Biomedical data are rapidly increasing in both volume and complexity. Given the importance of these data in clinical practice it is imperative that they are communicated clearly and effectively. However, faulty processing of data, especially visual data, accounts for upwards of half of all misdiagnoses. Good data visualization can help ensure biomedical data, which are often costly and difficult to acquire, are interpreted correctly by practitioners.
Anscombe's Quartet is a set of two-dimensional data which are identical in their calculated mean, variance, and correlation coefficient. However, these data plot very differently! This is one example of the importance of visualizing data.
1. Use color sparingly, and be mindful of color choices.
2. Order your variables.
Your labels or data groups should appear in a logical order, be it alphabetically, by size, or some other meaningful listing.
3. Use the correct visualization for your data type(s).
4. Make image based figures clear and informative.
Include clear scale bars and magnification insets where appropriate. Use colors that will translate well to grayscale, when possible. Ensure your images are high enough resolution for the situation and have not loss quality during submission for publication.
Jambor H, Antonietti A, Alicea B, Audisio TL, Auer S, et al. (2021) Creating clear and informative image-based figures for scientific publications. PLOS Biology 19(3): e3001161. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001161
O'Donoghue, SI, et al. (2018). Visualization of Biomedical Data. Annual Review of Biomedical Data Science. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-biodatasci-080917-013424
Weissgerber, T. L., Winham, S. J., Heinzen, E. P., Milin-Lazovic, J. S., Garcia-Valencia, O., Bukumiric, Z., Savic, M. D., Garovic, V. D., & Milic, N. M. (2019). Reveal, Don't Conceal: Transforming Data Visualization to Improve Transparency. Circulation, 140(18), 1506–1518. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.037777
Wong, B. (2010). Design of data figures. Nature Methods 7, 665. https://doi-org.ezproxy.uthsc.edu/10.1038/nmeth0910-665