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Data Journalism Top 10: Russia’s Mistakes, Ukrainian Refugees, Hong Kong’s COVID Crisis, Best Dataviz

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The New York Times Opinion examines the refugee crisis resulting from Russia’s war on Ukraine. Image: Screenshot.

Russia’s initial disorganization and overconfidence contributed to a flawed invasion of Ukraine at the start of its attack, according to The Financial Times, which details the early shortcomings of the military offensive and warns of more bloody assaults to come. Our weekly NodeXL curation of the most popular data journalism stories on Twitter also features a look at the unprecedented refugee crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine war, potential effects of sanctions imposed on Russia, Hong Kong’s skyrocketing COVID-19 fatalities, and the possible adoption of daylight savings year-round in the United States.

Russia’s Unexpectedly Tough War

Western military analysts say Russia’s leadership expected that they would achieve a lightning-fast victory in the war on Ukraine. However, the invasion has not gone according to plan due to disorganization, underperformance, and overconfidence. By combining mapping, open source reporting, and expert analysis, The Financial Times chronicled the shortcomings of Russia’s attack in the past month, which was compounded by the Ukrainian army’s strong resistance and access to an international supply of weapons. Also, check out the Guardian’s visual guide on the conflict’s progress.

Unprecedented Refugee Crisis

The rate at which people are fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — now at 3.6 million in just a month — is unprecedented in recent history, according to an analysis in The New York Times. The graphics team visualized the sobering magnitude of the situation by comparing the number of refugees that have left Ukraine in just 18 days to refugee numbers in other countries over the course of a year. The piece also discusses the necessity for a long-term plan for accommodating and integrating Ukrainian refugees, as refugees tend to remain displaced for years. Worth a look: a Ukraine data explorer dashboard by the United Nation’s OCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data.

Effect of Sanctions on Russia

Russia relies on imports of machinery and electrical equipment, vehicles, and chemical products, among others. More than half of the goods and services flowing into Russia come from 46 or more countries that have levied sanctions or trade restrictions as a response to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine. The Washington Post examines how effective the sanctions might be, and how it would affect its economy and the value of the Russian ruble.

Analyzing Right-Wing Telegram

German news site Süddeutsche Zeitung examined the messaging of 750 radical right-wing groups and channels on Telegram that have been concentrated on the pandemic. The team analyzed 1.2 million messages sent in those groups since January 2022 and found messages that mentioned the “plandemic” (a conspiracy theory on the pandemic) or “killer vaccines” had declined. After February 24, the focus of these groups shifted, and messages related to the war in Ukraine became dominant. Among the emerging false narratives: the war is an invention of Western elites; and Russia’s aggression is an act of liberation.

Daylight Saving Time — Forever?

Twice a year, about 70 countries around the world reset their clocks to take better advantage of natural sunlight. Reports have suggested that this results in sleep deprivation and poses health and safety risks. What if these countries ended the  practice? In the US, the Senate recently passed a bill to maintain daylight saving time year-round — which would mean later sunrises but brighter evenings in the darkest months of the year. The Washington Post looks at which states this decision would affect the most.

COVID-19 Catastrophe in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has been badly hit by the omicron wave after keeping the coronavirus at bay for two years. The situation is so dire that it has set a global record for the highest daily number of pandemic deaths. The Financial Times examined why Hong Kong’s Covid fatality rate is much higher compared to other areas and found one plausible explanation: elderly vaccination rates in Hong Kong were dismal compared to peer countries. Roughly two-thirds of people aged 80 or older in Hong Kong were still unvaccinated when the omicron wave hit, compared to only two percent in New Zealand, and six percent in Singapore. Data journalist John Burn-Murdoch summarizes the findings in this thread.

Maxi-Landlords in France

According to data from the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, one million French households are “maxi-owners” — people who own at least five properties. While this is only 3.5 percent of total households, the properties they own represents half of the housing for rent in the country. France Info reports on the issue and the harmful consequences this has on access to housing for the general population.

A Better Vaccine for Malaria

In 2020, malaria killed 627,000 people, 96 percent of whom lived in Africa. According to a report by The Economist, scientists at Oxford have developed a malaria vaccine with 77 percent effectiveness — much better than the current version, which reduces severe infections by 30 percent. The British paper looked at the projected number of deaths that could be averted and economic benefits if this new vaccine is successfully approved and administered. Data journalist Sondre Ulvund Solstad explains the piece in this thread.

Counting Food Waste in Indonesia

The United Nation Environment Programme Food Waste Index Report 2021 estimated that around 931 million tons of food waste was generated in 2019, 61 percent of which came from households, 26 percent from food service, and 13 percent from retail. Project Multatuli, a public journalism collective, examined the problem of food waste in Indonesia, and created a calculator for households to measure the amount of waste they produce in a day.

French Billing for Consulting Services

Since 2018, the French government has spent €2.4 billion (US$2.64 billion) on consulting assignments carried out by firms such as McKinsey & Company. However, the state does not maintain a centralized database to record the nature of these engagements and the payments of these services. French daily Le Monde managed to identify 1,600 of these contracts. Readers can view and explore them in Le Monde’s database.

Bonus 11th Item: Best Data Visualizations

Max Roser, founder of Our World in Data, asked the data community on Twitter to share the best data visualizations they’ve seen. Here are some highlights: NASA’s clever spiral visualization of monthly global temperature anomalies, Todd Whitehead’s physical dataviz in the style of Mona Chalabi, and work by French cartographer Jules Grandin. Also, check out the responses to a question by Data Visualization Society’s early career director Simran Parwani, on what dataviz hiring managers look out for in a portfolio.

Thanks again to Marc Smith and Harald Meier of Connected Action for gathering the links and graphing them. The Top Ten #ddj list is curated weekly.

Eunice Au is GIJN’s program manager. Previously, she was a Malaysia correspondent for Singapore’s The Straits Times, and a journalist at the New Straits Times. She has also written for The Sun, Malaysian Today, and Madam Chair.

For a look at NodeXL’s mapping on #ddj and data journalism on Twitter, check out this map.

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