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Data Literacy

Strengthening Data Literacy of Students
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Image: Wokandapix from Pixabay

What is data?

Depending on the perspective, the term “data“ can be defined in different ways. Most of the general definitions are based on two approaches 1, 2:

  1. Data is values/statements/findings, which are based on observations, measurement, statistical surveys or similar methods [e.g. simulations].
  2. Data is a sequence of symbols that is stored in a digital format (digital data).

According to these definitions data includes among others: answers in questionnaires, the content and the design of documents, audio and video recordings, laboratory values, results of scientific experiments and simulations, measurements but also software code and mathematical equations.

The great value of data is also reflected in statements like: “Data is the oil of the 21st century”. Data is changing our society and plays an important role in our everyday life, although we are not always aware of it. When we are shopping, visiting websites or use digital communication tools, our data is collected and used by different stakeholders. At the same time, we are confronted with a big amount of data, that is supposed to help us e.g. to assess political and social developments or to make personal and work-related decisions.

Thus, basic competencies regarding the handling and comprehension of data are essential in order to generate knowledge from available data and to make well-founded decisions. These skills are not only important in science but also play an important role for the general participation in society.

What is Data Literacy?

Relation between Data Literacy and other competencies. Schematic VENN-diagramme depicting the overlap between Data Literacy and related competencies including Statistical Literacy, Digital Literacy, Computational Skills, Visual/Visualization Literacy, Discipline-specific Expertise and Legal/Ethical Literacy. Relation between Data Literacy and other competencies. Schematic VENN-diagramme depicting the overlap between Data Literacy and related competencies including Statistical Literacy, Digital Literacy, Computational Skills, Visual/Visualization Literacy, Discipline-specific Expertise and Legal/Ethical Literacy. Picture: Volker Schwartze

Data Literacy is the ability to handle data in an organized manner, use them consciously and question them in the respective context. This includes the competencies to collect, explore, manage, curate, analyse, visualise, interpret, contextualise, evaluate and apply data. (Hochschulforum Digitalisierung, 2017)

As a result of the ongoing digitisation and datafication of all research fields, competencies regarding the handling of research data become more and more important. Thus, Data Literacy is not a specific competency for certain experts like Data Scientists or Data Stewards but a fundamental core competency in all fields of research. These competencies are not only important in science and are part of the so-called "Future Skills", a collection of skills that will become increasingly important regarding workplaces but also regarding the social participation in the next few years.

Data Literacy encompasses a great variety of individual competencies from related topics like statistics, digital skills and visualisation. In addition, also ethical and legal aspects as well as discipline-specific expertises are part of Data Literacy.

Due to the broad definition and the variety of competencies, Data Literacy goes way beyond the traditional borders of the individual research fields. Therefore, Data Literacy competencies are not or only partially implemented in most study programmes to date.

Further information regarding the competency framework are available on our Data Literacy Competencies page.

Project on the curricular implementation of Data Literacy

DaLiJe Logo DaLiJe Logo Picture: Volker Schwartze

The aim of the project is to develop a concept for the implementation of Data Literacy competencies in the curriculum of all students at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. The developed offers will be adjusted to different levels of expertise, in order to take the requirements of all study programmes into consideration. This includes basic knowledge and skills for students at an early point of their studies but also discipline-specific methods for advanced students.

A main goal of the project is the identification and bundling of existing resources and expertise. In case of demand, new courses will be established for selected topics. Currently the team plans the start of the certificate program DaLiJe (Data Literacy Jena) for early-stage students. In addition, we work together with interested lecturers from different disciplines to implement Data Literacy competencies in existing courses and bring together potential collaboration partners.

To develop a comprehensive and adaptable concept for all students, we are currently collecting information regarding exisiting courses and further demands regarding Data Literacy competencies in the study programmes.

If you have questions, comments or suggestions regarding the topic Data Literacy or this project, please contact us!

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Start of the Certificate Programme DaLiJe
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Programming Workshop for Humanities Students
From 13 to 15 September the DaLiJe team organizes the workshop  "Programmieren für die Geisteswissenschaften".
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