27 January 2021

Announcing Data Science by Design

Everyone is immersed in data, whether they are the person developing a spreadsheet or the person interacting with a graphic generated from that spreadsheet. Consider the simple line charts and maps that have dominated our daily routines over the past year, from the heavy (progression of COVID-related metrics and election polls) to the light (setting a new personal best on our wearable fitness tracker). Each data point is a small piece in a complex story of our world.

Those of us on the data engineering or statistical analysis side of data may not see ourselves as storytellers, or feel equipped to craft a narrative out of numbers. So how do we articulate the broader meaning of our data work, and what is our role as data scientists in explaining the stories embedded in our data?

We are introducing a new project that we are really excited about: Data Science by Design (DSxD). It establishes a community of practice to curate ideas about data narratives: what they are, and the many different ways they can be created. We want the future of data science to embrace principles such as transparent research practices and accessible training. We believe that exposure to innovative communication approaches will help data scientists think about sharing their work in new ways, encouraging them to both speak up and be heard.


To kick off this project in 2021, we will host two events. Held in late spring and early fall, these events will focus on developing narratives to communicate data-centric research: both its practice and its results. After the second event, we will collect participants’ work into a printed anthology. Components might take the form of a comic, a zine, an interactive visualization, or an illustrated personal story. We can even expand past the visual: data sonification or spoken word, anyone? Whatever the product, it will demonstrate the many ways that data scientists can make their daily work and research discoveries more accessible and transparent.

This series of support-centered events is intended to help participants learn about concepts like narrative structure and design, while considering how creative tools can be leveraged to empower data scientists to become effective storytellers.


Our motivation for “Data Science by Design” is to make the methods and outcomes of data science more accessible to individuals from a wide range of disciplinary, cultural, and educational backgrounds. Our approach makes the work of data scientists more transparent and emphasizes the creativity required for data science jobs.

The goal is to provide a space for technical ideas to be shared in an accessible way, and an opportunity for data scientists to learn the tools and gain the personal contacts to help them communicate their work and practice to a wider audience. In this new community of practice, data scientists will be able to work with and mutually learn from specialists in a variety of creative fields, including data visualization, graphic design, and art.

Who can participate?

Do you have a data story to tell? Are you a creator interested in learning more about data science? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you’ll be a perfect fit.

The first event will be in late Spring 2021. Both events in the series will feature individuals as speakers who are actively creating visual or narrative content for data science (interpreted broadly). Is this you? Or is there someone whom you want to hear from? Reach out!

To encourage broad participation, we will be offering need-based financial support to individuals for event participation as well as to fund the creation of work for the final anthology. Support for anthology submissions will be awarded following the first event, which will serve as a platform for establishing working partnerships and generating ideas, based on project plans.

How do I get involved?

A call for scholarships and participants is coming soon! Want to be kept informed? Have ideas to share? Let us know here. Or sign up to receive email notifications about our upcoming work here. Have a friend or colleague you think might be interested? We’d love it if you shared this post with them.

Who funds us?

We are thrilled to have received funding for Data Science by Design from Code for Science and Society and an ADSA Career Development Network (CDN) Seed Grant to support our vision. Do you or your company or organization want to help support these efforts? Donation information coming soon!

Who are we?

Ciera Martinez is a biologist and data scientist researching how organisms react and evolve in response to their environment. She works as the Research Lead of Biodiversity and Environmental Science at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science. Twitter: @cierareports

Valeri Vasquez is a graduate student at UC Berkeley studying the use of genetic-based interventions like CRISPR-Cas9 for the control of mosquito-borne diseases. She is also a Data Science Fellow at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science and an avid art lover. Valeri’s first exposure to creatively communicating science was through a data sonification project: she has been hooked ever since. Twitter: @valeri_vasquez

Sara Stoudt is a statistician with research interests in ecology and the communication of statistics. Stoudt received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and statistics from Smith College and a doctorate in statistics from the University of California, Berkeley. While at Berkeley she was also a Berkeley Institute for Data Science Fellow. She wants to hear your data stories and see your zines! Twitter: @sastoudt