What do we do?

Information visualisation for science and policy:

a joined up approach

Visualisations and graphics are the most universally engaging of outputs, yet the issues of producing engaging and unbiased visual outputs (publication figures all the way to interactive web interfaces) have received little attention in Biodiversity Science and Science-Policy. This is despite the huge developments in visualisation software, web technologies, and cultural understanding of visualisation and information/data. How does science and science-policy make the most of the opportunities information visualisation could bring?

We are a multi-disciplinary working group addressing this question,  funded by the Tansley initiative (http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/silwoodparkcampus/research/tansley) and sponsored by Future Earth (http://www.futureearth.info/). Unlike related domains within biology and geo-informatics, ecology and biodiversity research have very little engagement with information visualisation. Our overarching goal is to engage unconnected communities (Science – Design – Computation – Policy) and link the high levels visual communication goals of science-policy (e.g. IPBES, Future Earth) to the everyday work of scientists in an accessible and practical manner.

Information visualisation should not be an afterthought, or considered a design issue that can be outsourced after research has been carried out. Instead, a joined-up approach should embed information visualisation into the work programmes of science and policy in order to leverage the greatest benefits for all involved. Thus, our multidisciplinary working group will coalesce expertise, tools, and skills from the domains of science, design, computer science, and policy. The outputs of this work will be updated here:



  • Understanding the diversity of information pathways and users in science-policy. What are the differences between policy and scientists understanding? How can we make communications as effective and impactful as possible, whilst remaining unbiased and rigorous.

  • A strategy to link information visualisation and biodiversity science in a more productive feedback. Can we leverage the tools-skills-knowledge of the information visualisation community and embed it in science? Information visualisation must be placed further up the research and funding agenda in ecological and biodiversity sciences, and simultaneously cement these issues at the forefront of the information visualisation research domain.

  • Developing user-centred design approaches and research for large science-policy work programmes. The aims are (a) to involve end-users in the design process to ensure needs and backgrounds are being addressed, (b) to highlight key research gaps and (c) understand how visualisation needs to fit into organisational and technological infrastructure.

  • Explore design guidelines that will impact individual’s day to day work, stimulate research, and provide means for evaluation of successes and failures (e.g. representation of uncertainty and multidimensional data sets).


  • Graphical Representation   (How can we represent complex, multidimensional information in compelling and responsible ways?)

  • Technical Implementation   (How do we design and construct knowledge interfaces that are relevant to both day-to-day scientific research and developing higher level impacts?)

  • Multidisciplinary collaboration   (How do we make the most of the available expertise, tools, and resources from academic and non-academic communities?)

  • User-centred design   (How do we involve diverse information producers and stakeholders in the design process?)



  1. Network of researchers and practitioners across Science, Design, Computer Science and Policy to act as hubs between these communities.

  2. A challenges paper for publication in the ecological science or biodiversity literature.

  3. A challenges paper translating the above into an agenda for information visualisation research.

  4. The foundations of Visualisation Guidelines for Science-Policy interfaces (e.g. IPBES) and a plan for their development. The working group network will provide a key resource for taking these guidelines forward.

  5. Event promoting this work, such as a thematic session at a key ecological conference to communicate research and approaches, and further nurture engagement between these domains. This could include a training workshop .

  6. Website with details on goals, events, working group members, and a repository for resources.

The most up to date information may not have reached this blog and website yet. If you would like more information please contact gregory.mcinerny@cs.ox.ac.uk


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