Why scientists need to be better at data visualization

I wanted to highlight this vital takeaway from the link- we pretend to understand “charts” and “graphs” at conferences, but please recall the last “breaking abstract”. I doubt if the “scientists” don’t turn to “professionals” who manage the “power-points”. That is why it is so difficult to retain anything of value from the conference.

I am not against the format or the idea, but if people are getting together in a place that resembles a marriage venue, I wonder if the high price of admission is worth the value of networking.

The human visual system evolved to help us survive and thrive in the natural world, not to read graphs. Our brains interpret what our eyes see in ways that can help us find edible plants among the toxic varieties, spot prey animals and see reasonably well in both broad daylight and at night. By analyzing the information we receive through our eyes to serve these purposes, our brains give us a tailored perception of the world.

In the early 1980s, Bell Labs statisticians William Cleveland and Robert McGill began researching how the particulars of human perception affect our ability to decipher graphic displays of data — to discover which kinds of charts play to our strengths and which ones we struggle with. In a seminal paper published in 1984 in the Journal of the American Statistical Association, Cleveland and McGill presented a ranking of visual elements according to how easily and accurately people read them.

The link offers no practical suggestions to improve the quality of presentations. After skimming through the entire write up, I think this was the key takeaway.

via Why scientists need to be better at data visualization