Understanding Bubble Charts

Fast Facts:

Comments in Fast Facts section relate to the % Rejected – Initial Decisions chart above.

Bubble size indicates the volume of the item. For example, in the chart above, the large bubble sizes are linked to the number of reject decisions. 

Bubble color is linked to the scale.  In this example, the bubble color is related to the rejection rate

Bubble charts can give more visual interest when included in reports.

Bubble charts are good to show live in presentations if they include a hover-over feature that can give additional details.

Understanding Bubble Charts


April 7, 2021

By: Sherrie Hill & Jason Roberts

Bubble charts are a great way to show multiple aspects of your data in a visually interesting way. Once your audience becomes accustomed to bubble charts, they will quickly take in the various aspects of the chart to gain a deep understanding of the data.

Today we are going to look at a percent rejected bubble chart for all initial decisions for a fictitious journal in a given time frame. We will discuss the importance of the size of the bubbles, as well as the color.

Bubble size

Firstly, you will notice that the size of the bubble is related to the number of initial decisions rendered on the manuscripts; the data are pulled from the country of the submitting author in a given time period. For instance, in the figure above, 36 initial decisions were rendered in 2020 on manuscripts originating from China. 24 (67% of the 36 initial decisions) of these were rejected. Larger bubbles indicate countries that received more initial decisions. Bubble size acts as a visual shortcut so that your readers can easily see which countries received the greatest number of initial decisions during the time frame.

Bubble color

The color of the bubble is related to the rejection rate. Since this chart is showing data for initial decisions, the deeper red bubbles indicate that submissions from that country had higher rejection rates at initial decision for that time frame. Conversely, darker green shading for a given country’s bubble indicates a lower rejection rate. The color scale below the bubble chart allows your readers to quickly interpret how well manuscripts from that country performed at initial decision.

How to interpret this chart

China, Turkey, the United States, Japan, and India received the greatest number of initial decisions in 2020. China, Turkey, Iran, and Brazil received greater than 50% reject decisions, hence the red shading. Spain’s manuscripts had the highest rejection rate, though not many manuscripts were submitted from that country. The United States had a rejection rate of 35%.

Other comments about this chart:

This bubble chart also includes a complementary data table that shows the total initial decisions by country. In the downloaded version of this chart, the table shows the top ten countries that received the most initial decisions in the given time period. The table is limited to ten rows to ensure that your audience can easily read the information shown on the chart, whether it is used in a presentation or included in an editorial report. When the chart is viewed in Origin Reports, the table’s scroll bar allows the user/audience to view the data for all countries. As you will notice in the related image, the table row is also highlighted when the user hovers over the table (as shown for Jordan).


Origin Reports allows the user to add labels to the bubbles, which includes the country abbreviations. The user can decide whether to show only the total number of rejected initial decisions, only the rejection rate for manuscripts from that country (shown as a percentage), or both values (as seen in the image at the beginning of this article).


You will notice that for readability reasons, only the largest bubbles are labeled in the chart.  If you are viewing the chart in Origin Reports, you can hover over the bubbles to see the data related to that bubble, as shown in the image below.


In Origin Reports, the time frame for the bubble chart can be easily changed. The most recent single year of data is the default setting for this chart. In this example it would be 2020. However, if you want to see how manuscripts from each country performed over several years, you can change the Date Range for the chart to extend the time frame.


Though Origin Reports typically allows the user to customize the colors for the charts, users cannot change the color of bubble charts that include a color scale, because the color of the bubbles are directly linked to the chart data.


Charts created in Origin Reports also have a Parameters area located just below the chart image. This section is critical because it informs the reader (and reminds the chart creator) of exactly which parameters are included in the chart, such as countries, manuscript types, decision types, timelines, and revisions. In this example chart, only data from 2020 is shown. No filters were applied. All manuscript types and all decision types were included. Additionally, only initial decisions were shown. (Note the Manuscript Version in the chart below displays as R0, with R0 being shorthand for initial submission.)


Please note that since this is considered a decision type chart in Origin Reports, there is no information about the number of submissions from that country during that time frame. Manuscripts are only counted in this chart if they received an initial decision during the specified time frame. It should be noted that the rejection counts are based off the date that the initial decisions were rendered, regardless of what year the manuscripts might have been submitted to the journal. Since this is a percent rejected chart, all manuscripts that received a reject decision for their initial decision are included. This might include the following decision types: immediate reject; reject; reject on language grounds; reject and offer to transfer, as well as other reject decisions that your journal may have setup.

Why should I use this chart?

Bubble charts are an excellent way to show your data in a visually interesting manner that can be quickly interpreted by your intended audience. The next time you are presenting the rejection rates at initial decision for your journal, this chart could enable you to visually highlight which countries contribute most to your rejection rate. You can, of course, present these data in descending order in a table (which can also be produced in Origin Reports); however, a table does not show the relationship between the countries, the number of decisions, and the rejection rate as well as the bubble chart. Be sure to visit OriginReports.org to create this and many other useful editorial office charts.



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