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Data is interdisciplinary: Not a new concept but an essential practice

Tableau for Teaching is on a mission to create a data-literate world. At Tableau, we feel that data literacy is essential for everyday life. We consume data across all disciplines and subject areas. What used to be thought of as a specialized field, it has become apparent that more than ever, data literacy is a necessity for everyone.

Jan Dasgupta.
Dasgupta

Our first spotlight is Dr. Nairanjana “Jan” Dasgupta—Director of Data Analytics, Boeing Distinguished Professor of Math and Science Ed., Professor of Statistics at Washington State University.

“At WSU I am building on a foundation that is highly collaborative and brings together multiple units and disciplines. Engineering, mathematics, statistics, and the domain areas all have a role to play, and have people passionate about these issues—also reaching out to education, arts, communication, and economics,” Dasgupta said. “The idea is there are people, like me, who are passionate about these ideas—giving them a forum.”

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Tableau

Open source tool can help identify gerrymandering in voting maps

With state legislatures nationwide preparing for the once-a-decade redrawing of voting districts, a research team has developed a better computational method to help identify improper gerrymandering designed to favor specific candidates or political parties.

In an article in the Harvard Data Science Review, the researchers describe the improved mathematical methodology of an open source tool called GerryChain. The tool can help observers detect gerrymandering in a voting district plan by creating a pool, or ensemble, of alternate maps that also meet legal voting criteria. This map ensemble can show if the proposed plan is an extreme outlier—one that is very unusual from the norm of plans generated without bias, and therefore, likely to be drawn with partisan goals in mind.

Daryl DeFord.
DeFord

“We wanted to build an open-source software tool and make that available to people interested in reform, especially in states where there are skewed baselines,” said Daryl DeFord, assistant professor of mathematics at Washington State University and a co-lead author on the paper. “It can be an impactful way for people to get involved in this process, particularly going into this year’s redistricting cycle where there are going to be a lot of opportunities for pointing out less than optimal behavior.”

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WSU Insider
Phys.org
Eurasia Review

 

15 CAS undergraduates win 10 SURCA research awards

More than a quarter of Washington State University students who delivered virtual presentations won monetary awards at the annual Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) on March 29 in Pullman.

SURCA is the unique WSU-wide venue for students from all majors, years in college, and from all WSU campuses. Nearly 150 students from the Pullman, Vancouver, Spokane, and Global campuses delivered presentations detailing their research, scholarship, and creative activities conducted with a mentor.

Faculty, postdoctoral students, and community experts used a common rubric to judge and score all presentations in nine SURCA categories that are designed to cover all disciplines at the university.

Fifteen CAS students won 10 different awards across seven categories at the 2021 event held online.

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WSU Insider

WSU Police partner with student legal group on arrest data

The Student Legal Research Association will help evaluate arrest data from WSU’s police department as part of measures to address racial disparity in arrests on the Pullman campus. The campus police are also taking collaborating with university researchers to address implicit bias.

These actions are part of an effort to address disproportionate arrests of Black people by campus police, a problem identified by a Daily Evergreen article in fall 2019 and a following report by WSU Office of Compliance and Civil Rights (CCR) in May 2020. The term “arrest” in police data includes non-custody interactions such as issuing traffic citations.

David Makin.
Makin

The CBTSim program is just one that the WSU campus force will undertake, Gardner said.  The department is working on another project with WSU criminal justice professor David Makin and the Complex Social Interactions Lab where officers will review body camera footage in very specific ways to try to understand the effect their actions have.

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WSU Insider

Explainer: What is statistics?

When describing statements with numbers, people often refer to them as statistics. For instance, if 70 out of 100 students got a B on an English test, that would be a statistic. So would the make-believe statement “90 percent of toddlers love tuna.” But the field of statistics involves much more than a collection of factoids.

Statistics is a different kind of animal than other fields of STEM. Some people consider it to be a type of math. Others argue that while statistics is like math, it’s too different from math subjects to be viewed as part of that field.

Researchers see data all around them. Data are waiting to be gathered from penguin poop and the weather outside. They lurk in the motion of planets and talks with teens about why they vape. But these data alone don’t help researchers get far. Scientists need to think through how they structure their studies to glean meaningful information from these data.

Leslie New.
New

“I have skills marine biologists need — and those skills are statistics,” says Leslie New. She is a statistical ecologist at Washington State University in Vancouver. New uses statistics to study study marine mammals, such as whales and dolphins.

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