Rhode Island Tells Data Stories

by Michelle Massie
September 18, 2014

Rhode Island has exposed the colorful side of data.

Rhode Island DataHUB is an online, open source resource for anyone interested in using data to answer key questions about Rhode Island residents, focusing on a number of topics that include: education, juvenile justice, health, workforce, etc.

A multi-agency longitudinal data system, RI DataHUB brings together data sets from multiple federal, state and local sources. Data are currently gathered from local partnering public agencies including: Rhode Island Department of Education, Rhode Island Department of Health, Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families, Providence Public Schools and the Rhode Island Department of Corrections. National sources include the Center for Disease Control and the U.S. Census.

The site features a section called “Data Stories.” These stories, or guided tours through selected data, introduce new DataHUB users to the world of WEAVE (Web-based Analysis and Visualization Environment), the software used to visualize the stories. Starting with an essential question, which also could be considered a policy or research question, the stories walk the user through an example of how researchers, policymakers and the public might use the tool.

DataHUB reaches all audiences, not just those familiar with research and data use; while Data Stories humanizes the data and makes it real to people. All data stories include recommendations and next steps to encourage action.

The most recent data story examines the potential role of adult basic education (ABE) in increasing the competitiveness of Rhode Island’s workforce. The state has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation at 7.7 percent.

Like many others, Rhode Island's public adult education system is designed to increase the capacity of low-skilled workers. The system focuses on basic academic and workforce skills, including high school diploma equivalency, English as a second language, and preparing students for jobs and higher education. By focusing on some of the lesser-touted workforce programs such as adult basic education, this data story is an example of WDQC’s goal to promote inclusivity of all students and career pathways.

WDQC is excited about Rhode Island’s endeavor to create a culture of using data to guide and answer important policy questions and use creative means to invite a variety of audiences to explore data and information.