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Infographics in Biostatistics

Although the history of Infographics according to Wikipedia does not seem to mention Fritz Kahn as one of the pioneers of this technique, I would like to start this post mentioning one of the didactic graphical representations of this Jewish German doctor, who was highly reputed as a popular science writer of his time.

Apart from his fascinating views of the human body in the form of machines and industrial processes, I am particularly attracted by his illustration below, summarising the evolution of life in the Earth as a clock in which the history of humans would not take more than a few seconds…

Animal clock

Image extracted from the printed version of the article “Fritz Kahn, un genio olvidado” published in El País, on Sunday 1st of September 2013.

 What could be understood by some as a naive simplification of matters requires, in my opinion, a great deal of scientific knowledge and it is a fantastic effort to communicate the science behind very complex mechanisms.

This and more modern infographic forms of visualisation represent an opportunity for statisticians –and more specifically biostatisticians-, to make our field approachable and understandable for the wider public. Areas such as Public Health (see here), Cancer research (find examples here and here), and Drug development (see here) are already using them, so we should not be ashamed to make of these “less rigorous” graphical representations an important tool in our work.

Note: There are plenty of resources available online to design a nice infographic in R. For a quick peek into how to create easy pictograms, check out this entry in Robert Grant´s stats blog. Also, the wordcloud R package will help you visualising main ideas from texts…

We will soon show a practical example of these representations in this blog, keep tuned!

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3 thoughts on “Infographics in Biostatistics

  1. Pingback: FreshBiostats First Anniversary | FreshBiostats

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