Vaccine researchers discard the start-at-zero rule

I struggled to decide on which blog to put this post. The reality is it bridges the graphical and analytical sides of me. But I ultimately placed it on the dataviz blog because that's where today's story starts. Data visualization has few set-in-stone rules. If pressed for one, I'd likely cite the "start-at-zero" rule, which has featured regularly on Junk Charts (here, here, and here, for example). This rule only...

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A note to science journal editors: require better visuals

In reviewing a new small-scale study of the Moderna vaccine, I found this chart: This style of charts is quite common in scientific papers. And they are horrible. It irks me to think that some authors are forced to adopt such styles. The study's main goal is to compare two half doses to two full doses of the Moderna vaccine. (To understand the science, read the post on my book...

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Same data + same chart form  = same story. Maybe.

We love charts that tell stories. Some people believe that if they situate the data in the right chart form, the stories reveal themselves. Some people believe for a given dataset, there exists a best chart form that brings out the story. An implication of these beliefs is that the story is immutable, given the dataset and the chart form. If you use the Trifecta Checkup, you already know I...

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Making graphics last over time

Yesterday, I analyzed the data visualization by the White House showing the progress of U.S. Covid-19 vaccinations. Here is the chart. John who tweeted this at me, saying "please get a better data viz". I'm happy to work with them or the CDC on better dataviz. Here's an example of what I do. Obviously, I'm using made-up data here and this is a sketch. I want to design a chart...

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Circular areas offer misleading cues of their underlying data

John M. pointed me on Twitter to this chart about the progress of U.S.'s vaccination campaign: This looks like a White House production, retweeted by WHO. John is unhappy about this nested bubble format, which I'll come back to later. Let's zoom in on what matters: An even bigger problem with this chart is the Q corner in our Trifecta Checkup. What is the question they are trying to address?...

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Illustrating differential growth rates

Reader Mirko was concerned about a video published in Germany that shows why the new coronavirus variant is dangerous. He helpfully provided a summary of the transcript: The South African and the British mutations of the SARS-COV-2 virus are spreading faster than the original virus. On average, one infected person infects more people than before. Researchers believe the new variant is 50 to 70 % more transmissible. Here are two...

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Reading an infographic about our climate crisis

Let's explore an infographic by SCMP, which draws attention to the alarming temperature recorded at Verkhoyansk in Russia on June 20, 2020. The original work was on the back page of the printed newspaper, referred to in this tweet. This view of the globe brings out the two key pieces of evidence presented in the infographic: the rise in temperature in unexpected places, and the shrinkage of the Arctic ice....

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A beautiful curve and its deadly misinterpretation

When the preliminary analyses of their Phase 3 trials came out , vaccine developers pleased their audience of scientists with the following data graphic: The above was lifted out of the FDA briefing document for the Pfizer / Biontech vaccine. Some commentators have honed in on the blue line for the vaccinated arm of the Pfizer trial. Since the vertical axis shows cumulative number of cases, it is noted that...

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Handling partial data on graphics

Last week, I posted on the book blog a piece about excess deaths and accelerated deaths (link). That whole piece is about how certain types of analysis have to be executed at certain moments of time.  The same analysis done at the wrong time yields the wrong conclusions. Here is a good example of what I'm talking about. This is a graph of U.S. monthly deaths from Covid-19 during the...

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Dreamy Hawaii

I really enjoyed this visual story by ProPublica and Honolulu Star-Advertiser about the plight of beaches in Hawaii (link). The story begins with a beautiful invitation: This design reminds me of Vimeo's old home page. (It no longer looks like this today but this screenshot came from when I was the data guy there.) In both cases, the images are not static but moving. The tour de force of this...

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