Journal Article

Visual brokerage: Communicating data and research through visualisation

Published 5 February 2018 / By William Allen

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Researchers increasingly use visualisation to make sense of their data and communicate findings more widely. But these are not necessarily straightforward processes. Theories of knowledge brokerage show how sociopolitical contexts and intermediary organisations that translate research for public audiences shape how users engage with evidence. Applying these ideas to data visualisation, I argue that several kinds of brokers (such as data collectors, designers and intermediaries) link researchers and audiences, contributing to the ways that people engage with visualisations. To do this, I draw on qualitative focus groups that elicited non-academic viewers’ reactions to visualisations of data about UK migration. The results reveal two important features of engagement: perceptions of brokers’ credibility and feelings of surprise arising from visualisations’ content and design. I conclude by arguing that researchers, knowledge brokers and the public produce – as well as operate within – a complex visualisation space characterised by mutual, bi-directional connections.

Read the associated blog post hereThis blog post originally appeared on the SAGE Public Understanding of Science blog, and is re-posted to the COMPAS blog with permission.


Allen, W. L., (2018) Visual brokerage: Communicating data and research through visualisation, Public Understanding of Science, Sage Journals (published online);

First Published 5 February 2018