Ways of communicating research are changing. New technology has led to great advances in how people access information, but also in how people can present research in a visually engaging format. This has led to an increase in the use of data visualisation techniques – both static and interactive – by think tanks.
To inspire, encourage and strengthen capacity for think tanks around the world in data visualization techniques that influence and inform policy, On Think Tanks have held two successful competitions – in 2013-14 and in 2014-15. We have also collected relevant resources, including a series of 'how to' notes, interviews with winners, and reviews of common free and low-cost data visualization tools.
News and announcements
Jeff Knezovich from On Think Tanks will be experimenting with a live blog during the three-day Cartagena Data Festival. You're welcome to follow along.
Note that the blog will be updated as frequently as possible, but it is dependent on Internet connectivity and whether Jeff is participating in other sessions. Apologies in advance for any typos.
Today, 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.
The process for choosing winners for this third and final round of the 2014-15 On Think Tanks Data Visualisation Competition has been a complicated one. As we explained in a previous post, we didn't hold a public vote for this round because we felt it required a bit deeper reflection than a quick click could afford.
Given the complexity of this round, and following much conversation among the judges, we have decided that opening the round to public voting does not seem appropriate.
We're pleased to announce that Round 3 of the On Think Tanks Data Visualisation Competition is now open for submissions. Submit your data visualisation and communication strategy now!
This third and final round of the 2014-15 competition is focused on finding data visualisations that have been most successfully used as part of a wider communication strategy.
These various approaches were voted on by the public and narrowed down to the top five entries, which our diverse panel of judges have now reviewed. So without further ado, the winner of Round 2 and of the US$1500 prize is...
We caught up with the winner of the second round of the On Think Tanks Data Visualisation competition about their inspiration and experience creating the winning piece.
Visualising the Past, Present and Future of Carbon Emissions, an interactive visualisation by Bill Dugan at the World Resources Institute, USA, is an innovative concept that had big impact. We spoke to Bill about his team’s inspiration for the graphic and his advice for anyone else looking to use interactive visuals to tell a story.
We caught up with the winner of the first round of the On Think Tanks Data Visualization competition about their inspiration and experience creating the winning piece. Don’t limit HER possibilities, a static visualization by Eric Barrett at JumpStart Georgia, won round the judges with its original use of photography and creative manner of telling the story about STEM education for girls in Georgia. We wanted to unpack Eric's motivation for the graphic, the origins behind its unusual style and some of the challenges they faced during the process.
Yet there may be another way that think tanks can spread their ideas to drive real change. We think this could begin by showing and not just telling. Instead of drafting policy papers describing how systems ought to work, think tanks should consider building software and data visualizations that demonstrate how systems can and do operate in practice. This is not as hard as it sounds -- there are some tried and tested steps worth considering.
After the end of the On Think Tanks Data Visualisation competition, we were able to catch up with the winner of the Third Round as well as the final overall winner of the competition, Michal Tošovský. Michal led the team at Otevrena spolecnost, o.p.s. -- a Czech think tank focusing on police and public security -- that is behind Mapping Czech Crime, a visualisation that we think does what it says on the tin and does it well!
The other week I had the good fortune of participating in an excellent meeting in Prague hosted by the Open Society Foundations: Policy Research, Technology and Advocacy Event @ the Hub. The event was designed to bring experts together from across Central and Eastern European think tanks to share ideas and learn from each other on innovative approaches to evidence-based advocacy and communications.
For the 2nd Round of the On Think Tanks Data Visualisation Competition, we had a completely different style of winner: the Budapest Institute submitted a poster called ‘Our Money’ that broke down the Hungarian annual budget so that it was easy for any citizen to understand. It was the subject of heated debate among the judges – especially the origins of the visualisation – so I thought I’d ask its creators, Petra Edina Reszkető, Balázs Váradi and Anna Orosz more about the posters and the project that brought them to fruition.
We’ve been continuing to scour the web for resources to help think tanks develop data visualisations and to get their ideas across to new audiences. A lot of the resources we found were designed to help with the technicalities of developing visualisations themselves. But we were intrigued when we came across SwayWhat, a tool that not only helps create charts, but also serves as a platform to share ideas. If I had to describe it in a sentence, it’s SlideShare for data visualisations – but it’s more ambitious for that. It hopes to bring evidence to the most political of discussions. I had to find out more, so I got in touch with SwayWhat CEO, Noah Blumenthal, to understand better how think tanks might take advantage of their services.
Round 3 of the On Think Tanks Data Visualisation Competition is currently open for submissions(the deadline is 20 November at 23:59 GMT!)! The judges want it to be the biggest and the best round we've had so far so each of them has taken a minute to offer their advice when it comes to data visualisation -- what works, what doesn't, and what are they really looking for when judging the data visualisations. Today we hear from John Schwartz.