By Aleksandra Pawlik, the Institute's Training Leader.
Last week the University of Manchester Q-Step Centre hosted an event 'Data, Data Everywhere' in a beautiful setting of the Grand Hall in the Whitworth Art Gallery. The event was dedicated to the success of the Q-Step Student Summer Internships in 2015. The event included talks and panel discussion, as well as students showcasing the studies which they conducted during their internships.
Q-Step is a £19.5 million programme designed to promote a step-change in quantitative social science training. Over a five-year period from 2013, fifteen universities across the UK are delivering specialist undergraduate programmes, including new courses, work placements and pathways to postgraduate study. Expertise and resources will be shared across the higher education sector through an accompanying support programme, which will also forge links with schools and employers.
The event was opened by dr Jackie Carter, Co-Director of Q-Step and Q-Step Internships Lead. Then dr Paul Redmond, Director of Student Life at University of Manchester, gave a talk "The Graduate Jobs Formula: Managing and Growing Your Career in a Changing World" during which he emphasized the importance of developing versatile skills in the current job market. This message was reinforced during the roundtable which included students and employers.
Indeed, the showcase of the work done by the students at their internships showed that nowadays a social scientists needs to be very well versed in computational data skills. Regardless of whether the students were placed in public or private sector, they all needed versatile set of skills to collect, clean, analyse and visualise the data they worked with. Many students worked with large datasets. Others were challenged by messy and incoherent data. The range of tools which they used to deal with the tasks varied. Spreadsheet applications were ubiquitous but students also used other tools, including those requiring some level of programming knowledge.
Data Carpentry training, coordinated in the UK by the Institute, seems to be a perfect fit for the Q-Step students. Together with Jackie Carter we have started working towards finding the best was to progress and develop Data Carpentry training for social scientists. This multi-party collaboration will ensure that the work materials will be well balanced and adjusted for the research domains.