covid-19

33 posts
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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These are the top posts of 2020

It's always very interesting as a writer to look back at a year's of posts and find out which ones were most popular with my readers. Here are the top posts on Junk Charts from 2020: How to read this chart about coronavirus risk This post about a New York Times scatter plot dates from February, a time when many Americans were debating whether Covid-19 was just the flu. Proportions...

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Convincing charts showing containment measures work

The disorganized nature of U.S.'s response to the coronavirus pandemic has created a sort of natural experiment that allows data journalists to explore important scientific questions, such as the impact of containment measures on cases and hospitalizations. This New York Times article represents the best of such work. The key finding of the analysis is beautifully captured by this set of scatter plots: Each dot is a state. The cases...

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Visualizing change over time: case study via Arstechnica

ArsTechnica published the following chart in its article titled "Grim new analyses spotlight just how hard the U.S. is failing in  pandemic" (link). There are some very good things about this chart, so let me start there. In a Trifecta Checkup, I'd give the Q corner high marks. The question is clear: how has the U.S. performed relative to other countries? In particular, the chart gives a nuanced answer to...

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Making better pie charts if you must

I saw this chart on an NYU marketing twitter account: The graphical design is not easy on our eyes. It's just hard to read for various reasons. The headline sounds like a subject line from an email. The subheaders are long, and differ only by a single word. Even if one prefers pie charts, they can be improved by following a few guidelines. First, start the first sector at the...

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Why you should expunge the defaults from Excel or (insert your favorite graphing program)

Yesterday, I posted the following chart in the post about Cornell's Covid-19 case rate after re-opening for in-person instruction. This is an edited version of the chart used in Peter Frazier's presentation. The original chart carries with it the burden of Excel defaults. What did I change and why? I switched away from the default color scheme, which ignores the relationships between the two lines. In particular, the key comparison...

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Unlocking the secrets of a marvellous data visualization

The graphics team in my hometown paper SCMP has developed a formidable reputation in data visualization, and I lapped every drop of goodness on this beautiful graphic showing how the coronavirus spread around Hong Kong (in the first wave in April). Marcelo uploaded an image of the printed version to his Twitter. This graphic occupied the entire back page of that day's paper. An online version of the chart is...

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Deaths as percent neither of cases nor of population. Deaths as percent of normal.

Yesterday, I posted a note about excess deaths on the book blog (link). The post was inspired by a nice data visualization by the New York Times (link). This is a great example of data journalism. Excess deaths is a superior metric for measuring the effect of Covid-19 on public health. It's better than deaths as percent of cases. Also better than percent of the population.What excess deaths measure is...

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Ask how you can give

A reader and colleague was frustrated with the following graphic that appeared in the otherwise commendable article in National Geographic (link). The NatGeo article provides a history lesson on past pandemics that killed millions. What does the design want to convey to readers? Our attention is drawn to the larger objects, the red triangle on the left or the green triangle on the right. Regarding the red triangle, we learn...

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