The Visual Invention Practices of STEM Researchers: An Exploratory Topology

Lynda Walsh, Andrew B. Ross

This article presents results from a qualitative pilot survey of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) researchers concerning techniques used to create graphics for research articles. The survey aimed to induce a methodological vocabulary for a larger project designed to describe and improve STEM visual literacy for nonexperts. However, the survey also revealed interesting problems for investigation—chief among them a mismatch between STEM visual pedagogy and praxis. In addition, participants supplied a handlist of STEM visual communication texts that have informed their praxis. Survey results are presented in the form of a topology—a frequency-based representation of the topics framing participants’ discussion of STEM visual invention.



Testing Map Features Designed to Convey the Uncertainty of Cancer Risk: Insights Gained From Assessing Judgments of Information Adequacy and Communication Goals

Dolores J. Severtson

Barriers to communicating the uncertainty of environmental health risks include preferences for certain information and low numeracy. Map features designed to communicate the magnitude and uncertainty of estimated cancer risk from air pollution were tested among 826 participants to assess how map features influenced judgments of adequacy and the intended communication goals. An uncertain versus certain visual feature was judged as less adequate but met both communication goals and addressed numeracy barriers. Expressing relative risk using words communicated uncertainty and addressed numeracy barriers but was judged as highly inadequate. Risk communication and visual cognition concepts were applied to explain findings.


How people feel their engagement can have efficacy for a bio-based society

Susanne Sleenhoff, Patricia Osseweijer

Up till now, the transition to a bio-based economy mainly involves expert stakeholders. However, the actions required are of a collective scale necessitating public engagement for support and action. Such engagement is only successful if members of the public believe their participation holds efficacy. This belief is closely linked to their personal representation of the issue. We report findings from our Q methodology workshop that explored public’s efficacy beliefs on their perceived ways for engagement with a bio-based economy. Participants were provided with stakeholders’ visual representations depicting a concourse of the transition to a bio-based economy for Q sorting. We found five efficacy beliefs that differ in scale on which participants consider themselves capable for action. These results indicate that members of the public foresee distinct and shared ways and levels in how they can engage with the transition to a bio-based society that do not always concur with stakeholders’ views.


Improving Visual Communication of Science Through the Incorporation of Graphic Design Theories and Practices Into Science Communication

Fabiola Cristina Rodríguez Estrada, Lloyd Spencer Davis

Visual culture is becoming an increasingly prominent part of our cultural identity in the 21st century. Consequently, images have become an important tool with which to communicate science. We identify two impediments to science communicators using visual elements effectively: (1) visual material is typically treated as an add-on instead of being an integrated part of the whole and (2) there is a lack of identifying target audiences and refining visual elements for them specifically. We argue that science communicators can become more effective visual communicators if they incorporate elements of theory and practice from the discipline of design.