Data does more than ever to teach us about ourselves.

Data-intensive discovery has become a fundamental method of inquiry in every academic discipline. Recent advances have led to breakthroughs in medicine, science, and engineering, and large-scale text and image analysis have enabled new modes of scholarship in the humanities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for universal data literacy. The daily reports on COVID-19, framed by the demographics of vaccinations, tests, hospitalizations and death rates, have evidenced the need to understand basic statistics. Data analysis has proven to be the key to the dissemination of scientific understanding and to our ability as humans to react to it. The pandemic and the world’s reaction to it have made clear that an engaged citizenry needs to have the ability to frame valid data-based arguments, communicate them clearly and persuasively, and critically evaluate the data-based arguments of others. These data literacy skills have become essential competencies for making informed decisions about one’s own and the community’s welfare. They are also essential skills for future leaders in industry, politics, and academia.

Data can tell a story that may (or may not) be true.

Whether you are marketing a product or developing a vaccine, data holds the answers. And while the nature of data varies widely by domain, the ability to use, manipulate, and interpret data are critical skills that have become a core competency of a 21st-century education. 

Tulane University (Tulane) needs to prepare its students to be data-literate engaged citizens. The negative impact of inadequate data literacy on students entering the workforce (or conducting research) has been summarized by Frank and Walker: “As data, open, big, personal or in any other guise, becomes increasingly important, power will flow to those who can create, control and understand data. Those who cannot become powerless. Further, their ability to participate in society will be severely challenged as they lack the tools to engage with an important raw material of society” (Frank and Walker, 2016, 234).

Understanding data empowers students and fuels change.

All students must possess basic data literacy as they prepare for the workforce. Within this context, Tulane proposes creating a University Data Literacy Center as its Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP).

As a result of participation in The Data Hub-affiliated activities, students will be able to use the quantitative analysis of data as the basis for judgments and/or conclusions; accurately interpret and explain information presented in mathematical forms; identify the limitations of data sources, analytics employed, and the implications; represent quantitative information in various forms; and recognize misleading or inappropriate representations of data.