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4. Conclusion

For those interested in promoting the use of visualisation techniques in the social sciences the survey results are fairly depressing, although they may take solace in that there is plenty of work to be done. In many social science subjects visualisation tools are simply not being used. Outside geography departments those tools that are being used are employed in the creation of simple computer graphics such as scattergrams, histograms and bar charts. In many instances the most frequently used packages such as Excel and SPSS are being used to store and manipulate data, not to visualise it through the use of computer graphics.

This survey attempted to raise an interest in visualisation in the social sciences. Every social science department in the United Kingdom received at least one letter describing the project. Three separate messages were sent to a large number of e-mail discussion groups. A dedicated set of web pages based around the project was constructed and a discussion group was started. Software manufacturers were contacted. Some colleagues advised us that they received three letters describing the project and requesting assistance - two from their Head of Department and a third sent directly to them - and many, many, many copies of our e-mails to discussion groups. It may be that there are social scientists using best practice in advanced visualisation techniques but, overall, they did not reply to this survey.

The project's web pages will continue beyond the completion of this survey, as will visualisation-tools. Any further comments from software manufacturers will be posted to the discussion group. A copy of the full survey, in Microsoft Access format, can be ordered from the web service.

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