Infographics are a great way to say a lot with very few words.
And researchers often have more words than they know what to do with. Their dreams simply can’t be confined to the measly word limit on their grant applications. They yearn to tell the world their whole story!
So, if you want to communicate big ideas in a concise but visually impactful way, making a scientific infographic is an excellent choice! In this blog, we’ll run you through 5 unique ways to make use of scientific infographics in various aspects of your research life.
What is a scientific infographic?
Let’s start with the very definition of an infographic.
“A visual presentation of information in the form of a chart, graph, or other image accompanied by minimal text, intended to give an easily understood overview, often of a complex subject”
The keywords here are visual and overview, which we’ve preached about before in our guides to creating scientific posters and graphical abstracts. However, a scientific infographic is a far more versatile format. So, while scientific posters are typically showcased at conferences, and graphical abstracts typically accompany a manuscript, scientific infographics could also be used for:
1. Laboratory protocols
Having spent years in a laboratory, standard operating procedures (SOPs) are the core of any replicable experiment. Like a good recipe passed down over generations, you’ll want to make sure everyone does it the same. But despite that, new lab members may be reading the protocols differently…
What, you didn’t know how to cool the centrifuge before starting? There’s a button behind the machine to do that? It was written in the footnotes? THERE WERE FOOTNOTES?! 😓
And sometimes a protocol might be written in a way that assumes you know exactly what the writer was thinking.
Streak out the bacteria on an agar plate in a zig-zag pattern. Hm, mine looks more like an S-shape. Oh well… should be alright!
With many students classifying themselves as visual learners, a scientific infographic is a perfect way to clarify each step with a visual aid. Take some inspiration from this amazing example from Melissa Pappas from Emerging Creatives of Science for processing coral tissue samples to extract chlorophyll.
2. Your curriculum vitae or resumé
As you advance in your research career, your track record will continue to grow, and grow, and grow… out of control! 5 pages of publications will just be one section of the CV, and another 5 will be allocated a list for you prestigious awards.
So on and so forth. Hey look at you with the successful grant record!
But if you’re looking for a way to cut it down to your finest achievements and best publications, try out an infographic approach! Illustrate your career journey using a timeline, and try out icons for various headings.
Need some examples? We’ve got free templates for researchers, so be sure to check those out 👇
3. Single slide presentations
Competitions like the 3 Minute Thesis have limitations on what you can bring to your presentation. One of the biggest limits is the one-slide rule, which also bans the use of any animations.
So being confined to a single slide means you’ll need to get creative.
One idea is to support your presentation using a cleverly designed infographic! But remember, all eyes will be on you, and not the words onscreen! Have the fewest amount of words possible for your slide, and let the pictures supplement the things you are saying.
Here’s a brilliant example from Kristin Duffield, the winner of the 3MT in 2018 from Illinois State University.
4. Designing your laboratory website
Have you noticed that many modern websites are actually designed like an effective infographic? You can design it to include icons, eye-catching images and minimal text in clearly defined sections — take our homepage for example.
A website for your laboratory or for yourself could also equally benefit from an infographic-style layout. If you’d like to learn more about the process of creating a website, check out our guest article from Jennifer van Alstyne.
5. For fun on social media!
Scientific infographics are perfect little packages for sharing your research on social media. A cheeky Tweet here or there won’t hurt!
Great ideas to get you started include:
A day in my life as a scientist
In your field of expertise, what does a typical day look like? Does it start with thawing samples from a freezer, scuba-diving through a coral reef, or smashing through terabytes of data? Any interesting lab traditions you’d like to share?
Top 5 wins for my lab in 20XX
Twitter is a great place to celebrate and commemorate the achievements of your lab group and colleagues. Put your team in the spotlight with an infographic highlighting their successes.
5 things I wish I knew before doing X, Y & Z
Twitter’s ALSO a great place to be honest about the ups and downs of research life. What are 5 tips you would like to impart to the rest of the scientific community? Make sure you tag it with #PhDChat or #AcademicTwitter and any field-specific tags to get the discussion going on your infographic.
My scientific impact in 20XX
Your citations, new publications (at all levels of authorship), and other metrics could be proudly shared as an infographic. We completely understand that modesty is a great virtue to have, but giving yourself a well-deserved pat on the back is equally encouraged. Even if you don’t want to share it on social media (and just want to keep it to look at!)
We’ve taken the lead here, and created our own Impact Card for 2021 as a company.
To further inspire you about the different kinds of infographics you could make, we highly recommend checking out Mark Belan’s gallery. We’ve also featured him in a recent post about some of the best scientific illustrators on Twitter, alongside many other talented artists!
Excited about infographics, but not too sure on how to design one?
Though if you’re in the market for a professional and rapid solution, our creative team at Animate Your Science can custom-design your scientific infographic for you! We’ve had the pleasure of producing infographics for researchers and institutions from around the world.
Here’s what one of our satisfied clients have said:
“Very detailed and comprehensive process, from initial contact, to planning, to revisions, to finished product. The staff can both develop concepts independently or enhance your ideas. Very good at working within stylistic constraints that you (your agency, company, etc.) may have, such as visual identity guidelines and protocols. The Director and staff have scientific backgrounds, so they understand what is required to distil and clearly convey information of scientific nature to a lay - or informed-public audience. Video and email communications and task work were quick and professional. Highly recommended.”
— Mark Mihalasky, International Atomic Energy Agency
Contact us today to discuss your options, and we’ll get your scientific infographic polished and ready for the world!
Until next time!
Dr Juan Miguel Balbin
Dr Tullio Rossi