Rows of computer servers

June 14, 2024, by Laura Nicholson

Empowering Researchers with Data Skills: Insights from Data Fest 2024

Throughout the 2023–4 academic year, we are running a new feature on the Learning Technology (LT) blog: a faculty takeover month! Each month, we will feature posts from different faculty members at the university. Every Friday, posts will highlight interesting work and ideas related to technology in teaching and learning and showcase unique projects from within the various disciplines across the UoN. So far, we’ve featured content from all the faculties at the University and the degree apprenticeship programmes at UoN. This month, we welcome posts from the Researcher Academy. 

Many thanks for this post by Ola David, Data Science and Digital Skills Delivery Manager. 


Data Fest is an annual data skills development programme run by the Researcher Academy. It is targeted at PGRs and researchers of all categories.  

Our team – the Researcher Development Team of the Researcher Academy, is a group of specialists in different thematic areas of researcher development and learning technologies, and aside from Data Fest, we also run other development programmes. 

At Data Fest 2024, we aimed to equip researchers and research support staff with essential data skills to enhance their research outcomes and employability. The training program, held between January and March, focused on the growing need for data proficiency in research and beyond. 

Overview of Data Fest 2024 

This year’s Data Fest featured a comprehensive training schedule with 13 sessions, a 30% increase from last year. We covered five critical training areas, including:

  • Data Handling and Policy 
  • Data Analysis and Visualization 
  • Machine Learning/AI 
  • Generative AI  
  • Introduction to Data Repositories.  

The sessions were a mix of online webinars held on MS Teams and face-to-face formats, with online sessions having considerably higher turnout rates. 

Training Areas and Key Technologies 

We hosted speakers for topics like data management planning, responsible data governance, and using tools such as Open Refine and R for data cleaning and visualization. The Machine Learning/AI sessions introduced foundational concepts and practical applications, while the Generative AI sessions explored the responsible use of tools like ChatGPT and Bard within higher education and research. 

Participant Engagement and Feedback 

Data Fest 2024 saw a significant rise in engagement, with registrations up by 91.63% and attendance more than doubling from last year. The feedback process, despite a low response rate, indicated high satisfaction with over 90% positive feedback on course content and delivery. The Researcher Academy email proved to be the most effective outreach channel, highlighting the importance of targeted communication. 

Challenges and Lessons Learned 

Managing the program revealed several challenges, such as initial low turnout and difficulties in feedback collection. We learned the value of sending reminder emails, calendar invites, and incorporating interactive elements like polls and quizzes to sessions to track engagement, and we’re currently developing an enhanced strategy for feedback collection. 


Survey results showed participants signed up for most sessions for improved research skills and greater employability prospects, validating the program’s objectives. Notably, sessions on AI and data visualization had higher sign-up rates compared to other themes, indicating a strong interest in these areas. 


Data Fest 2024 successfully enhanced the data skills of many researchers and provided valuable insights for future programs.  

Call to Action 

Join us in our next training program to stay ahead in the data-driven research landscape. For more information and to register for upcoming sessions, visit our SharePoint page (Sorry UoN collleagues only) or contact our team by email. Let’s continue to empower our research community with the skills needed for success. 

Posted in Courses & trainingFaculty Takeover