By Lee-Arng Cheng
University Libraries Data Visualization Specialist
With the shear amount of data being collected and analyzed nowadays, the value of understanding and making sense of data is more important than ever before. Across every discipline, data visualization has become an essential communication skill for professionals to learn.
Since joining OSU’s Research Commons as a Data Visualization Specialist, I have had first-hand experience seeing the wide variety of applications data visualization has on campus; from PowerPoint presentations to research publications, infographic posters, and dynamic network visualizations, people from all departments on campus are making use of data visualization in old, familiar ways, as well as new ones. We’re using it in many different ways as well, both as an exploratory tool for uncovering key observations and insights about the data at hand, and as an explanatory means for communicating our findings in a clear, concise, and engaging way.
Data visualization has come a long way since the early days of boring, basic Excel charts and graphs. Coding through R, Python, and JavsScript, and the development of new tools like Tableau have opened the way for dynamic, user-interactive visualizations that allow us to dive deeper into and make more accessible the data we have available to us. With these changes come a demand for students and professionals who possess a unique combination of creative, analytical, and technical skills for crafting data visualizations.
My weekly consultations give me the opportunity to work with students, faculty, and staff, and broaden their perspective as to what data visualization is and can do for them. Finding the balance between their own expertise and analytical understanding with the creative art of effective communication is perhaps the biggest challenge. Learning what types of visualizations work best for a given dataset and tinkering with the presentation also take time and energy to master. I’m hoping my data visualization workshops will give students the opportunity to learn some of the fundamental data visualization concepts and get some hands-on training with the data visualization tools commonly used today.