Thursday, January 01, 2009

Visualization of Data to Support Decision-Making in the Diagnosis of Autism: Link to Dr. Robert Kosara's recent article in American Scientist

Dr. Robert Kosara was my professor last year for Information Visualization and Visual Communication, a graduate class in the Computer Science department at UNC-Charlotte. He maintains an great blog that touches on his interest in this field, Eager Eyes.

In 2007, he came across a Venn diagram posted in a 2006 Archives of General Psychiatry that looked at three methods of diagnosing autism, the clinician, the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), and the Pre-Linguistic Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (PL-ADOS). The data was represented in a Venn diagram, but this form of representation appeared to be confusing.

The Venn diagram was posted on the Nuit Blanche blog, and readers were challenged to submit new designs that could better represent the data. Dr. Kosara met the challenge and gave some careful thought to the matter, which he outlines in a recent article in American Scientist:

A Vennerable Challenge: The best solution for visualizing data is sometimes a simple one

Dr. Kosara used a tree diagram, which is a familiar strategy in the field of computer science, one that should be looked at closely by those in other disciplines (ie. psychologists!) who use data to support decision-making. Dr. Kosara's output was easier to understand, in my opinion. According to the redesign, it was clear to see that the clinicians were best at diagnosing autism/autism spectrum disorders, then the ADI-R, and last, the PL-ADOS.

What I liked best about the challenge described in Dr. Kosara's article was that several different people worked on the redesign of data representation. This collaborative approach led to a redesign by Patrick Murphy, which build upon Dr. Kosara's design, and represented the data in a colored bar chart with a corresponding colored Venn diagram.

The following chart was developed by Robert Kosara and Patric Murphy, via American Scientist:


(Dr. Kosara's blog)

Nuit Blanche Blog

On the difficulty of Autism diagnosis: Can we plot this better?
Judging the Autism Charts Challenge

Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science (Website)
Venn Diagram Challenge Summary 1 (autism diagnosis)
(Diagrams of all of the charts)

Note: The Nuit Blanche blog is not related to psychology or autism. It focuses on the new field of Compressed Sensing. If you really want to learn more about this highly technical subject, browse through the Nuit Blanche blog, and also take a look at the information from Rice University's Compressive Sensing Research site.

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