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August 11, 2019

#MakeoverMonday: The Social Investment of Clinical Trials

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This week's viz is from Aero Data Lab analyzes clinical trial registration records from 10 large pharmaceutical companies. Here's how to read it:

  1. The trial start date on the x-axis.
  2. The disease/condition of interest on the y-axis.
  3. Each bubble in the figure corresponds to a trial. 
  4. The bubble color corresponds to the company
  5. The bubble size corresponds to the number of human subjects enrolled. 
  6. The bubble shape indicates the trial’s current status.

So basically you need to be able to understand quadruple encoding of the bubbles, which is quite difficult. It's very hard to visualize data that is this dense; kudos to the author for giving it a go.


  • The article reference provides a good overall analysis of the data.
  • Including the trial start dates on the x-axis helps understand when the trial took place.

  • Too many colors
  • The x-axis labels are slanted.
  • It's way too long (but I understand why it was designed that way).
  • There aren't any legends.
  • There are too many shapes.
  • The bubbles are trying to do too many things at once.
  • Comparisons are very difficult.

I had thought about examining the costs, but there isn't an information about the costs, even though the article references it. Instead, I decided to focus on the scale of the enrollees; that is, the number of people participating in each trial.

  • I used BANs for the enrollees per pharmaceutical company. I then used this as a set action to highlight that company in the line chart.
  • I looked at the enrollees per status, but I don't think that makes sense since it's the latest status. 
  • The same applies to the phase; it also only shows the latest phase.
  • I looked at how many enrollees there have been since the start the first trial for each company.
  • I included the enrollees per condition and used a set action for proportional brushing for the company selected.

I'm about to head on holiday for eight days, so I had to get this one out the door.

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