How Data Visualisation Enhances
the Impact and Visibility of Science

Nikola Sander and Ramon Bauer
PAA, San Diego, April 2015

Why visualise data?

An important distinction:

1) to EXPLORE / ANALYSE a dataset

2) to COMMUNICATE results

Exploring a dataset

...using statistical indicators AND visualisation!

Anscombe's quartet:
4 datasets with almost identical statistical properties.

okay if the audience is
you and your co-authors

Communicating results effectively...

  • a matter of substance, of statistics, and design
  • ...consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision and efficiency
  • the viewer the greatest insight in the shortest time with the least ink

Edward Tufte, 2001

Remixing Rosling, by Moritz Stefaner

Can you spot the reindeer?

peers, policy makers
and the public

Data visualisation for science communication

“Scientists must learn to communicate with the public, be willing to do so and indeed consider it their duty to do so.”

Royal Society, 1985

Effective data visualisation can...

  • patterns and processes better than text
  • ...engage a wider audience -> increase readership
  • ...bring research to the front page
  • ...bridge the gap between science and the public
  • ...sometimes even increase a paper's chances of acceptance

Science communication through data visualisation requires...

  • ...excellent research
  • access peer-reviewed publication
  • ...awareness of what is a good visualisation
  • ...understanding that it's not a gimmick or luxury
  • ...time and skills

Rapid development of open-source tools!

Seeing Data Project: Understanding data visualisation

Data visualisation requires a range of skills.
-> Teamwork!

Is it really worth it?

"The Global Flow of People"

Idea, design & implementation:
Nikola Sander and Ramon Bauer

d3.js coding: Null2 Berlin

Data: Guy J Abel

Web design: Elvira Stein

Financial support: Vienna Institute of Demography

Where it all began:
global international migration flows

Traditional migration flow map.

A source of inspiration.

Migration Plot

Quantifying Global International Migration Flows.

Guy Abel & Nikola Sander.
Published in Science on 28March 2014; Vol 343: 1520-1522.

Global migration flows stable at 0.6% of world population

More than 0.5 million visits since March 2014

Scientific Impact

Impact in:

  1. Science
  2. Policy
  3. Media/Public
  4. Education

Feedback via Twitter

"Fantastic visualization of global migration data. I'm on there if you zoom in a lot."

"#SomeoneTellMarineLePen African migrants aren't invading us, and here's the data to prove it."

Introduced to school curriculum in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia

Wishlist for the future

  1. growing awareness that academic publishing is "The Most Profitable Obsolete Technology in History" (Elsevier has higher operating profits than Apple)
  2. more incentives for science communication
  3. better institutional support
  4. more collaboration with coders and designers

US net-migration in 2013