Working only on evenings and weekends, the two quickly put together a visualization analyzing outcomes by prevalence across a number of demographic factors including geography, gender, age, and activity levels.
“We did this with a free database, free ETL tool, the free Tableau Public, and my laptop, which is a $300 beater I bought used. We didn’t have any specialized tools beyond our skills,” Ken points out. “We call ourselves citizen scientists.”
The DHHS judges were impressed with the results these citizen scientists came up with. They awarded Heather and Ken not only the Grand Prize, but also the Design and Relevance awards.
As the VizRisk webpage explains the decisions, “The clean, simple presentation style belies the sophisticated, modular architecture behind it. Within minutes we can remove or add any data fields from over 580 stored in our dedicated database. We can also rapidly add new outcomes, views, tables, chart types, filters, and other features.”
And for Heather and Ken? The citizen scientist duo is now tackling pesticide application data.
“With the open government movement, I think you will see more and more of this sort of movement—to really open up the data and share with citizens. Of course, you will always have some data that needs to be kept private for good reasons, but we are already seeing more openness with data.gov. And it’s just beginning,” Heather says.
Sounds like these citizen scientists are just getting started.