Data driven research: Exploring the barriers to skills acquisition


Do you use data for research investigations, advocacy work or journalism? We want to help you by identifying barriers to working with data and ways to fill skills gaps.

Since the rise of open and big data, a surge of different methods and processes for data gathering, analysis, visualisation and storytelling have emerged and been adopted by many in a relatively short span of time. We have seen an increased use of Freedom of Information requests, expansion of software and tools available for data analysis and visualisation, and the growth of publicly accessible databases online. These changes in data cultures and digital technologies have led journalists and third sector workers who do investigative research to seek new data skills. But barriers to skill acquisition remain, from finding the time to learn new visualisation software, to gaining the confidence to learn a new programming language.         

As Bournemouth University’s Datalabs and the Centre for Investigative Journalism, we have a successful history of supporting people in data-based research for a range of purposes including journalism, advocacy, academic papers and community activism. However, support for these skills can be difficult to accurately tailor to different audiences. With this in mind, we have designed a research project to better understand and identify the current barriers and challenges facing the uptake of data skills for community journalists and third sector organisations that conduct investigative research.

By taking just ten minutes to complete this survey, you can help us broaden the scope of the open data movement and make sure that we cater to the different data needs of researchers from a wide range of sectors and backgrounds. Also, you will have a chance to inform and shape training provision, helping us to remove barriers to data skills and push data training forwards making it more flexible, more accessible and ultimately more impactful.

This research recognises previously documented barriers, such as lack of time and funding, but seeks to analyse these barriers more closely and expand them in order to identify possible solutions that can help the acquisition of data skills by wider audiences. Without effective ways to navigate these barriers, there is a risk that engagement with open data and realisation of its potential benefits will remain in the hands of a select few.

The incorporation of our research findings will be an important step towards building more flexible training, teaching and support programs that can be adapted to the needs of a range of different roles and organisations. In doing so, we hope to enable more people from more diverse backgrounds to move their research forward by engaging more effectively with data tools and the open data movement. Such progress will be necessary if open data transparency is ever to be translated into governmental accountability.

Take the survey here.

Image: CollegeDegrees360.