Utah Data Dive

Are you an undergrad in a behavior science program? Is graduate school in your future? Do you want to be able to set yourself apart from other applicants? Do you want to be a freaking genius?

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If you answered yes to any of these questions you might want to consider participating in the Utah Data Dive Spring 2015 (http://utahdatadive.org/).

You might be asking yourself “What is a data dive?”

What is a Data Dive?

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Sadly, it has nothing to do with Star Trek or scuba diving. Rather, a data dive is a type of service project that helps local non-profit organizations understand and use their data. Data can be very helpful in making important decisions, but most people at these organizations don’t know how to work with data. The data that organizations have is so large that it requires special skills to work with, or the data might be in a strange format that isn’t conducive to the standard row and column spread sheet.

Many non-profits find that they fall in the latter of the two categories of this predicament. The data dive provides a solution to these problems. We simply put a whole bunch of nerds in a room with computers and food for 48 hours and they analyze, interpreter, and visualize the data. Now I know what you’re thinking “I don’t have any special skills to work with big data, and I hated my statistics course”. You still have a few different options on how to help out.

How You Can Help!

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First, we need facilitators. Computer nerds are not very good at collaborating, which can cause problems in a data dive. With limited time donated by volunteers, we need to make sure that we are being productive. That is where the facilitators come in. Facilitators make sure that each team makes status reports regularly to stop work from being duplicated.

Second, because the data dive is still a few months away, you can try to pick up a skill such as analysis, interpretation, or visualization.

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Learn the programming language R http://www.r-project.org/ with free software downloads and wonderful learning tools online (also free), and you could be up and running in a very short time. Another option is visualization, most of the volunteers from the community will already have the skills to analyze and interpret the data, but to drive the message home we need to show the data. You can learn to use the program Tableau to help with the visualization process http://www.tableausoftware.com/public/community. This is also a free program with a very active community to help you learn to use this tool.

So how does this help you with getting into graduate school? Aside from being able to list your participation on your resume or CV, participation in the data dive also shows that you have leadership skills, statistical skills, and that you care about the good of the community and university. Because most people in the behavior science fields hate doing statistics, if you can show you used special skills in that area to produce something useful it just might boost your chances of landing a spot in a program you want to attend.

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If graduate school isn’t in your future the data dive can still be helpful. Did you know that the median income for an analyst who is fluent in R is $70,000? Add freaking awesome Tableau skills to that and you have a pretty good career. All you need is any degree and the ability to manipulate data and the Utah data dive can be your first step toward fluency in R and becoming a Tableau Jedi.

So just remember if you want to be a freaking genius, strut your stuff at the Utah data dive spring 2015: http://utahdatadive.org/.