Draft Guidelines

These are guidelines for the kinds of science literacy that apply to “data journalism” and qualities of a good science news infographic


A scientifically literate person …


In a science news infographic …


Some more info …


Created by high school youth …


A scientifically literate person … establishes the relevance of science/technology information to their own and others’ lives, and put the information into context.

Addresses Personal Concerns: 

Why should I care about this issue?

Recognizes that the topic has personal relevance and significance.

Cauliflower Ear (relating the author’s own experiences and choices);

Risks of Everyday Beauty Products (personal choices; author actually posed for the photo)

Contextualizes Science:

What does science tell us about this issue?

What is the background on this topic?  Is this research that most experts in this field agree with, or is it controversial? How many people were involved in this research? How trustworthy are the researchers?  Did the designer compare data fairly (i.e. if a very small city has less people with cancer than a very large city, it is probably because there are less people.)

Research and data sets are identified as preliminary or established; the n values or missing factors, if known, are listed; and the relative reliability of information (government, corporate supplied, political agency) is clear.

Cloning the Wooly Mammoth (speculative science):

Arthritis in America  (current data and future estimates)

Addresses Societal Concern:

Why should the class (and other people) care about this issue?

Why does this topic matter? How are people and the planet affected? How many people are affected?

(Relevance to others ) Checks that the data are put into context: Units are comparable; historical trends are accurate; and comparable data subsets are normalized by factors, such as population, gender, age, distance, size and so on. The magnitude of issues or extent of problem, and the groups affected, are made clear. Situates issues within their ethical and cultural context.

Link between Diabetes and Heart Disease; When Do You Really Pay for Tobacco Use?

Search and Source Information

A scientifically literate person … effectively searches for and recognizes useful STEM information from credible sources, especially on the Internet, and determines the adequacy of data and information. Utilizes multiple, credible sources, and is able to attribute the expertise and/or perspectives provided by those sources.

Finds & Selects Data

What are the go-to reliable websites that I need to check on this topic? In other words, which government agencies or nonprofits can provide the information I need? Given my topic, what other websites would be good to use to represent other opinions and information?

Do your images represent the real thing correctly and honestly?

Is able to find relevant data, especially on the web, from highly credible sources. The person is able to distinguish between sites that simply repeat or manipulate data and those that are primary sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control or the US Census Bureau. Checks that the data are up to date. Practices good “data hygiene” — selecting and organizing data such that consistency and integrity are maintained.

Zombie Bees (through internet search found and Interviewed a top researcher.); Breast Cancer Trends

Considers Credibility

Can I trust these websites, and why?

Was the research conducted responsibly and professionally?

How did the designer or researcher collect the data? Survey? Facebook? In person? How many people did they contact? How do you think the designer or researcher tried to make sure the data was accurate?

Consider expertise, bias, stake, and how up-to-date source is.

Carbon Dioxide in the Classroom; (evaluation of an article on the effects of carbon dioxide)  Cost of Exploring Space: Reality vs Film (which costs more: space programs or movie special effects?)

Makes Use of Multiple Sources

Are the perspectives of different scientists and stakeholders represented?

Who has a different opinion?

Utilizes different perspectives (e.g., basic research, applied research, stakeholders), and corroboration when possible.

Influ-ven-za (different species at risk for influenza viruses)

Calories Taken In vs Calories Burned

Attributes Sources

Who says? Why should I trust them? Who said it first?  Who can confirm this?

Do we know who your sources are, and why they are legitimate?

Do you have permission to use any images you didn’t create yourself?

The sources should be listed in a clear and easy-to-read format, in a way that can be followed up on by readers. When creating infographics, qualities of sources should sometimes be attributed. If the data are collected by the author, then the procedures and methods are explained, including n values, research design and, where possible, statistical error.


Most Common Skin Diseases in the US

Colorado Flooding Impact

Representational Devices

A scientifically literate person … knows how representational devices and visualizations are used  to convey scientific meaning. When making infographics, uses representational forms to fulfill various functions to assist readers in making sense of data and concepts.

Uses Forms

Did you use differences in color and size to represent differences in the data? Did you indicate that things are related through using similar colors?

What visual (and textual) elements and techniques can convey useful ideas about the issue?

Utilizes traditional design forms such as spatial alignment/parallelism, colors or patterns, containment (something is within something else), contiguity (something is next to something else), spatial hierarchy, spatial ordering, spatial position, scale and size, imagery, icons, text labels, title, text explication (sentences and paragraphs), arrows, links and lines, maps (geographic or spatial) to serve communicative functions.

Missouri Tornadoes 2000-2009; How Fat is your Food?; Work your Way Home


Uses Functions

Did you choose where to put things on the page on purpose? If you wanted the reader to start at one part of the infographic, did you place that data at the top? Did you connect ideas through arrows or lines?

How do you tell a story or illustrate scientific ideas with the visual elements?

Integrates representational forms as devices indicating higher-level data meaning, such as trends, comparisons and contrasts, grouping, pathways, time, process, and causality.

Chemicals that make up Fireworks

Great Tree of Life

The Nearest Stars to Earth

Uses Conventions

Do you take advantage of accepted ways of expressing ideas and science? In other words, did you label all of the data and pieces of the graphic with the units that the experts in the field use (don’t use inches if the experts use millimeters)?

Did you make sure to not stereotype?

Uses scientific and mathematical conventions, such as SI units, standard abbreviations, scientific notation and scientifically accurate imagery. Uses cultural conventions, such as color associations, metaphors, etc.

Physics and Ballet (physics); Science Behind Testosterone Secretion (biochemistry); Science Behind Hair Relaxers (chemistry, biology)


A scientifically literate person …a ttends to the interest and comprehension of an audience, by accurately representing complex scientific and technical information, while efficiently conveying what’s most important.

Considers Audience

Will anyone in your class (or teens who might read it on SciJourner) care? Will they  understand it?

Am I just writing this for my teacher?

Is concerned with audience, demonstrated through appropriate inclusion of background and explanatory information, and clearly indicated goals/purposes, such as what people can do about the issue and how they can prevent a problem.

Survey of Pregnant Teens; How Pattonville Sleeps

Is Accurate and Unbiased

Is it accurate and unbiased?

Is it a fair representation?

Did you use visual tricks?

Represents data accurately, and without bias. Ideas are not oversimplified, or distorted.

Do Health Supplements Really Work? (Claims vs. evidence)

Global Warming: Skeptics vs Scientists

Is Efficient and Conveys a Message

Is your infographic messy with extra things that aren’t necessary for the reader to understand your message? Is it easy for your readers to understand what you are trying to say?

Did you make a complicated issue or set of data easier to understand for your reader?

Clearly conveys overall gist or take-away message, shows patterns and trends efficiently in a phenomenon that are otherwise difficult to perceive.

Hemoglobin and Altitude; Abundance of Elements

Global Environment Indicators

Has Multiple Levels/Pathways

Are there any possible links between the data you combined? Did you consider how the different pieces of data might be related?

Can someone look at your infographic several times and discover something new each time?

Creates multiple levels and pathways for making sense of the information and data in the infographic. Goes beyond one dimension, by comparing or including different datasets or aspects.

Shark Attacks in the US

Record Tsunamis

What are the Odds?