Public Release: 

UNC Charlotte and Georgia Institute of Technology selected for DHS national visualization team

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

A team comprised of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the Georgia Institute of Technology has been named a Regional Visualization and Analytics Center by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. PNNL leads the Department of Homeland Security's National Visualization and Analytics Center, ( or NVACTM, which is bringing academic expertise to the nation's efforts to discover information that may warn officials of a terrorist attack.

UNC Charlotte and Georgia Tech will develop techniques and tools to assist homeland security analysts, and then combine the tools in an artificial analytic reasoning system. The system will be able to analyze enormous multimedia databases, such as the data generated by the web in the forms of text, imagery, video and webcast.

The UNC Charlotte and Georgia Tech partnership is one of four university team selections announced today. The others are the University of Washington, Purdue University and Indiana University's School of Medicine, and Pennsylvania State University. Stanford University was named a regional center earlier this year.

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 prevent terrorist activities before they can be carried out 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.

"The UNC Charlotte and Georgia Tech team's proposal had an outstanding education plan and an impressive list of nationally recognized technical leaders in visualization," said Jim Thomas, PNNL's chief scientist for information technologies and NVACTM director. "Their dedication to this field and the success of NVAC is evident."

"The focus of our work here at UNC Charlotte and of our partners at Georgia Tech will be developing visual and analytical reasoning methods for intelligence analysis and decision making," said Dr. William Ribarsky, Bank of America endowed chair in information technology at UNC Charlotte.

"Intelligence analysts are a precious resource and they need effective tools to help them manage information and make decisions in the presence of huge amounts of data. Unfortunately, matters are further complicated because the data is often incomplete and the people involved don't always know what they're looking for," continued Ribarsky. "Visualization technology integrated with analytic reasoning is the best, and perhaps only, effective way to approach this problem. Together with Georgia Tech, we are strong in both areas."

Research at UNC Charlotte and Georgia Tech has shown that visualization tools by themselves are not enough to fully support someone who needs to examine and analyze large and complex sets of data. Rather, in addition to visualization tools, analysts need an artificial reasoning system that can be integrated with their own reasoning processes. In response to this need, the team will create an artificial reasoning system that has the ability to formulate hypotheses for a given situation, and then discard data that doesn't apply as the program runs its analysis. The result is a more focused data set for analysts to examine and less time spent getting to that point.

"Interaction is essential here," noted Ribarsky. "This is the whole idea behind the visualization - you want to have a human analyst integrated with the visual analytics in order to really delve into these data, to structure them, to organize them, and, ultimately, to understand them."


A doctoral and research intensive university, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is the fourth largest of the 16 institutions within the University of North Carolina system and the largest institution in the Charlotte region. The university comprises seven professional colleges and currently offers 14 doctoral programs, 59 master's degree programs and 83 leading to bachelor's degrees. More than 800 full-time faculty comprise the university's academic departments and this fall, enrollment exceeds more than 20,700 students.

The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the nation's premiere research universities. Ranked ninth among U.S. News & World Report's top public universities, Georgia Tech educates more than 17,000 students every year through its Colleges of Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Management and Sciences. It also maintains a diverse campus and is among the nation's top producers of women and African-American engineers. The Institute offers research opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students and is home to more than 100 interdisciplinary units plus the Georgia Tech Research Institute. During the 2004-2005 academic year, Georgia Tech reached $357 million in new research award funding.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory ( is a DOE Office of Science laboratory that solves complex problems in energy, national security, the environment and life sciences by advancing the understanding of physics, chemistry, biology and computation. PNNL employs 4,100 staff, has a $700 million annual budget, and has been managed by Ohio-based Battelle since the lab's inception in 1965.

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.

Andrea Turner, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Media Relations

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