Using a data visualization process to translate research in a clear, practical way for broad audiences

At significant time and expense, researchers produce findings that could have broad implications in their field of learning. In education, health care and public policy, research unveils new interventions, experiments or discoveries that have the potential to improve people’s lives.

Yet researchers often encounter several basic roadblocks related to the issue of “knowledge transfer” that prevent them from maximizing the influence of their work: (1) their findings are delivered through journal articles and static tables that take effort for policymakers to find and interpret; and (2) important research languishes for considerable time—often years—before it can be published and reach an intended audience. 

This research, conducted by MSDS students Genevieve Burgoyne and Mark Rooney, proposes an alternative framework for knowledge transfer that leverages online data visualization tools in order to make research findings immediately available and compelling to the broader public.

Using research data from the education policy field, they produced shareable interactive visualizations and compared them to more static and tabular representations of the same data. They show how their process helps surface trends in the data that would otherwise remain hidden and enables users to engage with the most salient information.

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