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Data Goes Graphic

Jason Goodman ‘12 has put up an interesting post on Tumblr entitled At Dartmouth, grades are up, the humanities are down, and economics is king: a story in charts. Beyond his interesting analysis — which draws heavily from a five-part series done a few years ago in this space by Brian Solomon ‘11 — the piece shows the potential of interactive, graphical depiction of data. Gone are the days of static histograms; viewers can now push the data, move labels around, and even re-define axes.

Here’s a screenshot of one of Jason’s charts showing the number of students taking individual classes in each of the College’s departments. As you can see from the presence of various controls and check boxes, in the interactive version of the chart you have the ability to look at the performance of each department year by year, compare departments, and change the scale of the X-axis. You can even set the graph in motion:

Goodman Enrollments 2013.jpg

The College is jumping on the improved-graphics bandwagon. In April, Alicia Betsinger began work in Hanover as the associate provost for institutional research. She amassed extensive experience with data visualization at the University of Texas, and she wants to put her background to good use here. As she stated to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “I would love for Dartmouth to become the national model for Ivies with respect to data visualization and consumption and use of data.”

Let’s put aside that boilerplate enthusiasm. (Why do people think such a quote is interesting?) I’d prefer complete numbers to their pretty presentation. For example, the Dartmouth FactBook currently presents the total number of non-faculty staffers on the payroll only back through 2009:

Staff Headcount November 2013.jpg

However, the more interesting story is the growth of staffing over the last few decades. I spliced this table together from Factbook data that is no longer available on-line:

Non-faculty Staff 1999-2011.jpg

Even better would be year-by-year stats for the total non-faculty staff at the College back until 1990. How about it?


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