Data Peers: Reimagining students in our research workforce

Session Host/Speaker(s)

There is tremendous interest in data science and it is profoundly impacting many disciplines across the University of California Berkeley (UC Berkeley) campus and beyond, and this also impacts our infrastructure, staffing needs, and how we deliver support for the increasingly blurry line between research and teaching. As the campus rapidly expands the data science instructional program to accommodate this increased interest, it needs additional ways to support the thousands of students who are realizing the significance and opportunity. Further, many undergraduate and graduate students are looking for assistance beyond the traditional classroom to gain familiarity with the methods, processes, and tools of data science. As data science is becoming increasingly pervasive across many disciplines, there are many students on the UC Berkeley campus from a diverse set of backgrounds with interest in data science that are not yet being served. This population includes advanced undergraduate students who are taking on senior projects, applying to graduate school, or entering the job market.

Partners from across the UC Berkeley campus including the Division of Data Science, Computing, and Society, Social Sciences Data Lab, Research IT, and the Library are collaborating to offer the Data Peers consulting program, which combines access to technology, literacy workshops, short courses, and peer consultation to reach students, staff, and faculty whose interests and needs in the area of data science would otherwise not be addressed. 

There was an initial pilot program at the Moffitt Undergraduate Library which has since been expanded with increased staffing, funding, and new partners. This peer consulting and community of practice program provides a combination of technical skills and consulting to guide students in developing their ability to gain experience in the field of data science and apply their skills in their areas of interest. Beyond general data science support we provide data science research and cyberinfrastructure support, which are currently lacking for undergraduates. 

We will present the work we have done through the undergraduate Data Peers program to meet the needs of students at all points of the data science skill continuum and facilitate a series of activities and discussion with participants about how they are or could involve undergraduate students — along with a cascading mentorship model that includes staff and graduate students— to further the missions of their organizations.