Using Visualization Rhetoric Ethically

The role of the policy analyst as a public servant is to present senior leaders with information and data analysis on pubic policy issues. By presenting facts and clearly articulating options, decision makers can make the most informed conclusion on the direction of the policy problem. As policy analysts hold power over how and what data is presented, they need to be mindful of ethics and present the data in an honest and authentic way.

In some cases, visual rhetoric may be used for persuasive presentation. Infographics and other data visualization tools can be employed for a number of ways to communicate to decision makers.

When presenting data in a visual rhetoric, analysts must be careful as the data could be altered, intentionally (manipulated) or unintentionally, in order to fit the format. When trying to create infographics and using other data visualization tools, there are instances where data must be cleaned and ultimately removed. In doing so, there is an opportunity to provide an inaccurate interpretation. If a policy analyst is presenting a data visualization to a decision maker, they must clearly articulate the data set used and any limitations the data may contain. If not, the data can be manipulated to favor a particular course of action.

This does not mean that policy analysts must avoid data visualization techniques and stick to the neutral presentation of facts but rather they must find a balance to ensure they are presenting decision makers with all the information available. This includes using proper descriptive words to communicate uncertainty and thoroughly explaining any limitations in the narrative.

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