For Love Data Week (12th-16th February 2018) we are featuring data-related people. Today we talk to Melissa Scarpate, Research Associate in the Faculty of Education, PEDAL Centre.
Telling Stories with Data
Let’s start with an easy one. What kind of data do you work with and what do you do with it?
I work with large longitudinal data sets and large cross-cultural data. I really enjoy running latent growth models with the longitudinal data to assess changes over time in my variables of interest (primarily child/adolescent self-regulation and parenting). I use the cross-cultural data to test for differences or similarities in parenting and adolescent developmental outcomes.
Tell us how you think you can use data to make a difference in your field
By using large data sets that either have many time points or have many different countries and cultures represented, I am able to assess relationships between study variables in an impactful way. For instance, if I find that parental monitoring predicts lower levels of adolescent anxiety in 13,000 adolescents across 10 countries then I feel this information has a larger impact on families in a more global way than using a local data set with a small sample size.
How do you talk about your data to someone outside of academia?
Very carefully! I eliminate jargon and speak about the data in broad, general terms rather than getting into details. I would rather the person come away from our conversation with an understanding of what I do, what I have found in my research, and how this impacts society than to impress them with fancy words and statistics.
What data-related challenges do you have to deal with in your research environment?
I work in an office with others and it is important for each of us to keep the data confidential and out of sight of one another.
How do you think these challenges might be overcome?
Screen protectors, earplugs in the case of video coding, not printing any data, etc.
If you were in charge what data-related rule would you introduce?
If I were in charge of all data then I would create a rule that all data could be shared in an easy and collaborative way whilst maintaining study participants’ anonymity.
We are Data
Your happiest data moment?
When I finally got my latent growth model to run!
What advice do you have for someone who is just embarking on a career in your field?
Take as many classes in data management, methods, and statistics that you can and get experience in these concepts with researchers that have excellent skills and training in these areas while in graduate school.
What do you think the future of research data looks like?
Open, transparent, simplified with data visualisation techniques, and impactful.
There is A LOT of data out there about all sorts of things and it is being collected all the time. Does anything frighten you about data?
Technological advances such as my phone being able to predict where I am driving before I leave and my Echo Dot/Alexa picking up all of my conversations make me nervous. The benefits, so far, outweigh potential negatives (at least as I have experienced so far).