If you don’t ask for something, you’ll never get it.
Often, people trying to tell stories with data don’t actually have enough of the data they need to tell a complete story. So why don’t they collect some more?
Collecting data is expensive. It demands resources and time. In some cases, it can even be a burden on the people you’re collecting data from. There are reasons people try to work with minimal data. But today’s research community is developing a strong emphasis on reproducibility in data, and that can solve a lot of problems for a lot of people.
How Does Reproducibility in Data Help?
Reproducible data means that other data users can replicate your research. They can double-check it, test different theories with it, and apply emerging methodologies to it. When data can be reused again and again, data scarcity is eliminated and the cost of accessing quality data can drop dramatically.
Reproducibility in data is making vast amounts of information accessible to nonprofits, journalists, and social sector organizations who never would have been able to leverage it before — all they have to do is ask for it.
To facilitate this movement towards sharing and data reproducibility, many prestigious organizations are now requiring researchers to make their data available to others. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a prime example. Their funding generates between 2,000 and 2,500 research articles every year, and they’ve implemented a rigorous open-access policy: research and datasets funded by the foundation must:
- Be discoverable and reusable online
- Permit free copying and redistribution
- Be accessible and open immediately
What does this mean for you? All you have to do to acquire the wealth of information generated using Gates Foundation funding… is ask for it.
In fact, the Gates Foundation is going one step further still. They recently announced plans for an exciting new platform — Gates Open Research — that will allow even faster, easier, unbiased access to all kinds of research and data. This means that, even if you don’t have the budget or time for large-scale data collection and analysis, you can access platform data for no extra cost. (Are you sold on reproducibility in data yet?)
Reproducible Data in Action
Here at Datassist, we’ve been big believers in data sharing and reproducibility in data for a long time. To illustrate how you can apply shared data to smaller projects, let’s look at how we used the environment of reproducibility to access additional external data we needed for a CARE initiative we worked on.
We were working with CARE to examine the relationship between informal rural savings groups and formal financial institutions. We had plenty of internal project data — but we needed more.
Searching online, we found the Financial Inclusion Insights database, which looked like it was in line with our needs, but the raw data wasn’t accessible online. Remember what we said at the beginning: if you don’t ask for something, you’ll never get it. InterMedia is a respected member of the research society, so we simply wrote to them and asked for their raw numbers — and they were happy to oblige.
Then we found a profoundly informative article focused on the very topic we were studying published by the The American Association for the Advancement of Science. Again, we wrote to the article authors and asked if they’d consider sharing their data with us. And because of the movement to embrace reproducibility in data, they did.
The data we gained from these two external sources allowed us to better understand the participants in our project without us having to ask those same people to spend another two or three hours completing surveys. When we combined their data with our own, our analysis was improved, meaning CARE was able to better understand the impact they were having on the groups they were working with and take steps to help them even more — all because we asked for external data and other groups were ready to share it.
Ready to Ask for Help?
If you need assistance collecting, accessing or analyzing data, remember, all you have to do is ask.
Not sure where to get started? At Datassist, our team of statisticians and data visualization experts can help you. We know you’re working hard to make a difference — we’ll help you tell your data story in a way that excites, engages, and educates your audience. Get in touch with us today to discuss your project.