Test of Time Awards

To improve the future, we must reflect on our past. The IEEE VIS Test of Time Award is an accolade given to recognize articles published at previous conferences whose contents are still vibrant and useful today and have had a major impact and influence within and beyond the visualization community.

By making the awards at the conference opening we hope to encourage researchers to aim to produce work that is forward looking and has transformational potential. We’re trying to build on our heritage to establish an ambitious future by making it clear at the conference opening that we want participants to aspire to be writing the papers that will be relevant in 10 and 20 years.

Papers are selected for each of the three historic conferences (VAST, InfoVis and SciVis) by Test of Time Awards committees, appointed by the VIS Steering Committee.

The decisions are based on objective measures such as the numbers of citations, and more subjective ones such as the quality and longevity and influence of ideas, outreach, uptake and effect not only in the research community, but also within application domains and visualization practice.

This year VAST gave out a 10-year test of time award, InfoVis a 10- and 20-year award, and SciVis a 13, 14 and 25 year award.


2013 (10-year VAST ToT award):
Visual Exploration of Big Spatio-Temporal Urban Data: A Study of New York City Taxi Trips
Nivan Ferreira, Jorge Poco, Huy T. Vo, Juliana Freire, Cláudio T. Silva
DOI: 10.1109/TVCG.2013.226

This paper is one of the landmark papers in urban data visualization, making several truly impressive contributions, including query language developments and the seamless integration of data querying to handle real-world, large-scale data. Utilizing taxi records from New York City, the authors engage with economists and traffic engineers to demonstrate the power of their framework. With a few case studies, they explore the economic incentives of taxi locations and how traffic patterns impact demand patterns. These contributions have situated this paper as a seminal work in urban analytics, with many citations in visualization, urban planning, and transportation journals, making a clear impact within and outside the VIS community. The impact of this work is also expressed in the tremendous number of citations this paper has received thus far and still receives today.

Committee: Torsten Möller (chair), Bongshin Lee, Petra Isenberg, Ross Maciejewski,


2003 (20-year InfoVis ToT award):
Interactive hierarchical dimension ordering, spacing and filtering for exploration of high dimensional datasets
Jing Yang, Wei Peng, Matthew O. Ward, Elke A. Rundensteiner
DOI: 10.1109/INFVIS.2003.1249015

Interactive hierarchical dimension ordering, spacing and filtering for exploration of high dimensional datasets presents a thoughtful, elegant and powerful approach to managing the complexities of high dimensional data and reducing clutter in HighD visualizations such as parallel coordinates. A key insight of the technique is to cluster the dimensions based on a metric of similarity and extract a hierarchy, which can then be exploited to enable meaningful and effective ordering, spacing, and filtering. The rich set of figures at the end of the paper constitute a compelling visual explanation to support what seem to be highly effective techniques. Citations to the paper have increased over time, showing evidence of lasting value, and the ideas introduced in the work are still relevant today. The paper shows us how we can solve a problem through interactive visualization design, and presents some convincing options for future analysts and designers. These ideas underpin subsequent research on synthesizing new summary dimensions, contribute to contemporary thinking on explainability and have influenced the design of many other high dimensional visualization tools and techniques.

Committee: Melanie Tory (chair), Steven Franconeri, Jason Dykes

2013 (10-year InfoVis ToT award):
A Multi-Level Typology of Abstract Visualization Tasks
Matthew Brehmer, Tamara Munzner
DOI: 10.1109/TVCG.2013.124

Brehmer and Munzner’s Multi-Level Typology of Abstract Visualization Tasks is a highly influential task framework. In addition to being the most cited paper from VIS 2013, the typology was the foundation of Munzner’s book, Visualization Analysis and Design, which has been widely used to teach visualization. The fact that citations to the paper have been increasing over time is additional evidence of the typology’s lasting, and indeed growing, value to our community. Numerous subsequent papers reported using the typology of tasks in their work or expanding upon it for specific domains such as visual comparison or multivariate network analysis. One key insight of the work, noted appreciatively in citing papers, is how tasks can be compositionally described as “actions” applied to “targets”. The ToT committee found this paper to be a clear explanation of a compelling and broadly applicable framework that builds effectively upon a wide body of existing knowledge to develop useful constructs that frame what we know about a fundamental aspect of our domain. We see this as a model “model paper”.

Committee: Melanie Tory (chair), Steven Franconeri, Jason Dykes


1998 (25 years Vis ToT award):
Smooth view-dependent level-of-detail control and its application to terrain rendering
Hugues Hoppe
DOI: 10.1109/VISUAL.1998.745282

Hoppe’s work proposed a sophisticated and mature solution to what 25 years ago was a burning problem: smooth terrain rendering. The mesh-based solution is as elegant today as it was in 1998. This classic and influential work, with a concrete application and presentation, is by far the most cited paper from Vis 1998. Beyond citations, this work has had a profound and lasting influence within scientific data visualisation. It also broadly influenced related and further areas in computer graphics and immersive technology such as mesh processing and augmented reality. It has been included in post-graduate textbooks, and still receives citations today.

Committee: Helwig Hauser (co-chair), Liz Marai (co-chair), Issei Fujishiro, Ingrid Hotz, Penny Rheingans

2009 (14 years SciVis ToT award):
Depth-Dependent Halos: Illustrative Rendering of Dense Line Data
Maarten H. Everts, Henk Bekker, Jos B. T. M. Roerdink, Tobias Isenberg
DOI: 10.1109/TVCG.2009.138

Illustrative, non-photorealistic rendering styles have become an indispensable extension of a by now rich set of expressive rendering methods that support a rich variety of purposes in data visualization – especially, in the visualization of spatial / spatiotemporal data. Rendering 3D line structures is particularly difficult due to significant challenges related to depth perception. Depth-dependent halos by Everts, Bekker, Roerdink, and Isenberg enable the illustrative visualization of large-scale, dense collections of lines (and also points) at interactive frame rates by smartly choosing where to introduce a halo, and where not. The authors demonstrated the generality of their technique in the context of several different data scenarios and also evaluated their approach in a small, successful user study. Ever since its publication, this work has become a key reference for illustrative rendering techniques, establishing the smart use of halos for improved depth perception as an excellent, highly effective method.

Committee: Helwig Hauser (co-chair), Liz Marai (co-chair), Issei Fujishiro, Ingrid Hotz, Penny Rheingans

2010 (13 years SciVis ToT award):
An Information-theoretic Framework for Visualization
Min Chen and Heike Leitte
DOI: 10.1109/TVCG.2010.132

Examining visualization from an information-theoretic perspective is clearly a highly meaningful approach – given that visualization acts as an interface between users and their data, and thus always serves a purpose of communication. The seminal work by Chen and Jänicke outlines a tight relation between information theory and data visualization, and establishes a theoretic framework for studying visualization in terms of coding, noise, entropy, etc., also exemplifying a number of concrete cases, including a discussion of the visual mapping and the combination of overview and detail in visualization. This work impresses by its very high generality as well as its substantial power as an analytic basis for many of the most central visualization concepts. Right after publication, this work became an important foundation for further theoretic work in visualization research and represents now one of the few, central perspectives on visualization theory.

Committee: Helwig Hauser (co-chair), Liz Marai (co-chair), Issei Fujishiro, Ingrid Hotz, Penny Rheingans