A good chart can change the world
Ever since William Playfair came up with the first charts the power of plotting data has been clear. Setting out data points in a clear, concise and transparent way helped Florence Nightingale understand her patients—careful mapping of data points led to the cure for cholera. It means the data revolution we are living through has massive potential—it should help us understand social, political, economic and environmental change, allowing us to design policies that deliver better outcomes and head-off mounting risks.
But there is a problem. In discussions in London we found students and lecturers alike were keen to get involved in debates using data, but were often held back, since courses often cover little on where to find data, how to write about data, or how to visualise data. Those that can put a chart together, often don’t know the simple principles that will make it look good. If the best minds of the next generation are not thinking about data properly, the fake news peddlers and chart junk merchants will win.
With 30 years’ experience in economic journalism and policy, we know these things are vital. We also know there is no quick fix: you will get better at visualising data by doing it. That is what the Playfair Prize is all about. We have designed a new competition that offers you both a challenge and support: there are some superb prizes, in addition to help from a new visualisation website, 1-to-1 assistance from our team, and the offer of data masterclasses at your university. The data wave is building, it is time to get involved.