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CollaborationViz: interactive visual exploration of biomedical research collaboration networks.

Abstract

Social network analysis (SNA) helps us understand patterns of interaction between social entities. A number of SNA studies have shed light on the characteristics of research collaboration networks (RCNs). Especially, in the Clinical Translational Science Award (CTSA) community, SNA provides us a set of effective tools to quantitatively assess research collaborations and the impact of CTSA. However, descriptive network statistics are difficult for non-experts to understand. In this article, we present our experiences of building meaningful network visualizations to facilitate a series of visual analysis tasks. The basis of our design is multidimensional, visual aggregation of network dynamics. The resulting visualizations can help uncover hidden structures in the networks, elicit new observations of the network dynamics, compare different investigators and investigator groups, determine critical factors to the network evolution, and help direct further analyses. We applied our visualization techniques to explore the biomedical RCNs at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences--a CTSA institution. And, we created CollaborationViz, an open-source visual analytical tool to help network researchers and administration apprehend the network dynamics of research collaborations through interactive visualization.

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