaction (HCI), and one of the undisputed leaders of the information visualization discipline, serves as Advisory Editor.
The journal's editorial board represents a diverse group of experts in information visualization, with academic as well as industry backgrounds and who hail from various countries. While the editor-in-chief and advisory editor are located in the USA, almost half of the associate editors and editorial board members are based in other countries. A quick, not particularly scientific, survey of the first 24 research articles and commentaries (not counting editorials) published in the journal shows that 66% included authors/co-authors located outside the U.S., and 25% of papers include co-authors from multiple countries. It seems that we are indeed looking at an international journal on information visualization.
Palgrave Macmillan, a publisher that is part of the German Holtzbrinck group, publishes Information Visualization in the United Kingdom. With respect to copyediting, paper grade, and print quality, the early issues left this reviewer utterly satisfied. Color figures are reproduced at very high quality, though limited in numbers, presumably to keep publication costs down. Indeed, subscription pricing is reasonable for such quality reproduction, at $347/$218 for institutional/personal subscribers, with access to both print and online versions. Check out Palgrave's Web site (http://www.palgrave-journals.com/ivs) for more information, e.g., to order a free copy of the journal.
With a diverse group of disciplines potentially contributing to and utilizing information visualization, it can be difficult to find common ground. By establishing a shared forum for disseminating research, this journal promises to become just such a platform. This will be challenging, of course. Computer scientists have long dominated information visualization and this is reflected in the first issues of the journal. Among the first 24 articles, 18 (75%) seem authored/co-authored by computer scientists. Different engineering disciplines contributed to 4 papers, and a sprinkling of contributions from information science, geography, psychology, and others makes up the rest. Eventually, this journal will hopefully help to ferment truly interdisciplinary work. This remains an elusive goal, as only 3 (12.5%) of the early contributions appear to be co-authored by researchers who actually work in substantially different disciplines.
Articles published so far describe new visualization systems; others introduce novel algorithmic approaches. Some papers contain detailed accounts of human subject tests, aiming to uncover if and how new tools actually serve their purpose. Taxonomies of the rising number of information visualization techniques are likewise present. From papers discussing the latest advances in visualization based on certain artificial neural network techniques to those inspired by centuries of cartographic artistry, the journal appears to represent the breadth of the discipline.
In the first issue, six out of seven papers included authors who also serve as editors or are on the editorial board. This could actually be a good sign, as it indicates a serious commitment to the success of this journal. Encouragingly though, authors not associated with the administration of the journal contributed about two-thirds of papers in later issues. Still, one of the main challenges will be how to attract a diverse number of quality submissions, beyond the circle of established information visualization scientists and institutions. The first two issues of Information Visualization appeared in March and June 2002, respectively. The third issue, published in December 2002, was numbered "3/4," but contained only four original research articles. The first issue of the 2003 volume featured six papers previously published at the 2002 IEEE InfoVis symposium, but in an expanded form that had undergone additional peer-review for this subsequent publication in Information Visualization. The quality of these papers is beyond reproach, yet one would hope that the journal will overcome what appears to be a dearth of original submissions.
In the long run, there are enough reasons to be optimistic regarding the viability of this journal, given the caliber of the editorial team and the quality of early issues. As a prime beneficiary of information visualization applications, the digital library community can play its part by submitting relevant research articles and, last but not least, by subscribing to the journal.