Northern California Science Writers Association

NCSWA Data Journalism Workshop

  • Saturday, January 12, 2013
  • 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
  • University of San Francisco


(If you'd like to register for the workshop, email your name and contact information to Also indicate if you'd like to join a waiting list. We'll notify you if any spots open up.)

In this workshop, you’ll explore how to analyze and visualize public data to find and tell compelling stories. Science provides particularly fertile ground for data journalism, generating well-curated public datasets on topics from weather and earthquakes, through the distribution of endangered species, to clinical trials of new medical treatments. Databases of research grants and the scientific literature also allow data-savvy journalists to analyze the progress of entire fields of research.

You’ll leave with a basic understanding of how to use spreadsheets and databases, learn how to put data onto an online map and discover how to create other forms of interactive data visualization.

The workshop will be led by Peter Aldhous, San Francisco Bureau Chief of New Scientist and an award-winning science journalist specializing in investigative and computer-assisted reporting. His articles and visualizations have drawn on diverse sources of data, from storm tracks in the North Atlantic, through citations in stem cell research, to analyses of his own genome (see examples at and

We’ll start the workshop by discussing examples of data journalism in science, showing how a “data frame of mind” can provide context for your narratives – and also uncover stories that would otherwise remain hidden. We’ll discuss how to find data, the importance of “cleaning” dirty data, and the core skills of data journalism: sorting, filtering and summarizing data, and joining datasets that share a common field. 

The remainder of the workshop will provide hands-on experience with these skills using spreadsheet and database software (Microsoft Excel and Access), and tools for mapping and data visualization (Google Fusion Tables and Tableau Public). The workshop will be in a University of San Francisco computer lab, and each participant will work on a PC* with all the software pre-installed.

After the workshop, you’ll have online access to the workshop materials with step-by-step instructions via Aldhous’s website, allowing you to hone you data journalism skills at your own convenience. These detailed materials will include slides from his talks with audio, plus screen capture video demos and handouts recreating the hands-on exercises.

*Two of the programs used in this workshop, Access and Tableau Public, are Windows-only. But the core skills learned will generalize to other software platforms.

INSTRUCTOR: Peter Aldhous is the San Francisco bureau chief of New Scientist and formerly Nature’s chief news & features editor. He has been an invited speaker for the past two years at the annual Computer-Assisted Reporting meeting organized by Investigative Reporters and Editors, teaches data journalism at the UC Santa Cruz Science Communication Program, and co-developed an online course in data analysis and visualization for the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. His articles have won awards from the Association of British Science Writers, the Association of Health Care Journalists, the UK Guild of Health Writers, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Royal Statistical Society and the Wistar Institute.


8:30 am - 9:00 am: Registration

9:00 am - 4:00 pm: Workshop


Coffee and continental breakfast during registration.

Lunch (45 minutes) will be catered on-site.

LOCATION:The workshop will be at the University of San Francisco’s the School of Education building in Room 002, which is in the basement. The School of Education building is near the intersection of Turk Blvd. and Masonic Ave., and is labeled “ED” on the Campus Map:



Driving directions:

Parking: On-campus parking permits are $15, and city street parking is free and there is no 2-hour time limit on Saturdays but it’s first-come-first-served. For more information:

REGISTRATION: This workshop is affordable thanks to a generous Ideas Grant from National Association of Science Writers (NASW). Registration is limited to 30, offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Secure your spot early by clicking here! The deadline for registration is Jan. 5 at midnight.

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