Taking It on the Road

Two of my fabulous UVU students – David Anderson and Tanner Nackos – who attended the A2 Data Dive with me back in November of 2013, have been giving presentations about the Utah Data Dive (as well as the UVU Data Lab) at several conferences.

  • Nackos, Tanner D., Anderson, David J., Nuesmeyer, Kristen C., & Poulson, Barton (2014, April). Data Dives as Engaged Research and Learning: A Retrospective and Prospective Report. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Rocky Mountain Psychology Association, Salt Lake City, UT.
  • Nackos, Tanner D., Anderson, David J., & Poulson, Barton (2014, March). The UVU Data Lab and the Utah Data Dive: Applied data science for the social sciences. Paper presented at the annual Scholarship of Teaching and Engagement (SoTE) Conference at Utah Valley University, Orem, UT.
  • Anderson, David J., Nackos, Tanner D., & Poulson, Barton (2014, February). Bringing data science to the social sciences: The UVU Data Lab. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research, Provo, UT.

(By the way, Kristen Nuesmeyer, who is listed on the top reference, is one of the academic advisors for our department and an enthusiastic supporter of the project, as well.)


Funding Received!

Woo hoo! I just found out that we received a grant to put together the spring 2015 edition of the Utah Data Dive! Many, many thanks to Office of Engaged Learning at Utah Valley University, which awarded Russell Warne and me a Grant for Engaged Learning for the project. Now we’ll have lots of free food and swag for anyone who shows up to help! (If you’re interested, you can see the text of the grant application here.)

We Came. We Saw. We Dove. (with video)

We went to the A2 Data Dive – David, Tanner, and Bart – and it was a great experience! The event was organized by students in the School of Information at the University of Michigan and went beautifully. The three of us ended up working on a project for the Ann Arbor District Library, who presented us with data on hold requests over the last three years – over four million rows of data (!) and the largest dataset yet at this event. David and Tanner provided valuable service as data dive ethnographers by taking copious notes on the event and how it could eventually be adapted for the Utah Data Dive. Bart (that’s me) spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to work with a dataset that large, as R took several minutes to load it (even with my fancy computer). Fortunately, there were many hard-core programmer types in our group and one of them boiled down the dataset from one-row-per-request (over 4 million rows) to one-row-per-user (about 54,000 rows). Much better. I eventually decided to work with SPSS and got some good work done before the event was over.

The people were wonderful, the food was wonderful, the data was wonderful. I’m going to invite David and Tanner to submit guest posts to say more about this event. In the meantime, here are a couple of photos to demonstrate that we actually made it there and participated. There’s David on the left and Tanner on the right in the top photo, and I have a screen grab from the video the organizers made in the bottom photo


Bart at the A2 Data Dive copy

And here are the three of us listening to one of the nonprofit presenters:

A2 Data Dive copy

By the way, here are a few additional links to info and photos from the event:

Off to the A2 Data Dive (with videos)

A2 Data Dive Logo

A couple of students and I will get on the plane in a few hours to go to the A2 Data Dive! And while the event itself is this Saturday and Sunday, there have also been three preparatory meetings called “Data Jams.” Although we were not able to attend those – we are, after all, 1600 miles away – the organizers have been kind enough to post videos on their YouTube page.Those videos, along with the intro video, are also embedded below.

Introduction to the A2 Data Dive

Data Jam 1: Data Cleaning

Data Jam 2: Answering Questions with Data

Data Jam 3: Pivot Tables

Applying for UCUR 2014

UCUR Header with Dates

Today I submitted an application for the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research (UCUR), which will be meeting at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on 28 February 2014. This will actually be a presentation by my two student assistants, David Anderson and Tanner Nackos, both of whom are going to the A2 Data Dive with me in two weeks.

Here is the actual application text:

Bringing Data Science to the Social Sciences: The UVU Data Lab


The quantity and variety of data that is potentially available to researchers has been growing explosively, leading to enormous changes in fields such as diverse as genetics, marketing, and sports. However, have been missing out on the “data deluge,” in part because of a lack of the necessary training. The UVU Data Lab at Utah Valley University is an attempt to help undergraduate students in the social and behavioral sciences understand the unique benefits of “big data” and “data in the wild,” and to give them the foundational skills necessary to use such data to form and test scientific hypotheses.


This presentation explores the promises and pitfalls of training undergraduates in data science. The UVU Data Lab is an ongoing project that began in fall of 2013 when the principal investigators and their faculty mentor received funding to participate in the University of Michigan’s A2 Data Dive (a2datadive.org), which is a two-day, high intensity exercise in data analysis as engaged service to local nonprofits. This experience led the PIs and faculty mentor to collaborate on developing an exploratory seminar on data science for undergraduate students in the behavioral sciences for spring 2014. That seminar will, in turn, help develop the Utah Data Dive (utahdatadive.org), which is planned for spring, 2015. This presentation explores the most promising developments and greatest challenges in this process, with the intention of helping other schools develop similar programs.

Conclusions and Significance

The benefits of data science training and the ability to use large, naturally occurring datasets within the social and behavioral sciences are potentially enormous, with the ability to test long-standing questions in novel ways and the level of detail necessary to find unexpected associations. This presentation helps lay the foundation for this important methodological and pedagogical development.

[As a side note, I also submitted an application for my art and technology piece, “Dance Loops.” Woo hoo!]

Initial Funding Received!

The Utah Data Dive has received its first grant! We were just awarded an Engaged Learning in the Liberal Arts (ELLA) grant from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (in which the Behavioral Science Department is located) at Utah Valley University. Woo hoo! This very first, baby-step of funding is intended to take me and two undergraduates to Ann Arbor in November of 2013 for the A2 Data Dive (see the first entry).

Onward and upward!

Welcome to the Home of the Utah Data Dive!

Welcome to the home of the Utah Data Dive! This is an event that is currently in the planning stages for an official launch in spring 2015. (We’re on the academic timeframe here, you know.)

In case you’re not familiar with the term, a data dive – also known at times as a data jam or datapalooza – is an event of intense, collaborative work over a limited time (usually a couple of days), where data specialists from multiple domains collectively analyze one or more large data sets from an organization, which is often a local nonprofit. The best know examples of data dives come from the fabulous group DataKind.org in New York City. Other major efforts come from the two iterations of Big Dive in Europe and smaller examples include the wonderful work done at the A2 Data Dive at the University of Michigan.

The Utah Data Dive is intended to be first and foremost an example of engaged learning for students at Utah Valley University, although it could and should include students from across Utah in future editions. The time frame for planning is such:

  • Fall 2013: Barton Poulson (that’s me) and – if funding comes through – two undergraduate students in the Behavioral Science Department at Utah Valley University will travel to the aforementioned A2 Data Dive to get hands-on experience with the format. Submit presentations on data dives as engaged learning for academic conferences in the spring of 2014.
  • Spring 2014: Bart will lead a 3-credit undergraduate seminar in the Behavioral Science Department on skills needed for data dives. Plan to present on data dives as engaged learning at the February, 2014, meeting of the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research (UCUR), the March, 2014, edition of UVU’s Scholarship of Teaching & Engagement Conference & Engagement Week, and/or the April, 2014, meeting of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR).
  • Spring 2015: The data dive occurs in a 2-day extravaganza at the end of the semester!

That’s the plan for now. Please contact us by using the form below if you have any questions, suggestions, or interest in the Utah Data Dive. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible as we get ready for this momentous new step in engaged analytics in Utah!