Edward Tufte, a pioneer of effective data visualization (and a personal hero) has just been appointed by the White House to the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel. This panel advises The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, whose job is to track and explain $787 billion in recovery stimulus funds. Tufte explains:
I’m doing this because I like accountability and transparency, and I believe in public service. And it is the complete opposite of everything else I do. Maybe I’ll learn something. The practical consequence is that I will probably go to Washington several days each month, in addition to whatever homework and phone meetings are necessary.
This is a great move — while the effects of the stimulus can be debated (and have been ad nauseam), there’s no question that the Administration has had trouble explaining the facts amidst all the noise. It’s possible that Tufte’s had some behind-the-scenes influence already: as Fast Company points out this recent chart has been more successful than many recent attempts to explain the benefits of the stimulus.
Sure, using changes in unemployment instead of absolute numbers certainly belies an agenda, but at least it is clear, meaningful, and based on facts.