The Brock University Library provides students with a fun and engaging opportunity to practice their skills in data analysis and visualization.
Organized by the library’s Digital Scholarship Lab, the annual competition Data visualization contest open to Brock undergraduate and graduate students earlier this week. Students have one month to create their entry using one of the provided datasets, which includes Niagara Census data, Adidas sales figures, Titanic passenger details and emails from employees of Enron.
Entries will be reviewed by a jury on Thursday, December 1 and evaluated on comprehension, insight and aesthetics. The winner will receive a $25 gift card.
Daniel Brett of DSL Technical Support says data visualization is a great skill for students to hone because it provides quick and easy insight into complex data.
“They say a picture is worth a thousand words, the idea being that it’s much easier and more accurate to see something yourself than to have it explained to you,” he says. “Visualizations are like that, but even better. A single visualization can be worth thousands or even millions of words because it can represent extremely complex data in an easily digestible way that can be understood much faster than if you looked at the data yourself.
According to Brett, visualizations can also be shared faster and more easily than a large or sensitive dataset, allowing data insights to be disseminated quickly and widely.
A variety of tools are available for students to create visualizations for the contest. Students can use Excel to create a pivot table, PowerBI to create a single-page report with aesthetic elements, or ArcGIS to create an informative map. Programming languages, such as Python or R, could also be used. Many computer labs available on campus are equipped with these tools.
“There are many tools that can interact with the datasets provided for the contest, and it is up to the student to choose which tool they will use to create the visualization,” Brett explains. “We encourage them to think outside the box. For example, GIS data does not necessarily require GIS software.
Students looking for advice on entering the contest are encouraged to drop by the Digital Collaboratory at Rankin Family Pavilion 216 on Thursdays between 1 and 2 p.m., when Brett offers weekly data visualization help.
For anyone interested in learning more about data visualization, DSL offers online workshops on Tableau, an analytics platform for data management, analysis, and visualization. Introduction to Tableau Part 1 is scheduled for Wednesday, November 23 and Introduction to Tableau Part 2 is scheduled for Wednesday, November 30. A full list of DSL events is available at ExperienceBU.
To learn more about DSL and the digital scholarship services available through the Brock University Library, visit the DSL website and sign up for a next one online seminar on Thursday, November 10 as part of the Building Better Research series.