I ran across an interesting interview on the Imprint site with Felice Frankel and Angela DePace, authors of “Visual Strategies: A Practical Guide to Graphics for Scientists and Engineers,” scheduled to be released in spring 2012 from Yale University Press. The book covers how scientists can visually explain complex information to today’s attention-deficient audience as well as each other, and it sounds like it’s going to be an interesting read.
Frankel says that scientists often have problems visually portraying their news because they lack training in the visual arts.
“Scientists are trained to read certain types of diagrams by example. But their work also requires them to innovate – generating new types of graphics when concepts and data types change. Because of their lack of training in design principles, innovation can be extremely difficult. As a result, bad representations often make it into the published literature where they take hold and perpetuate because people become familiar with them during their specialized training,” she says.
Frankel then adds a statement that seems to speak directly to the heart of KT practitioners everywhere: “But – and we think this is a critical issue – because they are ill-designed, they are inaccessible to anyone other than experts. This isolates scientific findings from the public, and makes science education seem more remote and specialized than it could be.
Yes! Someone outside of the KT world gets it! (Frankel is a research scientist in the Center for Materials, Science and Engineering at MIT; DePace is an assistant professor in the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School.) If news and information aren’t presented in an accessible way, they will remain inaccessible. This isn’t a complex idea.
Go read the article for yourself and let me know what you think. Are you looking forward to the book’s release? Do you plan to read it? And do you think researchers are even interested in learning about the importance of visuals? Let me know in the comments!