Over on O’Reilly Media’s Radar website (which I recommend you bookmark), there is a fascinating interview conducted by Alex Howard with Emily Bell, the Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia Journalism School.
The interview naturally focuses on issues around training journalists to accurately report on data. That is a cause I think any practicing researcher would wholeheartedly support.
However, what really caught my eye was a couple of ideas in the interview I feel are highly relevant for researchers:
1. Data Scientists need to draw on the same skills as Data Journalists.
Data scientists must be able to do more than analyze data; they must be able to effectively communicate the story told by that data.
Dr. Bell points out that people who are data scientists must be able to do more than just “adding data.” She cites “understanding context, understanding what the story might be, and knowing how to derive that from the data that you’re given or the data that exists.
2. It is challenging to find people who are good at both analyzing data and effectively telling a data story.
Dr. Bell talks about the challenges large news organizations have in finding people with both data and storytelling chops.
She said, “’I’ve talked to several heads of data in large news organizations and they’ve said, ‘We have this huge skills gap because we can find plenty of people who can do the math; we can find plenty of people who are data scientists; we can’t find enough people who have those skills but also have a passion or an interest in telling stories in a journalistic context and making those relatable.’”
Sound familiar, researchers? We are in the business of analyzing data, extracting insights, and communicating that information to help clients. In my experience, people with both skill sets are rare.
Can someone please start hiring Columbia Journalism graduates in market research?