Veronika Halamková, Data Vis Writer at Datawrapper, talks to WikiRate about her views on and relationship with data.
1. How many years have you been working with data?
I think I’ve been heading towards a data-driven career since 2018. At the time, I was a journalist working on a story about the barriers Sri Lankan women faced in the workplace and wished for the skills to make official statistics pop. That’s how I found my way toward data journalism, data-driven research, and eventually also data vis.
2. What kind of data do you work with?
These days, all kinds of data, although not as directly as I used to. I spend my days looking at charts and maps, writing about them, making them, and helping others improve theirs. The themes and types of data are virtually limitless.
In my previous role, working on sustainability indices as a researcher, I used to be more hands-on. My journey with data started in annual reports and finished on the index ranking table. I worked with publicly available data taken from reports or third-party sources.
3. Where do you get your data, any recommendations?
For my latest project, I got my data from WikiRate! And there are many other organizations making fascinating datasets available, such as WRI’s Resource Watch, ONE, or The Humanitarian Data Exchange.
4. If you could wave a magic wand, what data would you wish for?
The missing data, of course! Personally, I’d be curious to know the extent to which corporate transparency correlates with performance. In the big picture, I’d wish for more and better development data because that’s the data lives depend on. It’s wild to think there are still many parts of the world without accurate maps or reliable population statistics.
5. What’s your top tip when working with data and it gets frustrating?
In my experience, most frustrations lead to better solutions. When your data is stubborn or doesn’t show what you expect, it’s often a cue to take a step back. What does it really say? Am I asking the right question? Maybe the data is missing or inconsistent — why and what does it mean?
Data journalists like to say that sometimes there’s a story in the data, and sometimes the data (especially when missing) is the story! My top tip: Listen to your data and be prepared to change your perspective.
6. Do you have a data project or resource you’d like to share with the world?
Yes! For those interested in how to visualize their data, two projects I work on: the Data Vis Dispatch, a weekly collection of data vis inspiration from around the world, and our Weekly Chart which is a unique, data-driven short read written by one of my colleagues every week. (In my own Weekly Chart, I used WikiRate’s data from the Fashion Transparency Index to learn more about my clothes — a fun exercise I’d recommend anyone to try!)
And for an audience interested in transparency and corporate responsibility, the incredible work done by my old teammates at Tortoise Media: the recently updated Responsibility100 Index and The Better Food Index.
7. Lastly, what’s your favorite joke or quote about data?
This one is a poetry quote but applies just as well to data storytelling. It’s from Kae Tempest’s book On Connection:
“James Joyce told me once: ‘In the particular is contained the universal.’ I appreciated the advice. It taught me that the closer attention I pay to my ‘particular’, the better chance I have of reaching you in yours.”
It’s not always easy to move people with data. It’s often too abstract to inspire emotion. This quote reminds me of how important it is to narrate big-picture data with individual stories and specific examples, whether it’s by telling personal anecdotes or filling a simple chart with fun facts and annotations. Migration stories like “Displaced in South Sudan” or “Displaced on the frontlines of the climate emergency” are some of the most moving examples.