Storytellers Bring Innovative Content to AGU Meeting

Author: Barbara Palmer       


An AGU grand prize winners presents his data visualization on NASA’s “hyperwall” at the 2019 AGU Fall Meeting. (Epnac Photography)

This case study is part of Convene‘s April CMP Series story looking at innovations in scientific and medical meetings.

American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
Dec. 9-13, 2019Moscone Center, San Francisco28,000 attendees

Earth and space scientists face a problem they never expected — so much data now exists that its sheer volume makes it hard for them to quickly visualize new data sets and understand the potential. That insight comes from Jacob Austin, an undergraduate at Columbia University and a grand prize winner of the American Geophysical Union’s Michael Freilich Student Visualization Competition program. The competition, open to U.S. undergraduate and graduate students, itself solves a problem — bringing both innovative content and student participants to AGU’s Fall Meeting, held in San Francisco in 2019.

Austin — who used machine learning to create a picture of the effects of climate change on sea levels and ocean temperature over time — and seven other student grand-prize winners presented their visualizations at the 2019 AGU Fall Meeting on NASA’s “hyperwall,” a 20′ x 6′ multiscreen visualization wall that was displayed in the meeting’s exhibit hall. The 2019 Data Visualization and Storytelling competition focused on the Earth, solar space, and space, in honor of the 60th anniversary of NASA, which funded the project. The grand prize winners received travel grants funded by AGU and complimentary registration to the 2019 AGU Fall Meeting, along with travel grants for an Earth and space science conference of their choice this year. Along with the grand prize winners, eight runners-up also received travel grants to attend AGU’s 2019 Fall Meeting.

The human brain is wired to think in stories, and in the application process, students created “storyboards,” including images and narration.

“Powerful visuals can often evoke excitement and emotion, driving a deeper level of engagement with the audience and the data and subject matter being presented,” according to guidelines for the competition, which was started in 2016. Selection of the winning entries was weighted toward “innovation and creativity in presenting data in new ways.”

Barbara Palmer is deputy editor of Convene.

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