When I was just out of college, I took a trip to visit my friend in the Peace Corps. I had a day long layover in Trinidad. And when I arrived at the airport, a taxi driver left forward to offer me a ride, which I accepted. Only after we started driving off the airport grounds did I realize taxi drivers weren't allowed to pick up people inside the airport and I realized I might be in trouble. I also made the mistake of telling my driver that it was my first time in the country and he suddenly turned off route without me asking. As we drove up a deserted mountain road I was sure I was being kidnapped. As it turns out he just wanted to take me to a scenic outlook up the mountain. In fact, he offered to become my personal tour guide for the whole day. He took me on a walking tour of the botanic gardens and bought me a local beer at his favorite bar. I accidentally put myself in a dangerous situation, but I was lucky that I made a new friend that day. After I graduated college, I took a trip to visit a friend. I had a layover in Trinidad and I got a taxi driver who took me to a scenic outlook on a mountain. Then the taxi driver took me to the botanical gardens, then he took me to a bar, then I returned to the airport. These two stories had pretty much the same information. So they were equally effective, right? [MUSIC] At its heart, scientific visualization is a form of science communication, much like Radiolab podcasts, dinosaur exhibits at museums, and lectures by Bill Nye the science guy. As with all science communication, the primary risk is of losing your audience with assumptions of their prior knowledge and use of scientific jargon. Jargon is a dirty word in science communication. It refers to the domain specific language that we all use in conversation with our peers and forget to stop using when around other people. The reason other people do not understand our jargon is not because they're stupid. It's because their expertise just lies elsewhere. As science communicators, we need to find a way to make a science message accessible to broad audiences without merely dumbing it down. The webcomic xkcd has published some really effective experiments in science communication, including this description of NASA's Saturn V rocket using only the ten hundred most common words in the English language. >> Three, two, one, zero, all engine running, liftoff. We have a liftoff, 32 minutes past the hour, liftoff on Apollo 11, all cleared. >> Neil Armstrong reporting the roll and pitch program which Apollo 11 on property. >> This was clearly made so overly simplified that it's funny. The author refuses even to use the word thousand because it's not one of the thousand most common English words. But it does make a great point about how much more approachable information is when sticking to a shared vocabulary. The first step in creating a strong message is knowing who you're trying to reach. I told my vacation story to my family much more casually than I did to the border patrol agents as I returned to the country. If I was trying to tell the story to a peasant from the middle ages about my vacation, a lot of the things I talked about would need more explanation, what the Peace Corps is, what taxis are, what the country of Trinidad is, there might even be a language barrier. If you are presenting your science to two or more different audiences, you should consider either changing the whole presentation for every unique audience, or craft one presentation that's intended to be accessible to all audiences. Experts are often frustrated that they can't show off the depth of their knowledge by using technical terms and complex formulas. But the chances are decision makers are more likely to be impressed if they understand the work that is being done. What's more, it demonstrates more depth of knowledge when an expert can explain their ideas to various audiences. The most renowned scientists in the world are famous because they're good at this. Our visualization team at the NCSA usually aims are movies at broad audiences that might include children, grandparents, experts in many fields, and policymakers. The risk of speaking to a general audience is boring the experts and confusing the novices. We avoid this by including nuanced details in our imagery that satisfy the most discerning experts in the field, but focusing on stories that are timeless and meaningful to everyone, stories that address the origins of life, the workings of human society, and threats to our safety. So let's have a frank conversation about facts. Our minds are not wired to digest lists of facts. Consider this the next time someone is telling you about their vacation. How does your attention span change when they switch from listing off their itinerary to an actual story about getting in trouble. People love stories. Stories provide context and generate empathy. Stories reach the emotional parts of our minds rather than just the logical parts. Scientifically minded people often think that throwing facts numbers or statistics that people will win them allies. Especially in America, this false assumption has led to a decline in people's enthusiasm for science as both a hobby and as a thing that needs to be funded. We're just beginning to see a new movement of science communicators getting the public excited about science, the likes of which we haven't seen since the Space Race. Understanding the means of communicating a story takes practice. Although visualizations can certainly be part of a film or a museum kiosk where the narrator tells you a story verbally. The imagery of a good visualization should tell a story even without text or narration. Think of any iconic photograph you've seen. The moment you look at it, you immediately understand something has led to the moment in the photograph. There's an implied history, decisions that led to that point. Compared this dynamic photograph of the National Mall in Washington DC to this photo of the same National Mall in Washington DC. This photo does not tell the same story as the previous photo. Often, you won't be able to maintain complete control over the context in which your visualization imagery will be seen. Movies get re-edited, images on the internet get