Big Turnout for Affinity Group Workshop on Big Data

A rapt audience listens to a panel discussion. | Eddie Fuller

The AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships(STPF) Big Data Affinity Group (BDAG) hosted a public workshop on July 14 on how to use data to tell stories, extract insights and effectively communicate with an audience.

BDAG, comprised of fellows with a variety of backgrounds and who share an interest in data science, brought speakers from The Washington Post, Science Magazine, the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory and other organizations to showcase the importance of data storytelling. Joanna Chan (2014-16 Executive Branch Fellow at the State Department and National Science Foundation, NSF) and Mark Schroeder (2016-18 Executive Branch Fellow at NSF and the Department of Agriculture) welcomed the audience and introduced the speakers for the “Why Data Storytelling?” session.

Elizabeth Zeitler (2015-17 Executive Branch Fellow at Millennium Challenge Corporation) moderated presentations on “The Story of Data Storytelling.” John Muyskens, graphics editor at The Washington Post, stressed the importance of considering one’s audience when choosing a method to present data, and how best to display the same data across platforms. He also mentioned some of the software he uses and recommends for budding data scientists.

Michael Pack of the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory demonstrated how real time transportation system data allows the university to better recommend policy. The data displays where congestion is highest, how dangerous certain intersections are, and how much the economy is impacted by one section of highway being backed up every weeknight from 5-7 p.m.

Rounding out the discussion was Aaron Milner, who recently started utilizing quantitative data at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). A CSIS team created a visualization to show how certain countries develop over a period of time in relation to rule of law, gross national income per capita and regulatory quality. The data, surprising in many cases, is displayed skillfully, making it easy to see the divergent paths of development in countries like Georgia and Haiti. (View it here.)

From Left: STPF fellow Elizabeth Zeitler and panelists Aaron Milner, Jon Musykens and Michael Pack. | Eddie Fuller

Another session featured datascience.com’s David Goodsmith who discussed how to work with national media to deliver stories to a broader audience. 2015-17 Executive Branch Fellows at NSF Barbara Natalizio and Chinonye Nnakwe spoke about Design Thinking. The BDAG event also featured hands-on workshops with Tableau and D3 to help attendees get started on producing data-driven stories.

Jon Schwabish of the Urban Institute closed the event with “Once Upon a Time from Data to Stories.” He highlighted ways for people to improve the way they prepare, design and deliver data-rich content. Learn more about STPF affinity groups here.