Supporting students: the role of data analysis in improving welfare

Article by SA Mathieson, Guardian Labs, (Transforming the student experience series paid for Jisc), 8 March 2019

Students are increasingly concerned about their mental health. One in six people aged 17 to 19 in England has a mental disorder, according to NHS Digital, and students are increasingly reporting mental health conditions to their institutions – 57,305 disclosed one in 2016-17, nearly six times as many as in 2007-08, according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Dr Dominique Thompson, who worked as a university GP for nearly two decades and now advises universities on mental health, believes that students are under increasing pressure from an overly competitive society and a tyranny of perfectionism, all magnified by social media. “People are accepting that we have to do more for our young people,” she says. Continue reading “Supporting students: the role of data analysis in improving welfare”

Aid organisations dodge cloud for technology that works

There were two reasons I wanted to write about software used by international aid organisations. The first reason was that there were lots of great projects to write about. Where commercial mappers failed, Missing Maps volunteers using OpenStreetMap and aerial images had 23,500 square kilometres of the Democratic Republic of the Congo hit by Ebola mapped in a fortnight, helping Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to tackle the outbreak.

The second reason was that aid organisations need technology that works in all environments. Among other things, this often means avoiding cloud computing. MSF physically flew its new maps to the Congo, first on paper then on a small server, to save bandwidth to its facilities there. Those with staff working mainly in the field, such as Oxfam and World Vision, make sure their software works offline. It demonstrates why cloud is not the answer everywhere, even if mobile coverage in Britain are usually better than in central Africa. Continue reading “Aid organisations dodge cloud for technology that works”

Updated version of Britdata just published

A new version of my e-book Britdata is available here (£9.99) and on Leanpub (US$11.99 plus VAT). I have updated it with the recently-released population estimates from the Office for National Statistics, as well as information on how GDPR affects subject access requests.

Whether on Leanpub or direct, buyers automatically get updated versions when they come out – I have just sent this new edition to those who had already purchased it – and it comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee. To give you an idea, you can read the introduction here and the list of contents here.

Cancer diets and tech giants: having cake and eating it

I recently worked with Jack Malvern at The Times on a news story on ketogenic diet apps that claim to help treat cancer (subscription required).

A ketogenic diet, which is very low in carbohydrates, can be used under medical supervision to treat children with epilepsy. But Cancer Research UK says there is no evidence it is effective in reducing the risk of people getting cancer or increasing survival rates. Continue reading “Cancer diets and tech giants: having cake and eating it”

My new data journalism e-book, Britdata

BritdataIf I have a data journalism specialist subject, it is Britain. Writing about its public sector means finding out how to extract information on it through Freedom of Information, parliamentary written answers and open data on spending; knowing how to use official published data on Britain’s localities; and understanding the often-messy structure of local public services including councils, police, fire and NHS organisations.

I have just published a new e-book, Britdata: Finding data on the UK for journalists, researchers and campaigners, covering these areas and others, including tips on dealing with data and specific information on all of the UK’s top-tier local authority areas. A PDF of the introduction is here with more information here.

Continue reading “My new data journalism e-book, Britdata”