The Fusion of Science and Visual Storytelling

February 2024 | Read Time: 3 mins
Posted by Visual Abstract | Author: Ishita Rajgrihar
Science is not just the pursuit of knowledge about our world, it’s the fuel for innovation and solutions in our ever-evolving society. But the true power of science is unleashed through effective communication.

Effective communication promotes knowledge exchange and collaboration within the scientific community. It allows researchers to build upon each other’s work and accelerate progress and connect science with the wider public. It fosters understanding of scientific processes, discoveries, and potential applications, encouraging informed engagement with science and reducing misinformation

Now, let’s journey back in time to witness how early science communication not only informed but transformed our world.
Historical Examples of Visual Science Communication
Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings: Leonardo Da Vinci’s detailed and accurate sketches of the human body, including his illustrations of fetal development, were not only artistic masterpieces but also revolutionized our understanding of anatomy.

These sketches of Leonardo’s embryological studies were drawn with black and red chalk with some pen and ink wash on paper and reveal his advanced understanding of human development.

Barbara McClintock, created pen-and-ink illustrations based on her microscopic observations. McClintock’s drawings played a crucial role in her groundbreaking discovery of transposable genetic elements.
Image of Leonardo Da Vinci's illustration of the human fetus in the womb
Source: Lynch, D (2023) The Collector
Image of Robert Hooke's illustration of Cells
Source: Miller, C (2023) Discovery of Cells and Cell Theory, BCCampus
Robert Hooke’s microscopic drawings: Hooke’s book, Micrographia, featured intricate illustrations of magnified objects.

His work included stunning illustrations of snowflake crystals and a discovery: the first use of the word “cell” to describe the microscopic honeycomb structures found in cork.

This was the first depiction of a cell, revealing a previously unseen microscopic world.
Challenges of Science Communication
The landscape of science communication is facing pressing challenges. In our fast-paced digital age, dominated by Internet and the advent of Artificial Intelligence, traditional approaches to science communication are struggling to keep up. The way science is communicated no longer matches our style of consuming biteable data through various sources on various social media platforms.
Research becomes inefficient and redundant
It can be difficult for researchers to identify the most relevant information and present it in a way that effectively reaches the intended audience without drowning. Moreover, scientific research often involves intricate concepts, complex ideas and technical jargon that can alienate those unfamiliar with specialized vocabulary. Hence, even when it reaches the targeted audience, it often takes too long to break down and consume.

Thus, science communicators need to find ways to capture and sustain the attention and curiosity of the audience, especially when dealing with topics that may be unfamiliar, abstract, or controversial. They also need to balance the depth and breadth of information, as well as the accuracy and simplicity of language, to avoid overwhelming or confusing the audience.
Fostering the Power of Visuals
Because the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text, visuals are powerful storytellers that can transcend language and cultures, leaving a lasting impression. According to Richards (2003), visualization makes it possible for scientists to interact with complex phenomena. Thus, we empower scientific communication by combining art and science to create Visual Abstracts (VAs) and interactive Visual Abstract (iVAs).
Our visual abstracts translate the complexities of science into easily digestible formats that can be comprehended easily, while the iVAs, bring life to flowcharts illustrating processes, diagrams breaking down structures, or even cleverly chosen animations that capture the essence of any phenomenon.  

Let’s examine how Visual Abstracts transform our approach to science communication by breaking down their impact into key areas:  

Attention Grabbing: Our visualizations consist of tables, interactive graphs and charts, and animated images, that pull the audience’s attention towards important data and sustain it.  

Accessibility: Communication strategies that work for one person may not work for another. To overcome this, Visual Abstracts provide a range of media and styles that can effectively engage with diverse audiences and communities. This is especially important for scientific communication as it can make this information accessible to everyone.
Interactive Dialogue: Unlike Traditional methods, our engaging graphical elements in our VAs and iVAs, invite participation, fostering two-way communication between researchers and audience, and encouraging questions and discussion.

Saves time: Visualizations quickly identify patterns and trends in complex datasets. They save researchers time otherwise spent sifting through raw data. Charts, graphs, and heatmaps highlight correlations and clusters, so researchers can analyze results effectively and formulate accurate hypotheses.
“We noted the common problem amongst researchers, developed Visual Abstract as a solution and now it is being adapted to different industries to make lives easier” – Assoc. Prof. Dr. Benito Campos, Co-Founder, VAVisual Abstract GmBH.
How are visual abstracts influencing communication in different industries?
•Life science companies and academic institutions use Visual Abstracts as captivating and interactive digital posters to showcase research at conferences, fairs, and meetings.

•Our Abstracts are being used in Sales Meetings as an Interactive data-driven storytelling tool for impactful sales meetings on any mobile device.

•Visual Abstracts are eye-catching summaries tailored for social media, which companies and research institutions can use to boost engagement and research impact.
Future of Science Communication
Effective communication of scientific information is more than just informing the public. It means bridging the gap between science and society. This involves enabling individuals to tackle global challenges, promoting innovation, and inspiring future generations.

By simplifying complex concepts using everyday language, incorporating engaging visuals, and encouraging open conversations, we can create a world where science is not exclusive, but a collaborative journey of discovery that benefits everyone.
Sources:

1. Da Vinci, Leonardo (1510), History & Art Collection/Alamy, Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Leonardo-da-Vinci/Anatomical-studies-and-drawings#/media/1/336408/1564, Accessed on: 22 January 2024.

2. Hooke, Robert (1665), Micrographia, Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Robert-Hooke#/media/1/271280/99713, Accessed on: 22 January 2024.

3.Corless, V (2021) Pioneers in Science: Barbara McClintock, Advanced Science News, Available at: https://www.advancedsciencenews.com/pioneers-in-science-barbara-mcclintock/, Accessed at: 22 January 2024.

4. (2010) Using Images Effectively, Media Education Centre, Williams College, Available at: https://oit.williams.edu/files/2010/02/using-images-effectively.pdf Accessed: 21 January 2024.

5. Richards, A (2003),). Argument and authority in the visual representations of science. Technical Communication Quarterly, 12(2), 183–206. doi: 10.1207/s15427625tcq1202_3

6. Reimann et al, Standardised Visual Abstracts Impact Reading Speed and Memorization, pg. 8-10.
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