reposted. You will want to make an effort to have the imagery tell its story without relying on text or narration. The imagery might not say everything you want your audience to know but it should be resilient against misinterpretation even when seen second hand. Be aware that especially when working with someone else's data that you may face a dichotomy between the data science narrative and your own outreach narrative. The science narrative is the story of the research that created the data. What question was the researcher asking and how does this data get us closer to answering it. The outreach narrative is the story you were trying to tell to promote some broader understanding of science. This story might not even be focused on the field of the researcher. For instance, the science narrative of this visualization was about how solar plasma affects the Earth's magnetic field. It was focused on how the turbulence of the magnetic field causes it to break down. Originally, the data didn't even have the Earth in it because it wasn't concerned about the effects at the scale of the Earth. But the outreach narrative was about how a burst of solar plasma could be hazardous to life on Earth. You can see in the visualization that all movement is centered around the Earth, which we added to the scene, and we kept the turbulent swirls of the magnetic field as a dynamic environment. When designing a visualization that suits your outreach narrative, you always want to be honest to the science narrative as well. It's a bad idea to extrapolate from the data to suit your story's narrative. It comes across as dishonest and can risk the trust public audiences place in the rest of your work. Communicate and share your progress with the scientists and other experts frequently. In order to satisfy different storytellers, our visualization team will sometimes make a separate version of the visualization that's more relevant to the science narrative for the scientists' own use. The scientist who calculated this hurricane data was so helpful in preparing the data for our visualization that we made a special effort to get her a version of the visualization that she could use in her own academic presentations, which helped her draw attention to her data in her own research community. In order to tell a story well, it's helpful to understand the common traits in all stories. While finding new ways to use old storytelling techniques, makes the stories feel original. We continue to use those same techniques that we've been using for millennia because they appeal to our common human psychology. In short, we can transform a list of events into a story by introducing characters and conflict. For instance Little Red Riding Hood without the scary forest and the evil wolf just becomes a story about a girl bringing her grandma bread. There's no lesson to be learned about traveling safely. Without his ghosts and the fear of failure, Ebenezer Scrooge never learns to be a better man. And without apartheid and political adversaries, Nelson Mandela wouldn't have found his hero's voice. Freytag's pyramid sums this up nicely. This is a diagram that helps story writers remember the key elements to an effective story first. You have the setup or exposition where you introduce the characters and the setting. In my vacation story, this is the part where I mention I'm going to visit a friend in the Peace Corps by traveling through Trinidad. Second, you have the rising action in which a conflict is introduced and made more severe. In my story, the conflict is that I discover I'm in the car with a disreputable taxi driver and it gets worse as he drives me up a mountain without me asking. Third you have the climax and resolution or falling action. The climax is where the main character overcomes the conflict and the falling action allows the conflict to be completely resolved. In my story, this is where I discover my driver is a nice person and I precede to have a really nice day with him. People who are new to story writing often neglect the resolution or replace it with a cliffhanger like to be continued. Audiences find stories without endings, very unsatisfying. So it's highly recommended to include a thorough conclusion. In science stories, identifying good characters and conflicts can be difficult. Sometimes our characters are the scientists doing the research and the conflict is them trying to find an answer to a critical scientific problem. For instance, as Hurricane Katrina approached the American Southeast, Professor Wei Wang was racing against time to compute a prediction of where the hurricane would make landfall. But when we talk about our visualization imagery telling a story of its own, it might be hard to find human characters. Instead, we think of the science objects like galaxies and molecules as characters. For instance, the chromatophores one of the earliest biological structures capable of photosynthesis. This structure was formed in prehistoric tide pools where waves smashed atoms together in trillions of random interactions. In a soup of disordered molecules, this particular arrangement of molecules emerged against all odds creating machinery capable of harvesting light from the sun and turning it into chemical energy. Molecular characters are abstract and harder for audiences to naturally connect with than other humans. This is why it's important to focus on a human centered narrative and find the elements of the science that are relevant to daily life on Earth. The story about the chromatophore begins in the early universe, but works its way to a tide pool on Earth, all in service of a narrative about the origins of human life on our planet. Whether you're telling your family a vacation story or trying to convey complex science to an audience of strangers, never forget that a well-told story will always be more memorable than a list of facts. [MUSIC] Fun fact, Freytag's Pyramid isn't the only story structuring tool out there. In 2005, a Hollywood screenwriter named Blake Snyder published a book called Save the Cat that laid out beat by beat the 15 most important moments in any major motion picture from the last 30 years. Many people were shocked to find that story writing could be so formulaic.