160  |  Visualizing COVID-19 with Carl Bergstrom


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By Enrico Bertini and Moritz Stefaner, Enrico Bertini, and Moritz Stefaner. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
Photo Credit: Kris Tsujikawa

We hope everyone is doing well! We finally decided to record an episode on visualization and covid19. It’s been a crazy several weeks and one of the most interesting developments has been to see how prominent visualization has been in the constant flux of information. Who expected visualization to be so relevant, uh?!

And when we talk about data and pandemics we could not find a better person than Carl Bergstrom, Professor of Biology at University of Washington, with a background in epidemiology but also an expert in scientific practices and communication.

You may remember Carl from an episode about three years ago (Episode 97). We interviewed him together with his colleague Jevin West to talk about their excellent “Calling Bullshit” project (and let’s face it, there is no lack of BS during these crazy times), a course (and soon to be a book) on how to spot BS in science.

Carl has been a constant source of information and reasoning on Twitter. Commenting on the science behind pandemics but also about the way science is communicated and the many possible traps you may fall into. If there is one thing we all learned is that visualization without reliable data is a mess!

In the show, we talk about a number of iconic covid19 visualizations, the “flatten the curve” ones, the tracking lines from Financial Times and several simulations. For each of these we discuss the many variations and nuances, what we have learned from them and the many intricacies of creating visualizations for such a sensitive topic with potential huge outcomes.

[Our podcast is fully listener-supported. That’s why you don’t have to listen to ads! Please consider becoming a supporter on Patreon or sending us a one-time donation through Paypal. And thank you!]


Stats and Tracking:

Visual Simulations:

Related episodes


1. Welcome back to Data Stories! (00:00:35)

2. Our podcast is listener-supported, please consider making a donation! (00:01:08)

3. Our topic: Visualizing COVID-19 (00:01:47)

4. Our guest: Carl Bergstrom, Professor of Biology at the University of Washington (00:02:02)

5. What do you think about the "Flatten the curve" viz? (00:03:57)

6. The importance of Drew Harris' version of Flatten the Curve (00:07:29)

7. The evolvement from the CDC diagram to the Rosamund Pearce diagram released by The Economist (00:09:45)

8. Carl's design process with designer Esther Kim in developing his version (00:12:51)

9. The advantage of a cartoon style Flatten the Curve diagram (00:19:08)

10. The Washington Post simulator (00:20:50)

11. Steve Goodreau's family bubble viz (00:21:38)

12. The rise of the logarithmic chart and its problems of alignment (00:24:13)

13. Normalization by population size? (00:30:45)

14. Lots of ppl want to contribute on the numbers. Is this good or should only experts deal with it? (00:33:59)

15. David Yu's Covid Projection Tracker (00:38:56)

16. Are there too many publications? (00:41:00)

17. How to communicate about risk and uncertainty? (00:42:43)

18. Carl's book "Calling Bullshit" comes out Aug 4th (00:49:43)

19. Get in touch with us and support us on Patreon (00:50:32)

168 episodes