Data Matters short-course series returns in August 2021

Annual short-course series aims to bridge the data literacy gap

Now in its eighth year, Data Matters 2021, a week-long series of one and two-day courses aimed at students and professionals in business, research, and government, will take place August 9 – 13 virtually via Zoom. The short course series is sponsored by the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science at UNC-Chapel Hill, the National Consortium for Data Science, and RENCI.

Although the need for data literacy has grown exponentially for employers over the last few years, many academic institutions are struggling to keep up. According to a 2021 report from Forrester, 81% of recruiters rated data skills and data literacy as important capabilities for candidates, while only 48% of academic planners reported that their institution currently has specific data skills initiatives set up. Data Matters helps bridge this gap by providing attendees the chance to learn about a wide range of topics in data science, analytics, visualization, curation, and more from expert instructors.

“As our society becomes more data-driven, we’ve seen a greater need for workers in environments such as industry, health, and law to have a basic understanding of data science techniques and applications,” said Shannon McKeen, executive director of the National Consortium for Data Science. “The Data Matters short-course series allows us to meet the high demand for data science education and to provide pathways for both recent graduates and current professionals to bridge the data literacy gap and enrich their knowledge.”

Data Matters instructors are experts in their fields from NC State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, Cisco, Blue Cross NC, and RENCI. Topics to be covered this year include information visualization, data curation, data mining and machine learning, programming in R, systems dynamics and agent-based modeling, and more. Among the classes available are:

  • Introduction to Programming in R, Jonathan Duggins. Statistical programming is an integral part of many data-intensive careers and data literacy, and programming skills have become a necessary component of employment in many industries. This course begins with necessary concepts for new programmers—both general and statistical—and explores some necessary programming topics for any job that utilizes data. 
  • Text Analysis Using R, Alison Blaine. This course explains how to clean and analyze textual data using R, including both raw and structured texts. It will cover multiple hands-on approaches to getting data into R and applying analytical methods to it, with a focus on techniques from the fields of text mining and Natural Language Processing.
  • Using Linked Data, Jim Balhoff. Linked data technologies provide the means to create flexible, dynamic knowledge graphs using open standards. This course offers an introduction to linked data and the semantic web tools underlying its use. 
  • R for Automating Workflow & Sharing Work, Justin Post. The course provides participants an introduction to utilizing R for writing reproducible reports and presentations that easily embed R output, using online repositories and version control software for collaboration, creation of basic websites using R, and the development of interactive dashboards and web applets. 

Data Matters offers reduced pricing for faculty, students, and staff from academic institutions and for professionals with nonprofit organizations. Head to the Data Matters website to register and to see detailed course descriptions, course schedules, instructor bios, and logistical information. 

Registration is now open at The deadline for registration is August 5 for Monday/Tuesday courses, August 7 for Wednesday courses, and August 8 for Thursday/Friday courses.

About the National Consortium for Data Science (NCDS)

The National Consortium for Data Science (NCDS) is a collaboration of leaders in academia, industry, and government formed to address the data challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. The NCDS helps members take advantage of data in ways that result in new jobs and transformative discoveries. The organization connects diverse communities of data science experts to support a 21st century data-driven economy by building data science career pathways and creating a data-literate workforce, bridging the gap between data scientists in the public and private sectors, and supporting open and democratized data.The NCDS is administered by founding member RENCI. Learn more at