Meet Our Team: Vivek Jadon, Data Specialist

Meet Our Team: Vivek Jadon, Data Specialist

Vivek Jadon is the Sherman Centre’s Data Specialist. For the last 22 years at McMaster University, he has led an impressive variety of data-centric projects including the Metadata Markup for Odesi Data Portal, the Hamilton Community Open Data Portal, and DASH: The Data Analysis Support Hub which enhances data analysis and visualization skills through workshops, consultations, and community collaborations. Learn more about our industrious data wiz in this quick Q&A.

SCDS: Data and the tech industry in general have taken off over the last few years, with people paying more attention to the field than ever before. You were ahead of the curve and have been involved in this sector for decades. How did you first become interested in data analysis?

Vivek Jadon: I got interested in data and data analysis during my undergraduate years here at McMaster. While I was doing my degree in Economics back in 1995, I took a few Econometrics and Statistics courses as part of the curriculum. Those courses used data and data manipulation tools such as SPSS, Excel etc., which developed my interest in data analysis.

Moreover, I had a strong background in Math due to my undergraduate degree in Math and Physics from India. This also contributed to my overall liking of the subject area! Furthermore, when McMaster CCE ran their first cohort of Big Data Analytics certificate program, I enrolled and finished that program successfully. This course taught me new applications of data and how data is transforming the world around us through machine learning algorithms.

Screenshot from homepage of McMaster CCE's Data Analytics program. On the left, text reads Data Analytics: Get ahead with data analytics. Explore courses. On the right, a photograph of a man using a computer.
Homepage of McMaster CCE’s Data Analytics program

SCDS: Give us a behind-the-scenes look at a day in the life of the Sherman Centre’s Data Specialist.

VJ: Every day is different in my role as a Data Specialist. Through Library Data Service (LDS), I provide access to a wide assortment of numeric data for a variety of disciplines. This is a one-of-its-kind service on campus where researchers get access to licensed research data from sources such as Statistics Canada, ICPSR, IPSOS Reid, Environics Analytics etc.

In addition to providing access and administering licenses associated with the data, I also provide research consultations related to the use of data, offer workshops and instruction sessions on data and data resources available to McMaster researchers, variety of software applications/tools required to manipulate the data etc. My day is a mix of tasks related to providing support for research data, managing projects, and running the DASH program with the help of student assistants.

poster for 2022-2023 DASH workshops. Shows a yellow-tinted robotic hand in a stylized network.
Sign up for upcoming DASH workshops

SCDS: You’ve worked at McMaster for over 20 years. How has the university’s work with data shifted in that time? How would you like to see things develop in the future?

VJ: There have been several positive changes happened in the world of data since the time I worked at McMaster. I joined the position during the time when the Data Liberation Initiative (DLI) consortium was just formed at Statistics Canada, and researchers were newly able to acquire public use microdata as part of the DLI consortium. Around that time, McMaster was the very first institution in Canada where Statistics Canada’s Research Data Centre (RDC) was established, and researchers started gaining access to the most confidential master files for their research.

Since then, I have seen positive developments in relation to Open Data Initiative. I hope this initiative continues and more and more data become open. Lastly, I have seen great things in relation to Research Data Management and the push from the Tri-agencies to mandate RDM practices across the research community.

screenshot of RDM's McMaster homepage.
Learn more about RDM at McMaster in interviews with our RDM Specialists Danica Evering and Isaac Pratt.

SCDS: Your portfolio includes a wide array of activities: hosting consultations with researchers, leading workshops on data analysis, and spearheading data-related projects. Over your time at McMaster, does any particular collaboration or project stand out as especially meaningful or impactful? Please tell us about it.

VJ: I would like to highlight the DASH program, which was part of University Library’s strategic initiative for almost 3 years and now has become an operational service within the University Library system. Over my 22 years of service at McMaster, I saw data becoming more and more part of undergraduate and graduate curriculum and hence there became a need to start a service that could assist students with their data analysis needs.

DASH started as a peer-to-peer program in 2015 in collaboration with Student Success Centre (SSC) and in 2019 became part of the Library’s strategic initiative. Starting this year, DASH is running as an operational service. DASH has come a long way since its inception in 2015 and has helped various researchers through one-on-one consultations and rich workshop content on a variety of topics such as R, Python, SPSS, Excel, etc., that are relevant in current times.

DASH has collaborated with the Engineering Grad Society (EGS) in the past couple of years and offered workshops together. This year we are collaborating with YWCA Hamilton’s Data Science cohort. As part of this collaboration, we are offering workshops catered to their requirements, as well as providing drop-in consultation service to their students. I feel that the DASH program has been very impactful program for the McMaster community so far and has a lot of potential of community engagement within and beyond McMaster!

Blue-tinted photograph showing two women typing. Text in upper left corner reads YWCA Hamilton Uplift
YWCA Uplift Banner

SCDS: Speaking of bridging the academy and the community, you have another exciting project launching soon: The Hamilton Community Open Data Portal. Please tell our readers about the Open Data Portal and the importance of open data more broadly.

VJ: The Hamilton Community Open Data Portal is a one point of access to the readily available open data on Hamilton. This portal is put together using data from a variety of sources, mainly Statistics Canada. The portal will be open to the public and the data will be downloadable by anyone anytime. There are currently close to 250 files uploaded on the portal on the topics of Population & Demography, Environment, Business & Consumer Services, Immigration & Ethnocultural Diversity, Labor & Income, and Society & Community. The development of the portal will continue, and more content will be uploaded including Geospatial content.

SCDS: What’s something you wish more people knew about data and data analysis?

artistic rendering of artificial intelligence. Shows strands of code falling on a dark blue background.
A snapshot of Vivek’s future work? – “Artificial Intelligence” image from Dataversity.

VJ: This is a good question and I think while most people know about data and its various applications, I feel that not many people know how to manage it effectively. The effective management of data is something that people should learn as they start collecting or start working with the data.

SCDS: Just for fun, what’s a dream project you’d take on at work if you had endless time and resources?

VJ: One dream project that comes to mind is an AI-driven data catalog. The data catalog can house metadata for various types of data from institutions and organizations across Canada (and perhaps across the Globe) and will have AI-driven search capabilities. I don’t want to disclose more information about this dream project, otherwise the idea might get stolen 😊😊

SCDS: Last but not least, I’m asking everyone something about their life beyond work. Tell us something interesting or unexpected about yourself—your favorite TV show, a little-known hobby, a great recipe, whatever you like.

VJ: I have an interest that not many people are aware of – I am very passionate about music (most forms of Indian music) and singing. I don’t have formal training in music, but I plan to take formal vocal lessons. I have been listening to Bollywood music since my childhood, especially the songs by Bollywood legendary playback singer Kishore Kumar. I am a diehard fan of Kishore Kumar and have been singing his songs for quite some time and slowly posting them on my YouTube channel as time permits. I am also active in sports and played Badminton and Cricket pre-Covid. I plan to get back to these sports soon.

Black and white photograph of Kishore Kumar reclining and smiling.
Photograph of Kishore Kumar from Telegraph India

Thanks for telling us about your work, Vivek! Learn more about DASH and book a consultation with the team. Contact Vivek directly at jadonvs@mcmaster.ca

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