Data visualization follows simulation results, and naturally support staff at university and national HPC centers provide expertise in both domains.

How should we handle questions pertaining to data visualization?

Are questions about VTK or the corresponding front-end, Paraview, relevant?

Are plotting questions about matplotlib relevant? Or Matlab plotting for that matter...

Are questions about VMD, a chemistry visualization package, relevant?

What if the questions pertain to adding a plugin/extension to the above packages?

What if the question is: what's the best way to visualize xyz? For example, how can I visualize 6D data?

This Meta question is intended to get a sense of how the community wants to deal with these above topics.

One last question: If we need to explicitly address this meta question, where in the FAQ should it be addressed? In other words, should it go into the definition of what kind of questions can I ask here: What should be our answer to "what kind of questions can I ask here?"

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I don't see why they'd be off-topic... $\endgroup$
    – J. M.
    Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ visualization-related questions are perfectly in the scope of computational science $\endgroup$
    – SAAD
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 22:00

2 Answers 2


I would say no, visualization questions should be on topic here. Visualization is a part of scientific computing, after all, and probably the most tangible part at that. Plots and pretty pictures are what you show off when you want to justify why you are spending all this money running giant computers and doing science ;-)

Of course, data visualization questions would be subject to any other rules we come up with. For example, if we (hypothetically) decide questions about software package configuration are off topic, then questions about matplotlib configuration will be off topic. If "what's the best way to X" is decided to be too vague or too subjective, then "what's the best way to visualize X" will be too vague or subjective.

The first section of the FAQ is an ideal place to list this sort of question as being on topic.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The question asked whether they are OFF-topic, so I think you mean to answer "NO". $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 6:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Ah, good catch ;-) $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 7:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Plots and pretty pictures tell me where the bugs are located: I'm dealing with a lot of geometry operations. Pictures told my colleague she had an unstable solution.... :) I haven't seen anyone code a CS library and debugging it by viewing 10s of thousands of lines showing numbers alone... $\endgroup$
    – tmaric
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 8:51

Well, data visualization is in scope of Stats.SE; however it is mostly in context of plotting data for a statistical/data-science use, so things like visualizing molecules, flows and similar stuff should be pretty ok here.

  • $\begingroup$ This is my thought. I've often thought Stats.SE is actually results visualization. There are data visualization questions I've encountered that fit better here than Stats. $\endgroup$
    – Fomite
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 0:38

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