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At the end of the rainbow -- Scientific Colour Maps for science and society
  • Grace Shephard,
  • Fabio Crameri,
  • Philip Heron
Grace Shephard
University of Oslo, Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics (CEED)

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Fabio Crameri
University of Oslo
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Philip Heron
Department of Earth Sciences, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom
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The visual representation of data is at the heart of science. From weather forecasts, to hazard maps, to the topography of planets, the choice of colors is critical to conveying information. Yet, largely due to historical usage, default software options, and an apparent attraction to multiple bright colors, color maps such as rainbow-like “jet” are still widely used. These color maps are problematic from both a scientific and societal perspective. For instance, they can distort data because they use uneven color gradients, which lose meaning when printed in black and white, and color combinations are often applied that are unintuitive to the data they are trying to represent. From an inclusivity standpoint, such rainbow maps are also unreadable for the population with some form of color-vision deficiency. Here, we present the work that has been accomplished by the scientific (inc. visualization) community, as well as the readily available solution - “Scientific Colour Maps” (Crameri 2018, Zenodo; Crameri et al. (2020; Nature Coms); www.fabiocrameri.ch/colourmaps). This initiative features freely available, citable color map downloads for an extensive suite of software programs, and handy how-to guide, and discussion around data types and coloring options. There is a pot of scientific gold at the end of every rainbow. Crameri, F. (2018). Scientific colour-maps. Zenodo. http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1243862 Crameri, F., Shephard, G.E. Heron, P.J. The misuse of colour in science. (2020 v11; Nature Communications) https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19160-7