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Data Party Like it’s 2099! How to Throw a Data Party

[guest post by Karen Vargas]

What’s a “data party?” We attended a program by evaluator Kylie Hutchinson entitled “It’s a Data Party!” at the AEA 2015 conference last week in Chicago.  A data party is another name for a kind of participatory data analysis, where you gather stakeholders together, show them some of the data that you have gathered and ask them to help analyze it.

Isn’t analyzing the data part of your job?  Here are some reasons you might want to include stakeholders in the data analysis stage:

  • It allows stakeholders to get to know and engage with the data
  • Stakeholders may bring context to the data that will help explain some of the results
  • When stakeholders participate in analyzing the data, they are more likely to understand it and use it
  • Watching their interactions, you can often find out who is the person with the power to act on your recommendations

So how do you throw a data party? First of all you need to know what you hope to get from the attendees, since you may only be able to hold an event like this one time. There are a number of different ways to organize the event.  You might want to consider using a World Cafe format, where everyone works together to explore a set of questions, or you could use an Open Space system in which attendees create their own agenda about what questions they want to discuss.  Recently the AEA held a very successful online unconference using MIT’s Unhangout that could be used for an online Data Party with people from multiple locations.

The kinds of questions Kylie Hutchinson suggested asking at a data party include:

  • What does this data tell you?
  • How does this align with your expectations?
  • What do you think is occurring here and why?
  • What other information do you need to make this actionable?

At the end of the party it might be time to present some findings and recommendations that you have.  Considering the work that they have done, they may be more willing to listen.  As Kylie Hutchinson said “People support what they helped create.”

Baystate Health Sciences Library Celebrates NMLM



The librarians at Baystate Health had some fun with National Medical Librarians Month (NMLM)!  The librarians hosted a full day of events including online demos, games and door prizes, library crossword puzzles, and snacks/beverages. They created a display table of Baystate author publications, helped people get apps onto their mobile devices, and provided the ambience of relaxing George Winston music.  Staff wore the purple T-shirts with the logo “Keep calm and ask the librarian.”  Ellen Brassil, Director of the Health Sciences Library, shared, “We can’t wait to do something new next year, and hope we got our message across, and keeping calm or not will ask the librarian!”





Area Health Education Centers Will Use National Library of Medicine Funds in Teen Focused Learning Project

OAK CREEK, WI, November 13, 2015 – Last week the National Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Organization announced five of its member AHEC organizations would participate in a year-long learning collaborative funded with $250,000 from the National Library of Medicine (NLM). The project, which will address youth health information literacy, follows on the heels of national health literacy awareness month, and a growing recognition that the ability to find, interpret and use reliable sources of health information can have a direct impact on an individual’s health. To improve health outcomes across the life-span, NLM and its partners aim to teach these skills to diverse populations early in life when personal habits and life-long skills are being developed.

The cross-country project is designed to test previously developed NLM teen health information literacy models in various contextual situations. Selected centers will implement the models in urban settings and frontier regions, with Native American tribes and multi-center AHEC partnerships, and in programs with prior teen health literacy experience as well as those without such experience. The learning collaborative structure will allow awardees to share best practices and implementation experiences with each other and with future sites.

Another key project partner, the Center for Public Service Communications (CPSC), will assist in developing the projects. The CPSC has been involved in high-school based NLM projects for nearly a decade in South Carolina. “Its time we took these programs from the sandbox, to the beach,” said John Scott, president and founder of CPSC. “The National Library of Medicine and the National AHEC Organization are great natural partners for this work.”

Both the National AHEC Organization and the NLM have strategic goals to grow interest in health professional careers. Traditional AHEC activities supporting those goals include health career summer camps, health career exploration days, and other programs and activities within schools. With expertise in health information access and utilization, the NLM offers a framework and monetary support for integrating their activities into traditional AHEC programming.

“At the NAO we are doing as much as we can to encourage collective efforts at achieving our common aims,” said Robert Trachtenberg, CEO of National AHEC Organization.  “Our national training center initiative facilitates this kind of collaboration nationally to build the training and technical assistance capacity of all our AHEC programs and centers.” The five awardees are: Boston AHEC, Brooklyn-Queens-Long Island AHEC, Centennial/Southwestern Colorado AHECs, Eastern Connecticut AHEC, and the state of Montana AHEC program.

For more about the National AHEC Organization:


Guide from NIH Library Informationists [Guest post by Karen Vargas, OERC]

The Medical Library Association’s October 28 webinar was on Data Visualization, presented by Lisa Federer, NIH Library’s Research Data Informationist.  The webinar was a tour of different aspects of data visualization, including information about elements of design, like color, line, contrast and proximity, as well as loads and loads of specific resources for more information.

For those of you who were not able to attend or would like to know more, Lisa Federer has a LibGuide called Creating Infographics with Inkscape, which contains the resources for a class she taught with NIH Informationist Chris Belter.  The LibGuide includes a Power Point from the lecture part of their class. The slides cover design principles and design elements.  Many of the slides have links to resources that you can use to learn more about the topic.  For example:

Vischeck – a cool tool for finding out what your colors in your chart look like to someone who is color blind

10 Commandments of Typography – suggestions for making font combinations that work

The second part of the class is a hands-on section on using Inkscape, a free, open-source graphics program, to make infographics.  Inkscape allows you to use “vector graphics” to design infographics.  What are vector graphics and why use them? You know images that work when they’re small but get all blurry when they get big? Those images are based on pixels. Vector graphics are based on pathways defined by mathematical expressions like lines, curves, and triangles, so they can get larger and smaller without losing any quality. Sounds hard to do, right? Luckily there are tutorials on Inkscape and it’s easier than you might think (you don’t need to know the math…):

If you want to take a look at other vector graphics editors, there are other free ones, like Apache Open Office Draw, or ones you may already own, like Adobe Illustrator.  Comparisons with links to detailed information can be found in Wikipedia’s “Comparison of Vector Graphics Editors.”

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