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Short course on Data visualisation: taking communication to the next level

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Data visualisations are nothing new – they’ve been helping us to understand the world around us for centuries, if not millennia. But these visualizations are playing an increasingly important role in today’s information-rich society. This is especially true among think tanks, where translating complex ideas and data into accessible and relevant information is at the heart of what they do.

That’s partly because data visualisations can be such an effective way of conveying a lot of information in short period of time. According to Edward Tufte, “the two optic nerves [in the eyes] are sending what we now know are 20 megabits a second of information back to the brain”. The spoken or written word, on the other hand, conveys just bytes per second.This is particularly useful for grabbing busy decision makers’ attention.

In this module, we will take a closer look at understanding what exactly a data visualisation is – including static, motion and interactive visualisations. We will share examples of how other think tanks around the world have built data visualisations into their communication plans. And it will also offer tips and tricks on creating effective data visualisations.

Who is this for?

This course is designed as an introduction to data visualisation – it is not an intermediate or advanced course and no prior design or coding knowledge is required.

The course may be of particular interest to researchers working to improve the visual display of information or to communication professionals tasked with creating either print or digital research outputs for their organisation.

This course will be most effective for those who have a specific dataset ready to visualise, though sample datasets will also be provided.


This Short Course is designed to offer participants and hands on opportunity to learn about and develop their own data visualisation.

This Short Course consists of the following:

  • A background note on Data Visualisation that will set the tone for the training,
  • An online forum to share comments, experiences and pose questions with the trainers and other participants,
  • Two webinars facilitated by the Jeff Knezovich, and
  • The delivery of a practical exercise to develop a data visualisation.

What will we cover?

The outline of the Short Course will cover:

Background note on Data visualisation: Understanding effective data visualizations for think tanks

  • Introduction to data visualizations: What are they? Why are they important? And how do people and users experience them?
  • Design fundamentals
  • Examples and tools

Forum Discussion: The Dos and don’ts of Data visualisations

  • Data visualisation design: Best practices and common mistakes
  • What’s wrong with this visualisation?

First Webinar: Introduction to static data visualisations

  • Overview of data visualisations: What are they? Who are they for? What are the different types?
  • Selecting the right type of visualisation for your data
  • Tools and techniques for creating static visualisations

Second Webinar: Motion and interactive visualisations?

  • Tools and techniques for creating motion and interactive charts
  • Tools and techniques for creating motion and interactive maps

Personal Task: Produce a data visualisation of any type

For the exercise, we will provide a few datasets to work with, but we would also encourage participants to bring their own data to visualise for the personal task.

The visualisations developed by the participants will be considered to be included in the On Think Tanks Data Visualisation Annual Compilation for 2016 and can be entered into the annual competition for a chance to win USD1,000.00 and a feature in the compilation in the annual competition (this time held towards the end of 2016).

Key dates

Background note and discussion forum will be available from: September 27th

Webinar 1: October 4th

Webinar 2: October 18th

Delivery of exercise: October 25th

Exact times of the webinars will be defined once we know who is participating.


Jeff Knezovich: Jeff is a Digital communications strategist and data visualisation specialist currently working at Nuffield Trust in London. He works hard to ensure research in health and international development is timely and relevant for policy-makers and practitioners. He helps develop and implement strategic policy influence approaches and capacities both within his organisation and on a consultancy basis. His core communication skill set lies in the digital space and in synthesising complex information into targeted briefings.

Before joining Nuffield he managed the research uptake activities for a six-year project at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) working to develop health systems across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India and Uganda.

Jeff leads On Think Tanks data visualisation competition and is the author of two compilation on data visualisations for think tanks.

Depending on the format guests will be brought in to provide feedback to the visualisations produced by the participants.

You can also join the whole series of 6 courses at a significant discount.

Before signing-up review our Terms and Conditions.

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