Introducing Sydney Data Stories

Sydney Data Stories is a campus-wide interdisciplinary project which aims to inspire students with the importance of statistical thinking by showcasing the way researchers across the University of Sydney are using data to bring new insights and solutions to a wide variety of interesting and complex problems.

This project was supported by a 2018 Strategic Educational Innovation Grant from the DVC(E), University of Sydney.

This article was written by Di Warren and Samantha Clarke.

What is Sydney Data Stories?

Sydney Data Stories is a growing collection of data stories from across the University, that relate to a variety of different majors, programs, and degrees.

The Sydney Data Stories project began as a live masterclass series for undergraduate data science and statistics students, in semester 1, 2018. We invited University of Sydney researchers, graduate students, and alumni industry professionals to present on “how they use data in their research”, and “how they came to do what they do”. We set no other parameters on what should be covered, but rather let the individual personality of the speaker inform the trajectory of their data story. For the students, Sydney Data Stories is a chance to meet a wide cross-section of researchers, from different disciplines and at different career stages, in person; they can hear first-hand their pioneering data stories and later analyse this same data in class or assessments.

The project has since grown to include a series of Sydney Data Stories videos, supported by funding from the Strategic Educational Innovation Grant. In July 2018, the university’s Learning Media Production team spent two weeks filming both full one hour Masterclasses, as well as shorter interview style recordings, with a wide range of researchers, resulting in a set of very high quality, accessible videos showcasing data science across a multitude of different disciplines.

Sydney Data Stories Canvas site

Just released on the Sydney Data Story Canvas site, the new online Sydney Data Stories videos allow the same data story to have much wider reach, as they can now be accessed by all staff and students from around the university. The videos can be embedded into any USYD course (visit the Canvas site to find out how), as well as be cut and repackaged for new purposes, like a recent outreach workshop to NSW high school students for the new Extension Science course.


Sydney Data Stories is an innovative, integrated approach to interdisciplinary education. So far, many immediate pedagogical benefits have emerged for the students, including:

  1. Students see their lecturer as interested in all research, not just their own research.
  2. Students see another lecturer interested in their learning, not just their own classes or students.
  3. Students see a wealth of future pathways.
  4. Students experience a completely authentic assessment, built around current research.
  5. Students recognise the research reputation of their institution.
  6. Students get to meet their [possible] ‘future-self’.

What the students think

To date, student feedback about Sydney Data Stories has been overwhelmingly positive, demonstrating in a very tangible way the interdisciplinary nature of the world around us, from astrophysics to precision medicine, from crop yields to anthropology.

…when there is a story attached, and something to solve statistically with that data story, everything becomes more engaging

DATA1001 Student, student feedback survey, Dec 2018

We have received a number of unsolicited emails from students telling us how much they appreciated the masterclasses:

the data masterclasses were enjoyable to attend and gave interesting insight into the ways in which data can be used.

DATA1001 student feedback, unit of study survey, May 2018

Get involved

Thank you

We would like to thank Prof Jean Yang and Dr Ellis Patrick for their support of the overall project, particularly in liaising with all their research collaborators. We would also like to thank Tim Harland and Tom Cavdarovski from the Learning Media Production team at the University of Sydney for their expertise in video production. A special thanks goes to all the researchers who have generously participated in Sydney Data Stories so far. This project was support by a Strategic Educational Innovation Grant from the DVC(E), University of Sydney.


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