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The organization Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion (OCSI), a research consultancy focusing on the development of evidence to help the public sector deliver better services, have recently been commissioned by the UK Department of Communities and Local Government to carry out a review of the many approaches to visualizing data in the public realm [ocsi.co.uk].

In their words: "The project will seek to understand the potential for visualizations in the analysis and communication of data, and provide guidance for national and local analysts on making best use of visualization."

Questions asked are:
. What visualisations are being used by the public sector? What can we learn from elsewhere?
. Is there a useful typology (classification) of visualisation techniques for public sector users?
. How effective are particular types of visualisation in supporting public sector research and decision-making?
. What are the most appropriate visualisation techniques for particular purposes?

The project will result in a web application that identifies the strengths and weaknesses of visualizations for particular purposes, with links to examples and supporting material. This means the website will be an excellent opportunity to showcase your own examples of good visualization, with the overall aim to help contribute to common standards of good practice in the research community. You can submit these examples by contacting the people listed in their open call (although an emailed request two week ago for more information has not yet been answered).

This initiative seems to be closely related to yesterday's post that questioned whether the government should face the challenge to provide data visualization for the general public (next to open access to detailed, clean data). At the same time, it brings up the issue of how these "good practice" examples will be evaluated. It is one thing to ask the visualization community to provide "good" examples, it is another to set up the required criteria to identify the "strengths", and in particular, the "weaknesses" without stepping on some toes.

What do you think? Is this a worthwhile initiative?

Via Digital Urban (although it would have been a pleasure to have been informed directly, surely).