Contest invites students to test data visualization skills

The Brock University Library is offering students a fun and engaging opportunity to practise their skills in data analysis and visualization.

Organized by the Library’s Digital Scholarship Lab, the annual Data Visualization Contest opened 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 passengers’ details and Enron employee emails.  

Entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges on Thursday, Dec. 1 and evaluated for their comprehension, insight and aesthetics. The winner will be awarded a $25 gift card.

Daniel Brett, DSL Technical Support, says data visualization is a great skill for students to hone, as it offers quick and easy insight of complex data. 

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words, the idea being that it is much easier and more accurate to see something yourself than to have it explained to you,” he says. “Visualizations are like this, but even better. A single visualization can be worth thousands or even millions of words because it can portray immensely complex data in an easily digestible way that can be understood much quicker than if you pored over the data yourself.” 

Visualizations can also be shared more quickly and easily than a large or sensitive dataset, Brett says, allowing for insights from data to be disseminated rapidly and broadly. 

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 across campus are equipped with these tools.

“Many tools can interact with the datasets provided for the contest, and it is up to the student to choose the tool they will use to create the visualization,” says Brett. “We encourage them to think outside the box. For example, GIS data doesn’t necessarily need GIS software.”

Students seeking guidance on their contest entry are invited to drop in to the Digital Collaboratory in 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, the DSL is offering online workshops about Tableau, an analytics platform for managing, analyzing and visualizing data. Introduction to Tableau Part 1 is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 23 and Introduction to Tableau Part 2 is planned for Wednesday, Nov. 30. A full listing of DSL events is available on ExperienceBU. 

To learn more about the DSL and the digital scholarship services available through the Brock University Library, visit the DSL website and register for an upcoming webinar on Thursday, Nov. 10 as part of the Building Better Research Series. 

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