Doodling, disease, design and diagrams: all in the day’s work of a researcher

On Monday I attended the CLOSER workshop on lifecourse research. The presenters were largely from the health care world such as epidemiology and psychiatry which was refreshing because so far in my education on quantitative lifecourse research I have mostly been exposed to economists. Perhaps it is because people working in health talk about death and disease, something we all can relate to, I found that I didn’t actually get bored once and doodle like I sometimes do when economists present (my fav doodle is of Bart Simpson – quite hard to draw him just from memory as you can see):


Bort Sampson

What kept my attention I think, was the wide variety of ways the data was presented. They used graphics, diagrams, flow charts and graphs and only some equations.

As I write this I am enjoying some peaceful time in the British Library and just went to see the Beautiful Science exhibition. Interestingly, many of the leading people in data visualisation from the past seem to have been involved in health (as well as cartography and biology), so perhaps the display of data is very much part of epidemiologist’s history and culture.

I do think that you have to be careful with visuals though. The tree as a visual metaphor I think has been a bit overused for example. Here is the tree that started it all from 1879:


You’ve got a lot to answer for Ernst Haeckel

So you shouldn’t just do something graphical because you think it looks nice. It has to actually be meaningful.

Although perhaps I can and integrate my Bort Sampson pictures into my thesis somehow though as I think it can help me say something meaningful about schooling and education?

(c) 2014 Annika Coughlin


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