Scientific visualization has had difficulty finding its place within the realm of science. While many scientists will agree that it clearly has a significant role to play, its appreciation is by no means universal. Some feel that it is a poorly defined and, subsequently, a poorly applied tool. Still others feel that it relies inappropriately upon subjective interpretation and thus violates the notion of consistency and repeatability. And there are those who see the compelling nature of the imagery as an open temptation for abuse and trivial indulgence.
However those of us who believe that visualization is an important part of scientific discovery have worked hard to validate its use. Much effort has been made to dispel negative impressions of a field which generates ``pretty pictures". Regular attempts are made to identify and validate the benefits of using graphic representations, to establish concrete methodologies and codify measures of validity, and in general to make visualization fit in within accepted scientific practice. Ongoing research into the underlying mechanisms of perception and cognition continually improve our understanding of visualization's nature. However satisfaction with visualization's place in science has so far been limited and conditional and, as a consequence, the marriage of science and visualization has been an uneasy one.
Naturally, opinions vary as to the source of these problems and what the appropriate solutions should be. Perhaps we do not sufficiently understand the underlying cognitive processes. Or possibly we need to develop a proper objective basis of evaluation and assessment. Or maybe we have not taken account of the inherently subjective nature of visual apprehension. Or is it because there is not yet an adequate educational curriculum to prepare users? Or is there really any problem at all? Is not the mild confusion around how, when, what and why we visualize typical of a newly emerging field that has not yet reached maturity?
This panel discussion will broach the issues of visualization related to apparent conflicts between traditional scientific methodologies and the nature of visualization. We will be addressing problems which arise due to mistakes of category, inappropriate framing of questions, the divorce of human error and perception from the process of discovery, denial of emotional interpretation, poor aesthetic judgement and other subtle misdirections. Of particular interest will be those choices and presumptions born out of an automatic observance of the commandment of scientific objectivity. Our goal will be to stimulate complementary views and discussion around these issues. Additional info will be gathered at http://wayback.cecm.sfu.ca/projects/philvis.html.