IDAM (Integrative Dam Assessment Model) was developed as an interdisciplinary tool to a) increase transparency and inform decisionmaking, and b) to research how people make decisions.  Thus, a unique attribute of the tool is representation of both the magnitude of impacts and the decisionmakers view on the salience, or importance, of impacts.  In visualization both magnitude and salience for three thematic areas (biophysical, socioeconomic, and geopolitical) of impacts, a great deal of information becomes loaded onto an IDAM visualization.  Thus, we worked with a computer scientist and visualization expert (Mike Bailey) and performed surveys to compare visualizations.  The goals were to assess how easily and accurately people across disciplines could acquire information from the figures.
As a general process, we worked with Mike to identify questions that tested both people’s preferences and accuracy in extracting information.  We then developed a survey in which we:

  • Assess demographics (e.g. gender, age, highest level of education, discipline, highest level of math, color blindness) of the survey participants
  • Explained how to read two figure options (amoeba and color saturation bar)
  • Provided data on competing dam design alternatives as a narrative, and then provided the data on impacts for the two figure options and as a table of numbers.
  • Asked students to find specific information from the figure to evaluate their accuracy with the different figures.
  • Asked students to interpret the pattern that they see.
  • Asked students to report which figure was more comfortable and what was pleasing/displeasing about the different figures?