Funded by the University, a PhD student would carry out a substantial amount of research on the topic, become expert in the area and prepare a dissertation on the topic to obtain their doctorate. A typical PhD student is a proficient student with a Masters qualification, considerable self-motivation and the ability to think innovatively.
How can complex scientific evidence be made accessible to decision makers? As part of his PhD, Jordan Harold investigated the communication of scientific graphs and diagrams at the science-policy interface. Through a series of interviews, Jordan identified that scientists often create complex graphs that can be challenging for non-experts to understand, but which maintain complexity to retain scientific rigour. For non-expert audiences, scientists emphasised the need for experts to provide additional layers of verbal explanation. This has implications for how scientific evidence can be made more accessible to broader audiences in contexts where experts are not on-hand to guide readers’ comprehension. Using experimental methods, including eye-tracking, Jordan then explored how accompanying text and graphical features can influence cognition of graphed data, and how cognitive insights could be applied to scientific graphs to support comprehension. Following his PhD, Jordan has developed practical guidelines to support researchers in making their scientific data visuals more easily understood, and has provided support to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to help improve the accessibility of the graphs in their reports.
Harold, J., Lorenzoni, I., Coventry, K. R. & Minns, A. (2017). Enhancing the accessibility of climate change data visuals. Recommendations to the IPCC and guidance for researchers. Report published by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Norwich, UK. Harold, J., Lorenzoni, I., Shipley, T. F., & Coventry, K. R. (2016). Cognitive and psychological science insights to improve climate change data visualization. Nature Climate Change, 6(12), 1080-1089.
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