3 August 2016

Research Data Things 17/23 - Data literacy and outreach

Comparing data literacy definitions for various groups.

Group Definition
LibraryInformation literacy and data management, where information literacy focuses on statistics, and data management on organizational skills needed to create, process, and preserve original data sets. -- Databrarians
Entrepreneurs The ability to find insights within data, and then take action based on those findings. -- Forbes
Political Science Ability to use data analysis to answer questions in modern political debates such as sources of voting behavior, the correlates of war, the determinants of development, political economy, psychology, institutions, and conflict -- Data Literacy and Data Visualization course by The Ohio State University
Writing and Journalism"data-literacy is the ability to consume for knowledge, produce coherently and think critically about data. Data literacy includes statistical literacy but also understanding how to work with large data sets, how they were produced, how to connect various data sets and how to interpret them." -- Data Journalism Handbook
Teachers and Students "Being able to read a chart or graph and being able to critique it....  A component of data literacy is to be able to develop an argument with it" -- Sarah Williams, MIT 
Citizens How to interact with big data and understand the possibilities it holds. Analyze data. With a focus on participatory government as a right. -- Camilla Monckton, Voices from Eurasia blog. 

Thing 17 asks us how we can build universal data literacy if we have such diverse needs. These of course are cherry picked definitions and not all librarians would agree with the statement that the focus is a narrower position of statistical literacy (indeed any of those groups may debate the specifics). But let's continue anyway.

While there is diversity in how data literacy is applied by different groups, the core need is similar.
  • Obtain and analyse data to answer questions for problem solving and decision-making. 
The challenge is to define a core set of skills (and technologies) and then build on that to meet needs by various groups and develop expertise in specialist areas and with specialist technologies.

Both the library and the journalism definitions add something more than the other definitions. The library works towards preservation and management of data sets for future, unknown applications of  the data. The journalism definition refers to connecting various data sets - it shows the value of the work libraries undertake in managing data sets for future unknown uses.