Data Literacy

1st DL Workshop

The First Data Literacy Workshop happened on the 30th June 2015, during the WebScience Conference. For more informations, see Johanna Walker’s report on it.

Relevance, motivation and goals

Data literacy is a phrase which has been used with increasing frequency over the last decade in a wide range of contexts related to Web Science such as citizen science and the democratic divide. Recently it has been brought into particularly sharp focus by the open data movement. The aim of open data is that it is open to all – everyone should be able to reuse it. If users do not have the right skills, knowledge and attitudes then “open data” is effectively not open to them (Gurstein 2011), although little attention has been paid to the skills and education needed for open data (Huijboom and Broek 2011).

Despite this, data literacy has received very little academic attention, and what attention it has received is confined to isolated areas of study. For example, it is one consideration among others in addressing specific issues in the broader context of information literacy such as academic library services (Rader 2002) and undergraduate skills (Carlson et al. 2011; Stephenson and Caravello 2007). Other literature treats data literacy as related to information and statistical literacy but only for a limited section of the population or in terms of the competencies required in a limited context (Prado and Marzal 2013). There is very little published research treating data literacy as an object of study in its own right and placing it in a broad socio-technological context. This workshop aims to investigate the potential for coherent multidisciplinary research into what data literacy means for society as a whole, why it matters, and how it might be facilitated.

Such research should address questions such as:

What do we mean by data literacy? Is there one kind of data literacy or many? What skills, knowledge and attitudes does it include? How does it relate to other types of literacy (digital, numerical, statistical and linguistic)?

Why do we need data literacy? What are the social, political, economic, technical issues it can address?

How should it be achieved? Is it best done through education, training, or behaviour change or does it require better tools and support?

What are the broader political, social and philosophical implications?

  • Should technology be driving such fundamental skills?
  • How does this compare to other technologies such as the printing press that have created a need for new “literacies”?
  • Does data literacy compound the digital divide at another level?
  • Can it lead to open data having a more visible impact?

Who should be data literate? Should everyone become a data specialist by learning how to deal with raw data, or we assume that we need specialists in order to “translate” data to the society?

What are the practical implications? What should private and public sector organisations do about data literacy? How should data literacy participate in education and research?

Objectives Of the Workshop

  • Convene members of the academic community from multiple disciplines with an interest in data literacy
  • Evaluate the state of current research into data literacy – understand which areas have an interest in the subject and the thrust of their research
  • Investigate the potential for a data literacy research agenda.

It is beyond the scope of the workshop itself to design a common research agenda although it is to be hoped to that the workshop will lead to such a framework.

Target Audience

Academics and professionals with an interest in data literacy and associated topics such as digital literacy, information literacy and open data education and skills who want to:

  • want to build networks to promote and coordinate research
  • a forum to publish their research in this area

A recent session on data literacy at an open data camp in the UK was attended by 25 people.

Expected Outcomes

  • Document the current state of research in this area.
  • Identify an emergent research agenda.
  • Identify and agree two or more multidisciplinary research projects to take forward research in this area.
  • Create an on-going community of people interested in research in this area with a forum for sharing interests.