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Modeling Data Science Consulting in Higher Education

The Data Science Academy (DSA) and the NC State University Libraries co-organized and hosted a workshop series funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The series focused on mechanisms for delivering data science research support via consulting and collaboration models, as well as developing policies and discussing infrastructure that supports robust, inclusive and sustainable practices. 

Prior to the in-person workshop in May, the cohort met virtually on several occasions to discuss workshop topics, develop connections, and build excitement for the in-person workshop. Topics included how to measure success, solving problems associated with the startup, and staffing a collaborative consulting program. 

“The workshop brought together participants doing this kind of work from different administrative units of their respective universities, including libraries, academic departments, and stand alone centers. Seeing how well folks worked together from these different perspectives to form a real community spirit was really fun and rewarding.”

– Mara Blake, Head of Data & Visualization Services, NC State University Libraries 

On May 16-17, a cohort of twenty-five practitioners from across the country met to develop and begin writing articles on sustainable models that will serve as a reference for other academic institutions to develop and grow their own collaborative consulting practices. Inspired by the plenary address given by Dr. Felesia Stukes, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Johnson C. Smith University, participants worked together and  developed a great sense of community. 

“I’ve never been a part of a group in which everyone was so engaged, enthusiastic and participatory.”

– Participant, Stacey Slone, Director of Operations, Data Science Hub, University of Kentucky

“One of the things I love about the statistical consulting community is the friendliness and accessibility of the people in it. It was great to get together with our library colleagues, expand our community, and realize that a lot of the challenges we face are universal.”

– Emily Griffith, DSA Faculty Director, NC State

“Over the two-days I was able to work with fellow participants on a focused topic that will now help guide my work in thinking about specific data related services within my library unit as well as thinking more broadly about partnerships and programming with other groups at my university (USC).”

– Participant Andrzej (Andy) Rutkowski, Visualization Specialist & Associate University Librarian, University of Southern California Libraries

A special issue of the journal Stat  published by Wiley will feature output from the collaborative work accomplished by the cohort during the workshop, as well as other articles on the topic. The special issue will build on existing work – both at NC State and similar academic institutions – to establish best  practices and build communities for research consulting service models that encompass the full spectrum of data science, thinking across and beyond computer science, mathematics, and statistics. As demand for data science collaboration grows, this work will guide sustainable practices in academic institutions.