Stories about exciting biomedical advances are often in the news. Unfortunately, understanding the significance of these breakthroughs can be difficult. This can often be improved through the use of visualisation1.
To exemplify the impact of visual communication, the Garvan BioVis Centre collaborate with renowned biomedical animator Drew Berry. We have produced a series of scientific animations, designed to inspire and educate2, that have been seen by over half a million people.
Our animations focus on health issues -- e.g., Alzheimer's, cancer, infection, and irritable bowel syndrome -- as well as broader scientific topics, such as DNA methylation, plant rust, and the gut microbiome.
Our animations aim at clear communication to general audiences, as well as credibility with specialist researchers3. This requires accuracy in physical scales and structures shown4; it also requires artistic license in filling in gaps in scientific knowledge, in showing motion, and in choosing time scales and colouring that help convey key messages.
Such animations require considerable effort to ensure scientific accuracy: each minute in the final animation can take one month of work. Fortunately, this situation is improving thanks to specialist tools5,6 -- including tools from Garvan's BioVis Centre7-9.
Other visual assets
We also produce other visual assets designed to communicate scientific topics. These include web-based, interactive graphics, covering topics such as the benefits of resistant starch, cellular responses to insulin, and the events regulating cell division. We also produce static graphics, for example, to accompany our animations on Alzheimer's, the gut microbiome, and plant rust.
To draw attention to visual assets created by our team -- as well as by other, world-renowned science communicators -- we organise outreach events designed to inspire and educate the public about cutting-edge biomedical research. These events include light installations on specific frontier research topics, as well as public lectures on the art of communicating science visually.
Alzheimer's Enigma | Beautiful and Dangerous | Cancer Is Not One Disease | IBS symptoms, the low FODMAP diet and the Monash app that can help | Rust: The Fungi that Attacks Plants | Tagging DNA: Mislabelling the Cancer Genome | The Hungry Microbiome.
O'Donoghue (2014), Animating life: bringing science to the YouTube generation, The Conversation. ↩︎
Johnson & Hertig (2014), A guide to the visual analysis and communication of biomolecular structural data, Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 15. ↩︎
Iwasa (2015), Bringing macromolecular machinery to life using 3D animation, Current Opinion in Structural Biology 31. ↩︎
Le Muzic et al. (2015), cellVIEW: a Tool for Illustrative and Multi-Scale Rendering of Large Biomolecular Datasets, Eurographics Workshop on Visual Computing for Biomedicine. ↩︎
O'Donoghue et al. (2015), Aquaria: simplifying discovery and insight from protein structures, Nature Methods 12. ↩︎
Stolte et al. (2015), Integrated visual analysis of protein structures, sequences, and feature data, BMC Bioinformatics 16. ↩︎
Vuong et al. (2016), Developing a visual analytics tool for large-scale proteomics time-series data, IEEE Symposium on Big Data Visual Analytics. ↩︎