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A Guide for Creating Visualizations
There is a rich body of research in NCHRP 226, Vizguide, and NCHRP Project 20-24(93)B(02), Communicating Performance Management, and NCHRP Synthesis 52-16, Visualization of Highway Performance Measures, documented the range of practices state DOTs are currently using regarding their visualization of performance measures. The goal of this research would be to evaluate the noteworthy practices currently being pioneered by state DOTs using the foundation of these previous NCHRP projects and then develop an easy-to-use guide to creating effective visualizations.
NCHRP Synthesis 52-16, Visualization of Highway Performance Measures, found that there is little guidance or widely shared practices on how to evaluate a visualization’s effectiveness using a systematic process. This finding illuminated a need to implement a clear set of principles that can be used to evaluate visualizations that are used internally and externally. This evaluation guide would cover two distinct objectives – the effectiveness of the visualization is communicating information and the effectiveness of the visualization is changing behavior.
Even though the depth of information presented in many of the visualizations provided to the general public presents a sophisticated view of vast amounts of information, it does not yet provide a complete solution. Even with clear visualizations providing insight to solutions that could solve vexing problems (e.g., the effectiveness of wearing seat belts or not texting), there are still a significant number of people who don’t respond to the data and are killed in crashes they may have survived if they chose to buckle up or not text while they drive. Determining the means to evaluate the effectiveness of visualizations, not only to provide information, but to influence behavior would significantly enhance the value and the time and effort spent creating the visualizations.
Literature Search Summary
NCHRP Synthesis 52-16, Visualization of Highway Performance Measures, identified the problem stated above, that there is little guidance or widely shared practices on how to evaluate a visualization’s effectiveness using a systematic process. This research will build and expand upon that research, as well as NCHRP 226, Vizguide, NCHRP Project 20-24(93)B(02), Communicating Performance Management, and NCHRP Synthesis 20-05/Topic 52-16 Visualizing of Highway Performance Measures.
The object of this research is to develop an easy-to-use guide for evaluating the effectiveness of transportation visualizations that state DOTs can use to improve communication and decision-making. With this guide, state DOTs will have the tools to hone their message, manage the data overload that occurs in visualizations and impact travel behavior with effective visual data increasing safety, security and mobility.
The suggested tasks for this research are:
1) Research the essential components of what makes a visualization effective. Build off NCHRP 226 and 20-24(93)B(02). Evaluate the visualization techniques and practices documented in NCHRP Synthesis 52-16.
2) Create a guidebook that clearly communicates how to approach a new visualization and guide its creation.
3) Evaluate how to gain feedback on the effectiveness of a visualization in communicating information and influencing behavior, and also facilitates decision making. This could build off practices currently used for public service announcements (PSA).
4) Identify or develop noteworthy practices for evaluating the effectiveness of a visualization.
5) Create a Guidebook that provides state DOTs with options for evaluating the effectiveness of a visualization.
6) Integrate the two elements – creation and evaluation – into a guide that demonstrates the feedback loop of continuous improvement enabled by joining these two functions.
7) Establish an online case study website that showcases exceptional and innovative visualizations. This could include a category for the use of emerging data and emerging analytic capacity so state DOTs could maintain currency in innovative practices. The website would be updated by the TRB AED80 Visualization in Transportation Committee yearly by acknowledging award winning entries.
Urgency and Potential Benefits
Effective data visualization has the power to dramatically improve the safety and efficiency of the transportation system. Previous research demonstrates that state DOTs have invested considerable time and expertise in developing visualizations for performance measures and need to communicate results effectively.
This guide would build on and evolve prior work by developing clear guidance on how to create effective visualizations and how to evaluate their effectiveness. It will enable states to focus and capitalize upon the investment, time and expertise they are currently deploying. It will provide a roadmap to the states who are in the early development of their visualization efforts and will provide an opportunity for well-established programs to expand their efforts by evaluating the effectiveness of their visualizations.
Addressing the creation and evaluation of effective visualizations together creates a feedback loop that enables and promotes continuous improvement.
Transportation planners and practitioners responsible for analyzing and communicating data through visualization have a great need for this research. This guide has a built-in audience of the users of both previous research efforts and the Transportation Asset Management (TAM) portal. Additionally, the guide would lend itself to promotion through the committees of the TRB data section, particularly AED80; and the AASHTO Committee structure, particularly CDMA (Data), COP (Planning), CPBM (Performance), and TAM (Asset management).
Others Supporting Problem Statement
Potential Panel Members
Person Submitting Statement
AED80 Visualization in Transportation, AED