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Design of Scientific Graphics Prof. Melissa A. Hines ~3.25" max typ. 2 mm min. typ. Two key criteria: Max graphic width & min font height Design of Scientific Graphics for Publication Prepare all graphics at full scale (see journal rules).

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Design of Scientific Graphics

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Design of Scientific Graphics

Prof. Melissa A. Hines


Design of scientific graphics for publication l.jpg

~3.25" max typ.

2 mm min. typ.

Two key criteria: Max graphic width & min font height

Design of Scientific Graphics for Publication

Prepare all graphics at full scale (see journal rules).

Note that journals often compress graphics w/o asking.


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Design of Scientific Graphics for Publication

General rules:

  • Use “bland” san serif font (typ: Helvetica) throughoutRegular weight, not bold

  • Major elements in graph (e.g., axes): 1 pt minMinimum linewidth of any feature: 0.5 pt

  • Check journal rules on color before starting

  • Some letters journals limit number of graphics

Choose designs that make your graphs self-explanatory.

Don’t use captions as a crutch!


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Typography Gotchas for Scientific Graphics

  • Italicize all variables in text and in graphicsx-axis not x-axis, f not f ( but µm, K, °C, etc. are not italicized)

  • Use the appropriate length dashes- (hyphen): Use to hyphenate words– (en dash): minus sign— (em dash): Use for punctuating sentences

  • Use the correct symbol for multiplication not x, ( 10–3 m) not (x 10–3 m)


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Legal Gotchas for Scientific Graphics

  • Publisher owns all images in a published paper (but not underlying data).

  • Cannot reuse figures from one paper to another without attribution and publisher's written consent.

  • Trick: Modifying original figure makes it "new"

Note: You do not need permission to use someone else's data (taken from a published source).


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Vs.

Is the Golden Ratio Golden?

1.618

1

Choose the aspect ratio that flatters your data,

not some dead Greek philosopher.


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To Box or Not To Box?

Vs.

Pro: Minimal design

Pro: Easier to judge scale on RHS of graph


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General Rule: Axes should span data range unless removing zero creates false impressions.

Should Zero Be Included?

Vs.


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Replotted data suggest a functional relationship

Play with different ways of plotting your data.

Graphics Affect Perception of Data

Published graph suggests a correlation


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Vs.

Small Signals and Baseline Issues

Baseline must be shown on both sides of peaks.


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Appropriate Use of the Top or Right Axis

Use second axis to show data in different units.


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Less Appropriate Use of the Top or Right Axis

  • Plotting different types of data on opposite axes is outdated.

  • In choosing software, preparation of stacked graphs (e.g., same bottom axis) is important.


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Use Labels to Remove Dependence on Captions

Column and row headers explain different parts of graph w/o captions.

Individual labels on sub-images only necessary for reference in text. (Do not include in presentations!)

Note all images have same scale bar.


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Use Shading to Convey Temporal Information

Shading is particularly useful in indicating changes in experimental conditions.


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Use Shading to Distinguish Curves

The histograms (data) are shaded for emphasis and to help the reader perceive their shape.

The limiting curves (exp & Gaussian) are left unfilled for reference.


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Use Shading to Distinguish Curves

The shaded curve represents historical data; the black line is the new data.

This emphasizes that the two spectra have:

– different peaks

– different linewidths


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Solution: Add "depth" by outlining new data in white. (Trick: Double plot new data in fat white under thin red.)

Improving Contrast of Overlapping Lines

Problem: New data (black) doesn't stand out from old data (red shading)


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Focusing Attention on Specific Regions

Differential absorption spectrum

Common Solution:

Plot regions of interest, leaving breaks in axes for "boring" areas.

Caution: Scale should remain constant across all regions!


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Focusing Attention on Specific Regions

Another Solution:

Use insets to plot regions of interest.


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Legends should reinforce data where possible

If possible, put legend in the same order as items on the graph.

Jumbled order will confuse the reader.


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Solution: Allow curves to overlap, but also plot residual (difference between two curves)

Comparing Similar Data with Residuals

Problem: Nearly identical curves cannot be distinguished when plotted on same graph. Offset?


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Curve Fitting and Residuals

A structured residual is indicative ofinappropriate modeling function.


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What about pie charts?

Pie charts have no place in science.

Well-documented problems with accurate perception of relative areas.


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Minimum Needs for Scientific Graphing Package

  • Support for equally spaced & x-y data

  • Ability to easily transform data (e.g., multiply, divide, FFT)

  • Curve fitting to user-defined functions & user-defined regions of data. Global fits to multiple data sets.

  • Control over all parts of graph (e.g., ticks, axes, labels)

  • Multiple, arbitrarily positioned and scaled axes (e.g., stacked graphs, insets)

  • Robust data import & graphics export

  • Fully documented analysis & functions w/ references

  • Active & responsive user network for help


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Your Assignment: Help DOE Communicate!

This graph has no discernable message!

Make a new publication-quality graph that emphasizes:

– Contributions to US energy landscape by energy type vs year

– Percentage of renewable energy vs year


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Your Tool: Igor Pro

You can install Igor Pro on your personal computer or a lab computer for use in completing the assignment.

You cannot use the program for research or personal use without buying a license.


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