Infographics Workshop: visualising scientific data

Halfway through September, a group of twelve ARC CBBC researchers worked on their visual communication skills. In a two-day training they learned all about the necessary tools to create beautiful and functional graphics and practiced to design and use infographics, icons and illustrations. The aim? To understand the importance of visual data and communicate more effectively by visualising their scientific data. The combination of a very enthusiastic and helpful trainer and eager to learn researchers, resulted in two valuable days.

ARC CBBC Talent Programme

ARC CBBC currently has 49 PhD and postdoctoral researchers as member of its community. They work in 21 projects, either one-to-one projects or so called flagship projects, where all founding partners (four multinationals, three universities and three public organisations) collaborate closely with each other to carry out multidisciplinary research.

Apart from being a platform to realize collaboration and fundamental research, ARC CBBC has the ambition to educate the next generation of researchers. Therefore, it wants to equip their members with the knowledge, insights and skills needed to succeed both in academia and industry. Simply by being part of a research project, the researchers are learning-by-doing. They conduct research in a multidisciplinary environment in which they develop their academic skills through experienced and expert research guidance and using state-of-the-art facilities. However, we believe that future scientists need to develop more than just academic skills. Therefore ARC CBBC offers a range of trainings and workshops in its talent programme, of which the infographics workshop is a great example.

In the ‘Infographics – Data visualization & Vector graphics’ training, the researchers took a dive into Adobe Illustrator where they practised with the tools. They learned more about what makes an infographic attractive, how to plan one and effectively use elements like type, colour and structure.

Share your valuable findings in a hyperconnected, visual world

So why an infographics workshop? That is because visual communication becomes more and more important, especially when communicating scientific data. We as humans are visual by nature. We respond to visual data better than any other type of data. So why not utilize this ability of human kind when communicating about scientific research? Images and graphics can help to translate complex scientific ideas across borders and cultures. Furthermore, we are overwhelmed with imagery every single day. To deliver successful scientific reporting in today’s hyperconnected world, scientists will need to use clear and more effective visual communication. Whether it concerns a component in an abstract, clarifying a specific outcome or illustrating the impact of a project. Thus, the infographics workshop also helped the researchers to understand the power of data visualization.

Putting the Infographics Workshop in practice: two examples

The trainings and workshops ARC CBBC offers are carefully selected by the Education Committee. One important criteria for a workshop is that the acquired knowledge must contribute to the daily practice of the researcher. The PhD’s and PD’s share their experience and feedback to put together the Talent Programme. To show the practical implication of the Infographics Workshop, Sebastian Haben and Jiaying Li both share their infographic, accompanied with an explanation of their research projects.

1. The Waterborne Coatings project by Jiaying Li of University of Twente:

“Waterborne coatings are a green and sustainable alternative to old fashioned paints that contain volatile organic compounds. My research aims to study water soluble polyelectrolytes that will be the binder polymer in such modern paints. Specifically, I try if pH and salt control can be used to make high quality polymers films. Coatings are everywhere. It is a joy to do research on something that has such a widespread application.”

Click on the image for a larger view

2. The Methane Dehydroaromatization project by Sebastian Haben of Utrecht University:

“My PhD project within ARC CBBC is to study the methane dehydroaromatization (MDA) reaction that enables the transformation of methane into important platform chemicals like benzene, or ethene. These platform chemicals fuel the chemical industry and can be further transformed into important daily commodities like polymers, or detergents. Methane is a very interesting alternative carbon source for our current oil based chemical economy, as it is cheap and abundant and can be produced renewably.

Unfortunately, there are still some barriers before the MDA reaction can be used industrially. In particular, the high working temperature of the reaction and the deactivation of the catalysts are now limiting industrial application. It is our aim to understand the current generation of catalysts and come up with solutions that will enable industry to use MDA on a large scale.”

Click on the image for a larger view

When asked how Sebastian experienced the infographic workshops, he states:

“I found the course very inspiring and interactive. In addition, I was amazed by the progress one can make in using the software and applying it to generate a qualitative infographic in just two days, only by following simple rules! I hope to integrate the skills I learned in my own work soon. In my opinion this workshop highlights the importance of effectively communicating the science we are doing at ARC CBBC and to find the right means to get our message across. The infographic is definitely my new tool of choice for communicating my science to the general public, or other stakeholders which aren’t that deep into the project’s rabbit hole.”

We are very happy that we could offer our researchers the opportunity to develop their visual communication skills. Or as the course leader itself, Iliana Boshoven-Gkini, stated: “So happy I could help this team of young scientists design vector graphics and visualize data!”

An impression of the workshop