Learning Data Science Through Civic Engagement With Open Data
This AISL Pilots and Feasibility project will study the data science learning that takes place as members of the public explore and analyze open civic data related to their everyday lives. Government services, such as education, transportation, and non-emergency municipal requests, are becoming increasingly digital. Generally, program workshops and events may be able to support participants in using such data to answer their own questions, such as: "How do City agencies respond to noise in my neighborhood?" and "How do waste and recycling services in my neighborhood compare with others?" This project seeks to understanding how such programs are designed and facilitated to support diverse communities in accessing and meaningfully analyzing data will promote innovation and knowledge building in informal data science education. The team will begin by summarizing best practices in data science education from a variety of fields. Next they will explore the design and impacts of two programs in New York City, a leader in publicly available Open Data initiatives. This phase will explore activities and facilitation approaches, participants' objectives and data literacy skills practice, and begin to identify potential barriers to entry and levels of participation. Finally, the team will build capacity for other similar organizations to explore and understand their impacts on community members' engagement with civic data. This pilot study will establish preliminary evidence of the effectiveness of these programs, and in turn, inform future research into the identifying and amplifying best practices to support public engagement with data.
This research team will begin by synthesizing data science learning best practices based on varied literatures and surveys with academic and practitioner experts.
Synthesis results will be applied as a lens to gather preliminary evidence regarding the impacts of two programs on participants' data science practices and understanding of the nature of data in the context of civics. The programs include one offered by the Mayor's Office of Data Analytics (MODA), which is the NYC agency with overall responsibility for the City's Open Data programs, and BetaNYC, a leading nonprofit organization working to improve lives through civic design, technology, and engagement with government open data. The research design triangulates ethnographic observations and artifacts, pre and post adapted surveys, and interviews with participants and facilitators. Researchers will identify programmatic metrics and adapts existing measures to assess various outcomes related to public engagement with data, including: question formulation, data set selection and manipulation, the use of data to make inferences, and understanding variability, sampling and context. These metrics will be shared through an initial assessment framework for data science learning in the context of community engagement with civic open data. Researchers will also begin to identify barriers to broader participation through literature synthesis, interviews with participants and facilitators, and conversations with other organizations in our networks, such as NYC Community Boards. Findings will determine the suitability of the programs under study and inform future research to identify and amplify best practices in supporting public engagement with data.
This project is funded by the NSF Advancing Informal STEM Learning program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants.
This Pilots and Feasibility Studies award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.