Akin to slot machines in a broken-down casino, data dashboards project a jumbled mix of jarring graphics designed to coerce users into clicking sporadically in the increasingly despondent hope of stumbling upon any information of value. Data dashboards need to be rethought as storyboards – a vehicle for the structured presentation of a data narrative that enlightens people with the knowledge they would otherwise not discover.
All meaningful exchange of human knowledge comes in the form of a structured narrative. The presenter has a goal, which is to share relevant information with their audience in a way that makes it easy for the audience to follow and remain engaged. Wandering aimlessly between disjointed anecdotes or failing to distinguish already-known background information from novel ideas of interest does not constitute a successful presentation. Similarly, the presenter typically does not wait passively for the audience to randomly ask questions in the hopes of guiding them to the information the audience needs but does not know exists. However, data dashboards combine both of these malformed characteristics of an unsuccessful presentation of data.
Data dashboards came about in the 1990s when businesses began digitizing internal data and needed a way to display it to people other than database administrators. Their overall design has barely changed since that time, which is essentially to put graphs on top of all of the data in a database. The problem is that data dashboards immediately became the problem they were originally designed to fix – an overwhelming flood of unstructured data that masks the usable insights buried within.
The very fact that dashboards refer to data instead of knowledge illustrates their inherent unsuitability for experienced subject matter experts. Dashboards look good to the novice or uninitiated, but are lacking when it comes to leapfrogging an expert to new heights of discovery. Dashboards do not enlighten – they require a hunt-and-peck mentality to wade through and collate meaningful information from an overwhelming panoply of poorly thought out bar charts and pie charts.
Data dashboards need to be rethought as storyboards for the structured presentation of a data narrative that enlightens people with knowledge they would not otherwise discover. Knowledge should be extracted, tailored to the audience, and proactively pushed. Trends of interest should be gleaned from large amounts of data rather than allowed to lie virtually undiscoverable behind an overburdened display of interactive bar charts.
Data narratives begin with domain expertise. The background knowledge required to know what’s important and to guide a computer down the tracks of automated discovery cannot be replicated with generic one-size-fits-all data dashboards, no matter how configurable they are.
Lexical Intelligence is focused on providing state-of-the-art computational services for large-scale biomedical data linking and knowledge extraction. We have developed highly scalable and accurate natural language processing techniques to extract and resolve references to research objects such as genes, proteins, diseases, and patient groups across a variety of sources including publications, grants, patents, social media, and clinical trials. In addition, we have constructed machine learning models capable of inferring highly accurate links between research objects.
These capabilities allow us to discover and present uniquely high value knowledge proactively obtained from vast amounts of data.
Our capabilities (link to capabilities statement) have been rigorously tested by some of the most demanding clients in the federal government and private sector. Insights extracted by Lexical Intelligence inform biomedical decision-making at the forefront of the medical research industry. The tools and capabilities provided by Lexical Intelligence inform cutting edge research and enable additional advances by others in fields as diverse as grants management and forecasting scientific trends.
If you’re thinking in terms of data rather than knowledge, you’re behind the curve. Successful individuals and organizations have realized that knowledge, not data, is what provides the necessary competitive edge. Dashboards are an outmoded form of data overload that seduce the novice but provide little or no value to subject matter experts. A well-structured data narrative that proactively highlights hard-to-find knowledge is key.