Have you ever seen an infographic that was beautiful, but didn’t have a clear message?
Or wade through a bunch of tables but struggle to see any meaningful patterns and trends?
Ever see a chart you thought was terrible, but couldn’t figure out how to fix it?
The Global Health eLearning platform’s recently released introductory course on data visualization tackles it all in a 4 step process: identifying your audience and their context, finding the story in your data, building your visualization, and dissemination and use.
The course pulls from the current expertise in data visualization, from Tufte to Evergreen, but repackages it with a global health perspective and with a beginning learner in mind. Global health projects worldwide are expected to make data-driven decisions, to monitor and evaluate their progress, and to report successes to governments and funding agencies. Basic data visualization skills can enhance individual’s and organization’s abilities to analyze and present their data, leading ultimately to better data use and more efficient global health programming.
Through a realistic case study and a set of commonly used World Bank population indicators, the course introduces concepts such as numeracy, drafting data headlines, smart use of preattentive attributes, matching data stories to the appropriate graph type, and working with a diverse team of experts to develop more complex visualizations such as infographics, maps, and data dashboards.
Full of current global health examples, learners will see successful uses of data visualization in our field, and finish the course armed with practical guidelines and tools that can be used in their next data visualization project.
Direct from Jeff Knezovich via the Evidence-Based Policy for Development Network (EBPDN):
I’m pleased to let you know that earlier this week, at the Cartagena Data Festival in Colombia, On Think Tanks launched the 2014–15 compilation of the #ttdatavis competition. The compilation, and the competition more widely, aims to inspire think tanks and similar organisations by showcasing real world examples of impactful data visualisation. It also contains useful resources and ‘how tos’ to support think tanks to develop their own visualisations.
This year’s compilation is available as for free download as an interactive eBook (408 MB), which is also available in the iBooks store, as well as a downloadable PDF (100 MB). It includes 46 entries, which emerged from 31 think tanks spanning 19 countries around the globe.
The topics of the visualisations cover a lot of ground. The second round of our competition coincided with the COP20 climate negotiations in Peru, which meant we had quite a few focused on climate change and the environment.
Think tanks may have similar goals and objectives, but this competition clearly demonstrates the wide array of approaches think tanks have toward meeting those goals. We saw both static and interactive visualisations, to be sure.
But beyond that, some took a clear message-driven approach while others developed tools that let the user understand the data more clearly. And while some sought to tell stories about their research, others used visualisations to increase explain government actions (or proposed actions) pushing greater transparency and accountability. And others found success by combining otherwise disparate data sets.
It’s a broad collection that any think tank can find inspiration in.
We also opened up the competition to any think tank around the globe.
The final resources section includes ‘how tos’, which combine video, images and text, on three main areas: data collection, data cleaning and manipulation and data visualisation. Tools explored include Import.io, Google Drive and Google FusionTables, Excel, Tableau and CartoDB.
Animation is a tricky thing. It often seems to be added in to visualizations as a “bell” or “whistle” without any real meaning. In that case, it becomes a distraction, limiting focus on the data being displayed.
The Pew Research Center’s animated Population Pyramid, however, is a fabulous exception. Years ago I tried to teach the population pyramid to a group of high schoolers. How I wish this visualization existed then! This animated visualization allows the reader to literally watch the population age, and simultaneously, the shifting shape from the pyramid to the rectangle. This is far more effective and engaging than showing 20 static population pyramids in rapid succession. The animation is also accompanied by a user-friendly explanation of demographic transformations.
Trust me, the static image above does not do justice to a population pyramid. This animated visualization is worth a click!