64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

Building Bridges: data fellowships + data skills = international data literacy


Jackie Carter


  • NS
    Prof. Natalie Shlomo
  • JC
    Prof. Jackie Carter
  • VH
    Dr Vanessa Higgins
  • RA
    Dr Rafael Alberto Méndez-Romero
  • Category: International Association for Statistical Education (IASE)


    This session will explore innovative approaches to show how we can inspire and support undergraduate students from different subject backgrounds who have the capability to enter statistical professions and data careers. We present two innovative data literacy initiatives in the UK and introduce a project that is working across Latin America to extend the reach of the ‘lessons learned’ on developing data literacy through these two activities. We focus on building bridges between disciplines, STEM and Social Sciences, to develop data literacy skills training, and experiential learning, that can lead to careers in data professions. Whilst the focus of the paper is on education and training, the context of the findings is grounded in data careers and describes how universities can and are developing courses and skills, in different subject areas, to develop a talent pipeline for these careers.

    In UK higher education an ambitious £19.5m initiative – called Q-Step – designed to create a step-change in developing quantitative research skills in the social sciences ran from 2013-2021. The Data Fellows programme developed by one UK university (University of Manchester) that participated in the Q-Step programme has enabled 330 social science undergraduates – Data Fellows – to complete paid work placements, undertaking data-driven research projects in industry. We describe the model and the analytical, research and professional skills frameworks developed to evaluate the outcomes (Carter, 2021). The Data Fellows programme was designed to be inclusive; 70% have been female, and 25% from historically under-represented groups. All Data Fellows have studied pre-requisite data analysis courses. The fellowships enable them to put their classroom learning into practice in the workplace.

    Drawing on Data Fellows' own reflections, we present case studies about how the fellowship assisted them to find employment in data careers. We evidence how experiential learning through Data Fellowships can provide a catalyst to enter and flourish in data careers. Moreover, we show how by addressing inclusivity through the programme design we can create a more diverse talent pipeline. Attention will be given to the skills taught at university as well as the skills requested by data careers professionals to attract data literate graduates into their organisations, across multiple sectors and job roles.

    The UKDS (UK Data Service) provides a suite of online Data Skills training which is open to all and free to access. We further present emerging findings from a qualitative research project that explores how students are participating in these online data skills training to enhance their data literacy, and exploring the impact that these resources have on their learning.

    This session will critically discuss the outcomes of the Data Fellows and Data Skills programmes and show how, through the EmpoderaData project, the authors are bringing the findings to an international audience. Through working collaboratively with colleagues in Latin America we are building bridges between Social Science training for data literacy, online training for Data Skills and engaging STEM undergraduates to develop their data literacy in applied social contexts.