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SICE, SPEA collaboration earns honors at Indy Big Data Visualization Challenge

2018-10-23
Indy Big Data Visualization Challenge 2018

IU team that takes home second in Indy Big Data Visualization Challenge

An interdisciplinary team of students and faculty from the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, and the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs took home second place in the Indy Big Data Visualization Challenge held in Indianapolis in late September.

The event, part of the Indy Big Data Conference, invites teams to explore newly released open data sources to deliver solutions with the potential to significantly benefit the public good. The 18 datasets, provided by the Management Performance Hub of the state of Indiana, included data about occupation estimates, commuting patterns by county, media monthly home owner costs, and more. The team from SICE/SPEA focused on data related to workforce and learning analytics.

“We were looking for gaps in education and how they applied to the job market,” said Olga Scrivner, a research scientist at the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center at SICE and a mentor for the group. “The common wisdom is if you analyze gender disparity in the workforce, companies should do more to close that gap. But you can already see the gap when you look at educational data. We found, for instance, that healthcare is a female dominated field, and the disparity exists when you look at the underlying education that goes into the healthcare field. On the flipside, fields like marketing and information technology are male dominated, and the educational data shows the same trend.”

SICE-based team members included Scrivner, Distinguished Professor of Engineering and Information Science Katy Börner, and data science graduate students Vatsal Jatakia, Anurag Joshi, and Roshith Raghavan. SPEA representatives included Herman B Wells Endowed Professor Kosali Simon, Assistant Professor Coady Wing, junior Livia Crim and graduate student David Lebhar from SPEA. The team discovered that the gender imbalance is unsustainable in the current and projected economic and workforce environment, and females are a clear majority in high-growth industries and associated educational pipelines.

Through a competitive process, the field of competitors was trimmed from 15 teams to five, and each of the final five presented their findings to a panel of judges.

“There was interest in our findings beyond the competition,” Scrivner said. “We were contacted by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to further discuss the findings, and we hope our findings show the importance of educational program and a need for a careful design of educational programs since the current and projected state of work force disparities seem to mirror educational settings.”

Data science techniques from the SICE students blended with policy knowledge and analysis from the SPEA group to create a partnership that extracted the most information from the data.

“This was really a successful cross-disciplinary project,” Scrivner said. “This effort really shows how SPEA and data science can be fruitful when they come together in the right ways.”

Students involved in the competition gained experience in looking at raw data in new ways, and that will help them on the future job market.

“The collaboration with SPEA helped me understand how to combine my technical skills to draw actionable insights from the available raw data,” said Jatakia, a second-year master’s student in data science. “Creating the right visualizations that clearly get the point through to stakeholders I may work with and communicating them in the right way is an important responsibility of a data scientist, and I believe this challenge helped me better train myself for this.”

For more information on data science at SICE, visit our website.

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