Help researchers sharpen their data analysis skills

Good data are a building block of scientific advancement and discovery, and innovative research depends on it.  

But as researchers know, utilising data is a multi-faceted challenge, and the process of crafting raw data into breakthrough science can hinge on having the tools to prepare and perform proper data analysis. 

Why data analysis should be a priority

Data analysis is critical, but daunting. 

It entails not only choosing the most suitable analysis approach, but a fundamental grasp of core concepts that enable the confident execution of strategic decisions throughout the analysis process. 

For early-career researchers, the lack of experience and training can manifest in uncertainty that hinders their work. A research project suffering from a poorly conceived data analysis plan will struggle to hold up throughout the peer review and post publication process. 

The ability to make informed decisions about the best analysis is important, but so is being clear about the limits of that analysis. A good data analysis plan is transparent and reproducible, while still communicating the story of the data effectively. 

As researchers progress on their career path, they should expect to confront data analysis that is increasingly complex and technically challenging. Having a strong skill-base will not only help them face these projects, it can transform data analysis from an intimidating process into one of the most rewarding.  

What a researcher will gain

Data Analysis: Planning and Preparing, a new course from Nature Masterclasses, is a dynamic resource for early-career researchers that delivers important context on the career benefits of quality data analysis, and examines the essential elements and best practices of a well-constructed, refined and effective data analysis plan. 

Researchers will gain awareness of the critical role data analysis plays in their research career, and why failing to conduct it properly can be a massive risk with serious implications. 

Participants will learn how to create a data analysis plan, apply best practices for collating and quality checking their data, understand and carry out preliminary analysis, and avoid common analysis mistakes through careful planning and preparation.

Armed with this comprehensive set of data analysis skills, researchers can approach their projects with newfound confidence and a clearer grasp of how to successfully use data throughout their research career. 

A key skill that’s been hard to improve

Data analysis is a skill that researchers know is essential, yet have struggled to find satisfying opportunities for tangible improvement. 

An international survey of researcher training needs conducted in 2020 revealed that 92% of researchers (total n = 344) consider data analysis an important skill for research success, while 78% (total n = 344) indicated that they struggle in that area and could benefit from additional training.*

Stunningly, only 30% (total n = 456) reported to be satisfied with―or even have access to―training in data analysis.  

Such strong demand―and need―conveys how urgent a strategic, carefully designed approach to data analysis is for researchers as they embark on their career path. Proficiency in this area is a must, as competition is fierce for funding, publishing success and peer respect throughout the scientific community. 

Iterative testing, expert collaboration

Data Analysis: Planning and Preparation provides researchers with relevant skills in a format that aligns to their specific learning needs and schedules. The course was designed by fusing expert collaboration, data-focused development and constant performance testing, tenets of all Nature Masterclasses courses. 

Each stage of course design, from choosing the topic to developing the course outline and crafting the written and video content, is data-driven and iterative, meaning it’s continually user- and expert-tested to ensure it meets the needs of researchers and maintains a demanding standard of quality.

Content is designed and delivered in collaboration with a panel of 10 experts experienced in a range of roles related to data analysis, including: 

  • Journal editors in data heavy fields
  • Data analysis educators from renowned institutions
  • Specialists in the field of data analysis
  • Researchers in statistics and data-rich fields
  • Lab scientists  

The course supports researchers in the following areas of learning:

  • Identifying the benefits of planning and preparing your data for analysis
  • A thorough understanding of the challenges of data analysis preparation
  • In-depth review of key terms and concepts
  • How to apply core principles to create an effective data analysis plan
  • Implementing best practices to collate your analytic dataset, check and transform your data
  • Apply strategies for carrying out a preliminary analysis

The course is divided into two modules, each containing seven lessons and 2.5 total hours of learning. The modules are: 

  1. Introduction to data analysis and the importance of planning
  2. Preparing your data for analysis 

Each lesson is packed with insight and can be studied in sequence or in the order that best fits the specific background and needs of the researcher. The course comes with the full range of benefits of Nature Masterclasses online platform, which delivers flexibility and control to busy researchers who crave training but have limited time in their schedule. 

The benefits of Nature Masterclasses online courses 

The platform provides researchers with:

  • Bite-size learning in the form of 20-minute, information-rich lessons that convey maximum information in concentrated time
  • On-demand access to lessons, videos and online activities designed to meet researcher’s needs and schedules
  • Course material organised into targeted modules that divide each topic into clear, manageable sections 
  • Varied multimedia formats, including interactive exercises
  • Asynchronous delivery, which makes course material accessible anytime and anywhere
  • Progress status that can be saved for self-paced learning
  • English language subtitles and transcripts
  • Subscription options that give institutions full access to the entire catalogue of online trainings, plus access to future courses 

These features give researchers total control over their learning environment and makes it possible to add crucial skills without disrupting or slowing down their day-to-day work. 

Solidify and strengthen

Improving researcher’s data analysis abilities will strengthen their work and provide a strong foundation for credible, scientifically-sound projects long into the future. By combining a must-have skill with a powerful platform, Data Analysis: Planning and Preparing arms researchers with tangible resources in an area of need. Prioritise researchers with a course that prioritises them.

*Publisher data: Nature Masterclasses Global Survey 2020

Getty/Thomas Barwick