Making your research accessible

Visualising science: the infographic  

By 12/12/2014

While in some ways, the advent of new technologies and communication channels has made raising public awareness of science easier, the issue of how researchers, policy makers, the media and the public interact has become increasingly more complex: the number of channels available can be daunting, and with more signal, there is inevitably also more noise.

One challenge is the lack of shared vocabulary – the public and policy makers generally speak the same language, but researchers have a lexicon all of their own. Moreover, these groups clearly exhibit wildly different levels of scientific understanding, and the resulting knowledge gap is often haphazardly traversed. Compounding the problem, convoluted and complicated research is frequently reserved for specialised journals targeting unique fields, and this so-called ‘small science’ can be overlooked by the popular media. What is needed then is a framework of social learning that can bridge the divide in cultures.

Research Media specialises in capturing the essence of a research project and communicating it in a concise, engaging and impactful way. One effective method for achieving this is the use of infographics, which are now widely employed as a means of visually presenting data and ideas in order to convey complex information in a form that can be readily consumed and understood.

Over the last few years, online searches for infographics have risen rapidly; indeed, they increased by 800 per cent between 2010 and 2012 alone. A widely cited claim often attributed to researchers at 3M is that humans process visuals up to 60,000 times faster that text.

While this much touted ‘research result’ seems to be something of a web myth, it is nevertheless unsurprising that the addition of visual imagery aids learning. This is especially necessary against a context of the ‘data deluge’ that currently defines the modern era. Indeed, according to far more trustworthy findings generated by the San Diego Supercomputer Center in the US, by next year, the average person will be exposed to nine DVDs’ worth of information on a daily basis.

In light of this, and in recognition of the value of the infographic in modern science communication, Research Media has devoted an entire photo stream to many of the infographics it has featured in past editions of its publication International Innovation. Topics range from humankind’s journey into the space age and mental health in the developing world to atmospheric pollution and the rise of women in US medicine.

Image courtesy of Kromkrathog at

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