FirstEval-Melissa Kovacs


Data Visualization

Lately I have had an opportunity to use interactive data visualization software.   These are great – I think of them as an Excel or PowerPoint report you can change as you go, or filter, to see the angle of the data that you wish.  Specifically, I have been in Tibco’s Spotfire, but also see Tableau and DigDash.  While most of these are marketed toward “business intelligence” and analytics for sales or marketing purposes, they can be really useful for the social sciences as well.

For example, let’s say you were reporting on some basic education metrics – performance, funding levels, size, socio-economic status of families, etc.  The main dashboard may show you all the data at once, but you can click to select filters yourself to see what interests you – maybe its high-performing schools in low SES area.  Or, any combination of factors can be applied to the outcome you are seeing.

In this sense, the end user – maybe your client? Conference attendee? Students?  Colleagues? – can interact with the data themselves – it is like a living report.

All of these companies I list above have tutorials and demos on their websites with numerous examples from business, medicine, social sciences, etc.  There is a bit of price variation among these software applications, and definitely a learning curve to be a developer of these reports, but, very worth it if your colleagues and clients can do their own digging for answers without re-running your data.

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