He was a pioneer and a great inspiration for what public statistics always strives for: more visibility, more understanding and more resonance. Two years ago Hans Rosling (27 July 1948 – 7 February 2017) died too young.
Demanding and enriching was an encounter with Hans Rosling. His demand for public statistics was urgent and a prerequisite for his enlightening work: that statistical data should be open to all. Here he saw successes. It was and is enriching how he conveyed these data combined with a message. With innovative, precise, entertaining and always very personal presentations, he clarified what had happened and what developments could be desired. He was a realist regarding his effectiveness and yet always an optimist ….. better: a “possibilist”. What remains for me is how he taught to see with numbers – a constant challenge for public statistics.
Gapminder (“a fact tank, not a think tank”), with its innovative tools and commitment, continues to live with Anna Rosling Rönnlund and Ola Rosling.
And recently Factfulness, a book by the three (Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Ola Rosling) has been published with the subtitle “Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think”
Hans Rosling, co-founder and promoter of the Gapminder Foundation and of gapminder.org fights with statistics against myths (‘Our goal is to replace devastating myths with a fact-based worldview.’) and tries to counterbalance media focussing on war, conflicts and chaos.
Here one more example (and this in a media interview…): ‘You can’t use media if you want to understand the world’ (sic!)
And this statement on gapmider.org; ‘Statistical facts don’t come to people naturally. Quite the opposite. Most people understand the world by generalizing personal experiences which are very biased. In the media the “news-worthy” events exaggerate the unusual and put the focus on swift changes. Slow and steady changes in major trends don’t get much attention. Unintentionally, people end-up carrying around a sack of outdated facts that you got in school (including knowledge that often was outdated when acquired in school).’ http://www.gapminder.org/ignorance/
‘Internationally acclaimed Swedish Professor Hans Rosling will present Don’t Panic – The Truth About Population, an ‘as-live’ studio event featuring cutting-edge infographics, as part of a short series of programmes exploring global population trends for BBC Two’s international current affairs strand This World.’
‘The Guardian Datastore and Google have teamed up to see who can help visualise the data which will show which governments are adopting the economic policies that will facilitate job growth and innovation to lead the world out of the economic slump.’
They are giving hints to datasets, called ‘the world’s key economic datasets from the UN, World Trade Organisation, IMF and some of the world’s major economic experts…’
Explaining developments in the real world using statistical information and visual presentations developed in many ways since William Playfair‘s pioneer work. One of the most impressive and most popular techniques are time animated scatter plots. And here the Roslings (Hans, his son Ola and daughter-in-law Anna) created (in their Gapminder Foundation) the Trendalyzer Software.
‘ This software unveils the beauty of statistical time series by converting boring numbers into enjoyable, animated and interactive graphics. The current version of Trendalyzer is available since March 2006 as Gapminder World, a web-service displaying time series of development statistics for all countries.’ (from: http://www.gapminder.org/about-gapminder/history/)
In March 2007 Google acquired Trendalyzer from the Gapminder Foundation. It’s now called Motion Chart and integrated into Google spreadsheet and Google public data.
This kind of visualisation is since used by others, too. Some examples:
NcomVA – a spin off of Linköping University in Sweden – introduces animated scatter plots in NcomVA’s eXplorer software, used i.e. by OECD.
BBC4 publishes Hans Rosling’s presentation of 200 countries – 200 years in a fascinating new way. ‘ …a roller coaster ride through the wonderful world of statistics to explore the remarkable power stats have to change our understanding of the world we live in.’