Friday, September 20, 2013

SciCommTips episode 2 - Turn a colorblind eye

When preparing a figure for a presentation, manuscript, or proposal something to keep in mind is your use of color. I am a big fan of the use of color and shapes to help convey levels of meaning as well as in keeping themes consistent throughout projects. However there is one component of the use of color that is often overlooked, that is how your color choices can alienate a portion of your audience - the color blind, or rather color vision deficient. About 8% of men and 0.4% of women have a genetic trait that inhibits their ability to perceive some wavelengths of light, but a quick check of your figures can help ensure that they too can interoperate your work with the same ease as a color sighted person. In this episode of SciCommTips I will demonstrate an easy ways to check your images for color vision deficiency.

Please feel free to offer your recommendations on ways to improve figures to be more color vision deficient friendly. Or any stories you may have regarding data interpretation/misinterpretation due to color vision deficiency.

To learn more about color blindness
Colblindor has many great articles:
Also this blog:

Article about how to be color blind conscious in the sciences (includes microscopy and heatmaps)
Maxine Clark blogged in Nature Nautilus:

Adobe soft proofing for color blindness

Some additional tools for checking your figures
If you don't have the Adobe CS4-6 there are alternative options to test your figures. Clobindor has a list of many options to chose from, including ImageJ:

Here you can upload an image and compare it under the various filters:

Friday, September 6, 2013

SciCommTips episode 1 - How to move a figure from MS Office to Illustrator

Many scientists love to use Microsoft Office products for their work. Excel offers quick data organization and analysis while Powerpoint provides means to create figures for papers and presentations. However, sometimes the formatting limitations of these programs makes it hard to get the data exactly the way you want to present it. My personal solution is to take the figures and images I make in MS Office and bring them into Adobe Illustrator for final edits. How to do this is one of the most common questions I get when I present my data. I also find that I'm teaching my friends and colleagues how to do this with their projects. So what better 'how to' to start the Science Communication Tips (SciCommTips) episode series.

Learning to use illustrator can be a daunting task. Research labs often use Adobe Photoshop to edit their images and figures for publication. But when they try to play in Illustrator, all of the skills that you learn in Photoshop no longer apply. Strange how two programs from the same parent company can be so different from each other. However, Adobe Illustrator is a useful program when it comes to presenting scientific data as the clean crisp continuity of vector art creates a firm polished end product. Vector graphics are useful in that they are infinitely scaleable without loss of resolution, making it easy to adjust a single figure for multiple purposes. Plus, the MS Office graphics engine produces vector art for its shapes, smart art, and charts.

In this episode I will take you through the process of creating a new figure in Excel and how we can make adjustments to then import it into Illustrator without much hassle of learning advanced Illustrator techniques. This same tutorial will apply to Powerpoint figures, although I may revisit it in a future episode.

Please feel free to comment below. If you have any questions or recommendations about this tip or if you would like to see additional tips please recommend them in the comments section or direct message me on twitter: @liveinsymbiosis 

Video is on my youtube channel:

Episode Notes:

Software used: MS Excel 2011 (Mac) and Adobe Illustrator CS6
Note: This tutorial should work on any version of Adobe CS and MS Office

Some of the Illustrator shortcut keys used (mac, sub 'Control' for PC):
Command+C = Copy
Command+V = Paste
V = Selection tool
A = Direct selection tool
Z = Magnifying glass
Command+0 = zoom to fill window
With selection tool hold 'alt/option' key click and drag to create a duplicate of an object

The dataset is from McNulty et al., 2013 PLoS Biology:;jsessionid=22636C4DDB0793F5E87F85D0D612FB8B#s4