Enhancing the accessibility of climate change data visuals

Recommendations to the IPCC and guidance for researchers

Data visuals support communication of climate change. Yet they can be difficult for diverse stakeholders in society to understand. This new report, developed in collaboration between the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and the Schools of Psychology and Environmental Sciences UEA, provides guidance for researchers on how the accessibilty of data visuals can be enhanced while also maintaining scientific rigour.

Using the four pillars of the MADE principle – Message, Audience, Design, Evaluation – the report demonstrates how effective data visuals can be constructed.

  • Message: Does the visual communicate a clear message?
  • Audience: Is the visual appropriate for the intended audience(s)?
  • Design: Does the visual use evidence-based design principles?
  • Evaluation: Has the visual been tested with the audience(s)?

Twelve guidelines are provided for putting MADE into practice that draw on cognitive and psychological science evidence on how people comprehend visual information, how they understand text in relation to visuals, and how good design can make information easier to understand.

Communications, including data visuals, are integral to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chance (IPCC) and there is a clear desire within the IPCC to ensure information is communicated effectively, as noted by Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC, “…the 8 reports that will be released over the next 5 years will be clear, accessible and user-friendly, … so that non-specialists can understand climate change and its implications.”

It is hoped that the data visual recommendations and guidance will support the IPCC and IPCC report authors towards this goal, as well as providing a useful resource for climate change researchers in general.

Report authors: Jordan Harold, Irene Lorenzoni, Kenny R. Coventry, Asher Minns

The authors are grateful to the Norwegian Environment Agency (Miljødirektoratet) and the High-End Climate Impacts and Extremes (HELIX Climate) project for funding to support this initiative.

Project website

Guidance for researchers – online quick reference guide to the MADE principle and the 12 accompanying guidelines


Data Visuals Guidance – Executive Summary

Data Visuals Guidance – Full Report

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