Extreme Data Visualization

June 13, 2008

Using what is without question the most unusual (innovative) data visualization technique I've ever seen, Postgenomic has created Pubmed Faceoff. The idea is simple: humans have evolved highly sophisticated face recognition abilities; why not exploit this ability in the visualization of multidimensional datasets? The technique, known as Chernoff Faces, has been around for awhile now, although the idea of using photorealistic faces seems to be an innovation of the Postgenomic team.

The service itself is actually quite usable, if a bit slow. Only newer papers in PubMed are covered, but that's still enough to get a feel for what's possible.

One feature I'd like to see: depict scientific subjects using faces. For example, just looking at the pathetic crowd I got by typing the keyword "schizophrenia" into the search box seems to suggest that field has some problems. A few stars, but apparently a lot of junk.

Another idea: click on any face and get a page containing all of the papers with that face. In other words, show me all of the papers getting more than the expected number of citations. Or show me all of the papers published in "crap journals" getting no citations. Average citation count seems much less interesting for some reason.

Credit: Thanks to Scholarship 2.0 for the lead.