Plot of the month club: How to create beautiful plots step by step
The Plot of the Month Club is a seminar series in which the design, coding, and interpretation of publication-ready plots are presented and discussed.
As PhD students, we are required to produce many plots for exploring and visualizing our data, hypothesis testing, presentations and publications. We are often confronted with the importance of clean, readable plots, however, we have little opportunity during our studies to acquire all the skills necessary to create said plots since most courses aim at beginners and only deal with simplified textbook problems. Looking around us, we know that the knowledge of special software, coding strategies, and research experience is held by our colleagues. We want to consolidate our experiences and knowledge and learn from each other in a supportive atmosphere.
In each month, a junior researcher is guiding through the creation of publishable plots step-by-step, with hands-on examples and background information on the underlying analysis and interpretation of the results. They present in detail the choice of the particular plot, the advantages and disadvantages of the visualization, and the interpretation. Moreover, the participants will go over the script to recreate the plot step by step, to ensure reproducibility. The hands-on part will start from the very beginning of the data structure and loading, up until all customisable details of the final plot. We focus mostly on plots created with R/ggplot. Basic knowledge of R is required. More advanced packages are introduced in the individual sessions if needed.
The goal of this seminar is to ensure early career researchers have the tools necessary to create plots that are both beautiful and readable, and the knowledge on how to interpret them. It will also introduce us to new exciting plots and give us new ways to visualize our data we did not consider before. We also hope this seminar starts a conversation on best practices of scientific communication, data presentation, and reproducibility.
Each session is followed by an open co-working session to work on individual problems which are tackled by teams of attendees with different skill levels in a pair programming setup. All participants are invited to bring their own coding problems to the course and we will try to solve them in a collaborative way in small groups. These programming tandems offer the opportunity to directly learn from more experienced colleagues by discussing and cooperatively solving the same problems.
Funding by the UZH Graduate Campus is gratefully acknowledged.