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Visualising data allows us to:

  • analyse and understand data better
  • move past two dimensional flatland lists
  • encourage the exploration of data complexity in engaging, interesting and compelling ways
  • illustrate the stories behind the data.

Including data visualisations in your collections has the potential to increase the reuse, discovery and connectivity of your research data.

Several tools are used by ANDS partners to visualise research data, including:

  • Cytoscape (network mapping) at the University of Melbourne
  • Gource (4D time analysis) at JISC
  • Wordle (to create an image for word mapping text frequency).

Gource visualisation

The images below show the increase in activity for Research Data Australia over a three month period in 2011 using Gource.


  • Blue = RDA Collections
  • Yellow = RDA Parties
  • Green = RDA Activities
  • Each stalk represents a new data source

30 June 2011: 18 Data Sources in Research Data Australia

Data vis of RDA June 2011

19 September 2011: 33 Data Sources in Research Data Australia

Data vis of RDA Sep 2011

Intersect Australia have also produced a YouTube video of activity in Research Data Australia with music (colours represent different subject areas):

Cytoscape visualisation

The image below shows connections between 413,000 subjects in Research Data Australia, as 1000 unique subject connections. There is potential to explore 170,000 related objects in Research Data Australia beyond 35,000 collections.

Data visualisation of RDA connections (Image: ANDS)

Other examples of visualisation and tools

  • Visualising data at the Oxford Internet Institute has 23 examples of different ways to visualise data.
  • Periodic table of visualisation methods - mouse over each type of visualisation to see which ones might best 'visualise' your research data.
  • Gapminder - ideas for presenting visualisations of data. This site includes links to the actual data and the visualisation.

More information

  • Edward Tufte (1990) Envisioning Information, Telling Stories with statistical and textual stories (Tufte 1983, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information).
  • Gavan McCarthy (2012), Data Visualisation: An effective research tool on Vimeo.