Visualization is often valued for producing pretty pictures for publications. But in scientific disciplines that work in nonspatial realms (bioinformatics, chemistry, the social sciences and so on), visualizing data is useful very early in the process of discovery. Turning numbers into pictures enables scientists to use their human prowess with reading visual data to spot patterns, trends and outliers.
There is a historic distinction in the field of visualization between scientific visualization (SciVis) and information visualization (InfoVis). In SciVis, spatial information is almost always a given, coming from measured or simulated three-dimensional objects—photographic images of sorts. In InfoVis, researchers choose the most appropriate and informative layout.