BRAVA 2013 affirms strength of Brazilian/Canadian collaboration in advanced technology research
Second annual workshop looks at successes and the future of international cooperation in visual analytics research between Canada, Brazil and Boeing.
Posted by GRAND NCE, April 14, 2013

BRAVA 2013
Second annual workshop looks at successes and the future of international cooperation in visual analytics research between Canada, Brazil and Boeing.

The BRAVA (Brazilian Visual Analytics) workshop held April 2013 in Brazil came at an opportune time for Brazilian and Canadian researchers, according to University of British Columbia professor and workshop organizer Dr. Sidney Fels.

Co-sponsored by GRAND, The Boeing Company, Mitacs with support from Brazil’s Federal University of São Carlos (UFScar), the meeting drew over 50 researchers and industry representatives from Canada, Brazil, U.S.A., the Netherlands, Singapore and the UK. It’s the second workshop since BRAVA was launched in 2012 to stimulate international collaboration in Visual Analytics (VA) – a field that aims to help people interactively explore and synthesize information to gain insights from massive, dynamic, and often ambiguous data.

Drawing from extensive knowledge about visual cognition (how the brain can interpret what it sees) and innovative ways to visually represent data, VA research is building new tools for people to interpret data too big and complex to be analyzed using conventional software. VA technology is of critical interest for governments, companies and many other organizations grappling with the modern deluge of digital information known as “Big Data.” Data sources that include everything from health insurance records to financial transactions; genetic codes to climate sensor data contribute to an estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data generated globally every day.

Since 2012, BRAVA has grown to engage over 18 research centers and universities around the world in collaborations and student exchanges. Now many of these initial projects are full-fledged and ready to take off. A major collaborative project involving The University of British Columbia, OCAD University, Dalhousie University and UFScar has formed the basis for continuing ongoing cooperation, as has an MOU signed by GRAND and UFScar, with and a second soon to be signed with Universidade de São Paulo in May 2013.

Seed funding of $600,000 over two years from Boeing, plus an additional $400,000 from the Canadian nonprofit research organization Mitacs, with participation from GRAND, to support joint projects, and faculty and student exchanges, have been supplemented with funding from local and federal governments to create additional opportunities. In 2010, Boeing also helped establish the Simon Fraser University/UBC joint research institute Vancouver Institute for Visual Analytics (VIVA), also a member of the Canadian Network for Visual Analytics (CANVAC). VIVA, under the direction of GRAND PNI Dr. Fred Popowich, has helped get BRAVA off the ground.

“The timing is excellent,” said Fels. “From the top down we’re getting the message [from the Canadian Government] that this is of strategic importance; from the bottom up that now is the time to get the actual research initiatives figured out. The BRAVA workshop initiative is a perfect example of something that’s tangible, that’s trying to figure out what to do with those initiatives. The ground is fertile, now is the time to plant the seed.”

BRAVA builds on new strategic alignment between Canada and Brazil

In recent years, the Canadian and Brazilian governments have committed to stronger international cooperation targeting Information and Communication Technology (ICT). New funding opportunities such as ISTPCanada (Canada-Brazil Framework Agreement for Cooperation on Science, Technology and Innovation) and NSERC/FAPESP’s (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada/Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo) joint grant program provide big incentives for collaborative research, exchanges, and workshops in advanced technology.

Science and technology linkages between Brazil and Canada were further cemented in the spring of 2012 with a momentous mission by 30 Canadian university presidents, as members of the Association of University and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), alongside the Honourable David Johnston. The subsequent Canada-Brazil 3.0 Conference in João Pessoa, Brazil the following December also offered a high-level meeting of government, academic and the ICT sector representatives to discuss the economic benefits of greater internationalization in digital media research and development.

“I look to the BRAVA initiative as the kind of thing that Canada-Brazil 3.0 wants to support. It’s kind of a testing ground for some of the ideas,” said Fels, who was part of the GRAND delegation at the conference.

Fels and fellow colleagues in Brazil and Canada are now looking to leverage the successes of BRAVA’s network of key researchers to expand existing initiatives and kick-start new ones – many of which go beyond visual analytics.

Healthcare applications focus of multi-university project

When the BRAVA initiative was started, the primary focus was on mobile visual analytics for medical and health care applications. The research challenge has been to squeeze the needed processing power to analyze enormous amounts of data inside a small device.

“In the healthcare setting, decision makers are on the move. They don’t have the time or the space to do a big analysis of a bunch of data they’ve been collecting at the hospital. They want to access all the ability to analyze big data from where they are – so on a tablet, or mobile phone,” said Fels.

Fels and researchers at UBC, OCAD University, and Dalhousie University have partnered with Dr. Junia Anacleto, a key BRAVA organizer and researcher at UFSCar’s Advanced Interaction Laboratory (LIA), and other Brazilian collaborators, to develop Natural User Interfaces (NUIs). The technology uses virtual presence and visual analytics to support and improve practices at a Brazilian care facility for patients with neurological disorders.

Funding through the Microsoft Research-FAPESP Insitute, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (CAPES/DFAIT), the Emerging Leaders in the Americas (ELAP) and Science Without Borders programs have helped support several short-term exchanges for Brazilian faculty and students at the partner universities.

“BRAVA has already exceeded its expectations,” said Anacleto. “I believe [the] Initiative has shown it's capable of putting together the most distinguished Brazilian researchers on VA and related fields as well as had being able to attract Canadians researchers."

Research seeded by BRAVA has also connected other project researchers with hospitals and other health care institutions in Brazil to test new analytics tools. The field studies are paving the way for similar trials in Canada. The success of this BRAVA-led initiative has spilled over into areas of research outside visual analytics. Now additional funding is needed to support the new direction.

“The BRAVA initiative and the work that Boeing was supporting has grown,” said Fels. “It’s blossoming and ready for new funding because the research agenda has gone beyond visual analytics. We’re finding lots of other things: mobile space and ubiquitous computing, and research around these technologies and health care that don’t have so much to do with visual analytics on its own.”

University partnerships and exchanges significant outcomes of initiative

BRAVA has also helped President of OCAD University and GRAND board member Dr. Sara Diamond develop partnership agreements with OCAD U and multiple Brazilian universities including Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS). Plans are also underway to link the BRAVA project with OCAD’s Centre for Information Visualization and Data Driven Design (CIVDDD) and the Mobile Experience Innovation Centre.

GRAND students and researchers at UBC, OCAD U, Simon Fraser University and Dalhousie have travelled to Brazil on exchange visits thanks to new exchange agreements between Canadian and Brazilian universities initiated through BRAVA.

MOUs signed by GRAND and Brazilian universities UFSCar  (through Anacleto) and the Integrated System Laboratory (LSI) at the Escola Politécnica da Universidade de São Paulo (USP-Poli), through Dr. Marcelo Zuffo, ensure future exchanges.

On the horizon for BRAVA: new industry partnerships with Brazilian and Canadian companies and research MOUs between Canadian and Brazilian universities.

“This second workshop showed a more expressive and mature group that knows how to look for joint research opportunities and keep the focus on international collaboration,” Anacleto said. “I hope we can together find our way to keep the initiative growing and getting stronger. Brazil has the potential to be one of the next world leaders and the future is in collaborative activities. Canada and Brazil are together on the journey to guide the research direction with VA.”



Spencer Rose
Communications Officer