As scientists, we work with fascinating, rich datasets, the latest insights, state of the art technology. We work for years on a research project, to extract the most interesting pieces of knowledge, and then this results in … a few static pages. Even worse, while most of these projects are funded with public money, the information in these articles is so dense that it is hard to understand for 99% of all humans. These discrepancies always bothered me, so I was happy to discover that there is a growing trend to illustrate research texts with interactive visualizations; whether it’s texts aimed at either other experts (like scientific journal Distill) or the general public (like popular science magazine The Pudding).
Interactive visualizations give you the option to better represent the richness of the data; you could even ‘publish’ your entire dataset this way and make the readers interact with it. Interactive visualizations also stress the more dynamic nature of most research projects; you could make the readers press buttons and see how various concepts interact. But most important of all, interactive visualizations have the incredible power to give the reader a very deep insight into a topic really quickly… or to put it simply: you understand stuff much better much faster.
To get more experience in this field, I decided together with Antal van den Bosch to rewrite an article we had published from the ground up to make it understandable for the layman with the help of interactive visualizations. The article is about text prediction, and how it works better if it learns from your own text, and people who speak like you. It was enthusiastically taken up by The Pudding.