Becoming a data detective: some advice from David McCandless

Looking for the perfect gift for the epidemiologist in your life?

Self-described “data journalist” David McCandless hopes you’ll consider his book, “The Visual Miscellaneum: A Colorful Guide to the World’s Most Consequential Trivia,” now available in stores.

Based on data he’s gathered from varied sources as the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the European Environment Agency, the Aviation Safety Network, and, erm, Wikipedia,  McCandless’s visual work is stunning (for a larger version, click here).

But also — sigh — sometimes inaccurate, as you may’ve guessed from that Wikipedia mention.  See here, here, and here for some criticism. This is a shame, because as far as I’m concerned, McCandless is quite right in his proclamation that “data is the new oil“.   Data is a driving force, not only for individual behavior change, but for policy change — and we should all be working to present our data in a manner that is both compelling and accurate.

For an example of both, see Bill Rankin’s work on race and income in Chicago neighborhoods: