Antibiotic dispensing across Australia in 2017 – a datapoem by Dr Michael Leach

Michael says “My datapoem ‘Antibiotic Dispensing across Australia in 2017’ was inspired by my research into techniques for visualising antibiotic dispensing over time. I sourced nationwide data on antibiotic (Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical 5 code J01) dispensing from Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule Item Reports that are publicly available online. I used the antibiotic dispensing data to produce run charts in Microsoft Excel and Nightingale’s rose diagrams in AnyChart. I presented the results of my research, both orally and in poster form, at the Australian Science Communicators (ASC) Conference 2018 (

I am interested in concrete poetry and datapoems in particular, having previously published a poem that visually represents the paracetamol concentration-time plot in the Mathematics issue of Cordite Poetry Review (

I created ‘Antibiotic Dispensing Across Australia in 2017’ by placing poetry in text boxes over the blue line in the run chart showing overall antibiotic dispensing. The plot’s minimum, rise, maximum, and steady decline are communicated both visually and in words. I made a conscious decision to use rhyme (‘Summer low’ with ‘afterglow’ and ‘Spring’ with ‘brings’), as this poetic device can make poems more memorable. By referring to the seasons throughout the data poem, I addressed a theme that is common to traditional poetry, antibiotic utilisation, and time series analysis. I enjoy combining science with art and highlighting the commonalities between the two.”

Thanks Michael! You can find him on Twitter @m_jleach

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