The one-year, part-time professional certificate in data journalism is the first of its kind in Ireland and aims to fill a gap felt by working journalists.

The new course, starting this year, is designed for working professionals. Colin Scott, professor at UCD, says content will be delivered on a single day each week, providing real world experience in a data journalism studio which emphasises teamwork and communication.

He insisted it’s important for journalists’ knowledge of data to be "if not equal to that of government, significant", when dealing with releases from official sources, and journalists can’t just regurgitate data without critical and capable analysis.

Colin said knowing how to use data can cause real changes- for example, the Daily Telegraph’s analysis of vast data on MP expenses uncovered some dubious practices. The fallout, he says, caused a permanent change to the relationship between the public and their government.

At the first European Data and Computational Journalism Conference on July 6th, Bahareh Heravi, assistant professor at UCD, shared results from the recent Global Data Journalism Survey which asked journalists about working with data.

50.3% of respondents said they didn’t have any formal training in data journalism. When asked if they would like formal training, 58% said they wouldn’t. However, Bahareh said that the survey was skewed towards people who already had jobs and might not want to leave or step back from their careers.

And in fact, when asked if they would like shorter term formal training such as postgrad certificates or diplomas, most said yes.

Skills in Demand

In Cardiff University, Martin Chorley has been running a full time masters’ in computational and data journalism for three years along with Glyn Mottershead, a former stranger who approached him on Twitter to share his disgust at non-alcoholic beer. He says their goal has been to teach two steps up from the standard data tools such as Excel and Tableau, which let you drag and drop to create the familiar tables and charts.

 To get more advanced, there are tools like D3 (Javascript), Python, R, but Martin says "We wanted to go the next level up, where you’re writing your own tools."

His graduates from the first two years, equipped with core journalism skills and application and information processing tied together by "harmonisation seminars" have gone on to achieve 100% employment in their chosen field. The third year haven’t finished yet- but half are already working.

Martin says it’s essential to give students space to try and fail. "It’s a huge learning experience to have" he said, "try to focus on real world problems, allow them to build their portfolios".