Infographics – a great way to simplify complex science!
Studies have shown that our brains process visuals a lot better than text. Using visuals along with text aids not only our comprehension but also our communication of scientific research. When complex scientific concepts need to be explained to someone who’s not familiar with your work, using some form of visual media is generally the best way to go. Of course, there will always be traditional forms of research communication, such as original manuscripts, reviews, or even letters, all of which have their place amongst the pages of a journal. However, the landscape of research communication is undeniably changing. Journals are now beginning to embrace alternative formats such as lay summaries, infographics, cartoon abstracts, posters. As a science communicator at Impact Science, it is my job to visualize complex scientific research, so that you as a researcher can reach an audience that a journal sometimes can’t. I believe in presenting impactful research in a visually engaging format, and I do so often by steering clear of presenting jargon-heavy paragraphs and complex tables/figures.
As visualizers, we also don’t tie ourselves to specific design philosophy and we keep ourselves open to different subject areas. It helps us think outside the box! I could start my day working on an infographic for bone surgery, break for a discussion on a video script for explaining Brexit, and finish my day giving inputs on how to visualize an essay on data governance.
But, that’s enough about what I do. Because what I must tell you is that science communication today is changing. And, we need to talk about how visualizing science in an engaging manner is necessary to take your research beyond the journal article.
For the purpose of this blog, we will focus on three visual modes of science communication that one can use to convey technical results – infographics, video summaries, and talking figures. The idea is for you to see how a visual approach to explaining scientific findings to an audience can be far more effective than anything else to generate interest around your work. Let’s begin by talking about the Infographic.
Infographics can draw readers’ attention to your paper.
Scientific infographics present research in a visually engaging manner. They help readers easily comprehend the essence of a study by generally sharing the salient findings on a single page. If readers like what they see, they will be drawn to a study. Infographics are a powerful tool for presenting critical research findings and for helping readers focus on what is most important.
How I go about creating a scientific infographic
What matters most in a scientific infographic is the information that is being presented visually, ideally in an easy-to-understand manner. While creating scientific infographics, I first ensure that I have access to the simplified concept of the study, for which I approach our team of subject-area experts at Impact Science. When creating the infographic, I focus a lot on the Methods and Results. It is important for readers to understand how the results were arrived at as opposed to just seeing the findings. Colors are important too! Based on the visual style that I draw inspiration from, I need to ensure that the color palette isn’t jarring to look and doesn’t inadvertently hinder the reader’s absorption of information. The simpler the infographic, the easier it is to understand!
Let’s look at an example
The following abstract from the Royal Society of Chemistry presents a textual explanation of the Mixed-carbene cyclometalated iridium complexes with saturated blue luminescence
(Teets et al. 2019)
This abstract is a brief read, it stands alone, and it tells us what we need to know about the study. When creating an infographic based on this abstract, I decided to present three key aspects – the study criteria, findings, and conclusions.
Wasn’t this easier to grasp than what was written in the Abstract? Imagine how an infographic for your study findings could complement and, more importantly, enhance your journal article!
Quick tips for creating infographics
You need to remember a few things when working on an infographic (either by yourself or with the help of a professional designer).
- Prepare a storyboard before the design: Highlight key points of your paper that should be included
- Visualize your story: Think about how you would want the information flow, the images you’d want to see, and colors you’d want to see them in.
- Focus on simplicity and detail: Stick to simple designs with visually appealing colors and legible fonts.
That brings us to the end of this segment. In the next segment, I’ll talk about how I use animation to increase the impact of scientific figures.
Have you ever created an infographic based on your study? I’d love to hear from you. Do share your experiences in the comments section below.
This article is the first in a 3-part series on Unearthing the Power of Visuals in Research Communication!
About the Series: A scientific content visualizer talks us through how converting complex scientific information into infographics, animated scientific figures, and video summaries can accentuate the impact of scientific research.
About the Author
Bio: As Head of Studio at Impact Science, Prasad Balgi manages a team of multimedia experts to help researchers and authors simplify their research. Prasad strives to make science communication more interesting by bringing science to life with engaging and easy to understand multimedia formats. He is also a traveler at heart and captures his experiences with his photography.