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How to Throw a Data Party

Posted by on November 20th, 2015 Posted in: Communications Tools, E-Science, General, Non-NLM Resources


A data party is another name for a kind of participatory data analysis, where stakeholders are gathered together to help analyze data that you have collected. Here are some reasons to include stakeholders in the data analysis stage:

  • It allows stakeholders to get to know and engage with the data.
  • Stakeholders may bring context to the data that will help explain some of the results.
  • When stakeholders participate in analyzing the data, they are more likely to understand and use it.
  • Watching their interactions often reveals the person with the power to act on your recommendations.

To begin the process, you need to know what you hope to gain from the attendees, since you may only be able to hold an event like this one time. There are a number of different ways to organize the event, such as the World Cafe format, where everyone works together to explore a set of questions, or an Open Space system in which attendees create their own agenda about which questions they want to discuss. Recently the American Evaluation Association held a very successful online unconference using MIT’s Unhangout, an approach that could be used for an online data party with people from multiple locations.

Here are suggested questions to ask at a data party:

  • What does this data tell you?
  • How does this align with your expectations?
  • What do you think is occurring here and why?
  • What other information do you need to make this actionable?

At the end of the party it might be time to present some of your findings and recommendations. Considering the work that they have done, stakeholders may be more willing to listen, since people often tend to support what they helped to create.

Image of the author ABOUT Alan Carr
Alan Carr is the Associate Director, National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific Southwest Region, based at UCLA.

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This project is funded by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Cooperative Agreement Number UG4LM012341 with the UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library.

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