Data and statistics are a powerful way to communicate development research. Solid figures can add weight and sustenance to research findings and through organisations such as the World Bank and the Open Data Foundation, the internet now provides an ever-growing open-data source for development statistics in the fields of economics, finance, healthcare, education, labor, social science, technology, agriculture, the environment and much more.
Including data and statistics within research findings can enhance their impact, however, large tables or spreadsheets of numbers take time to decipher and sometimes the true meaning behind the data itself can be misinterpreted. One option to prevent your data being misread is to present the figures visually in the form of charts, graphs or even infographics. This will provide clarification and emphasis to your main points, appeal to a number of learning styles and add impact and interest to your research findings.
As David McCandless, author of Information is Beautiful states, the real challenge is “seeing the patterns and connections that matter, then designing that information so that it makes more sense or tells a story”.
Many NGOs and charitable organisations are already taking this approach to communicating their research findings. For example, Farming First, which is made up of a coalition of multi-stakeholder organisations, have put together a series of infographics on agriculture, the green economy in the context of international development.
There are now a plethora of online tools with which you can visualise data findings in an interesting, accurate and arresting way, here are some of the best:
- StatPlanet: this browser-based interactive data visualization and mapping application allows you to create a wide range of visualizations, from simple Flash maps to more advanced infogrpahics.
- Xtimeline: allows you to create your own timelines of data.
- Gap Minder: this site created by Hans Rosling allows you to upload data and create an interactive motion charts and graphs.
- Creately: this is easy to use Online Diagramming software – purpose built for team collaboration.
- Google Chart Tools: this application lets you include constantly changing research data sourced online. Google has also released Fusion Tables where you can share, discuss and track your charts and graphs with specific people online.
- Hohli: this online chart maker is simple to use and allows you to create a range of colourful pie, line, scatter, radar and bar charts.
- Tagcrowd: allows you to upload texts and highlight the most common concepts. The clouds can be exported as images and inserted in a website or power point presentation.
- Wordle: similar to tagcloud, this application lets you create images out of key phrases and words relevant to your research, great for using in PowerPoint presentations.
- Tableau: a free Windows-only software for creating colourful data visualisations.
- Worldmapper: this site allows you to access and download high quality pdfs, which present data on a wide range of social and economic indicators scaled onto the map of the world to reflect density, magnitude, scale of the phenomenon.
To see how other researchers are presenting work in new innovative and visual ways see:
- Information is Beautiful: David McCandless, an “independent data journalistand information designer interested in how designed information can help us understand the world.”
- Flowing Data: This blog explores how “designers, statisticians and computer scientists are using data to understand ourselves better.”
- Afrographique: Ivan Colic’s “small contribution to assist the changing perception of Africa and it’s people…This blog aims to collect as much data as possible with the aim of presenting the information in an exciting and digestible format to all.”
Please let me know of any other online tools or applications that enable you to communicate development data visually.