Consultation and Collaborative Project Support
Free consultations with our team of staff and student specialists are available to all members of the Northwestern community to get your questions answered, troubleshoot code, or discuss analysis approaches. We can help you work with your data more effectively and efficiently by combining technical skills in data science, visualization, and software development with research expertise. Interested in collaborating on a larger project? Let’s talk.
Consultants are available to help Northwestern researchers of all levels (faculty, postdocs, graduate students, undergraduate students, staff) from all schools and fields with a wide range of data challenges. Here are some examples:
- Collecting data from the web, databases, APIs, and other sources
- Transforming, reformatting, and wrangling data files
- Extracting information from text data
- Troubleshooting R, Python, Stata, and other code
- Automating repetitive research tasks
- Exploring the applicability of machine learning methods for research questions
- Visualizing data for exploratory analysis, publication, or communication with the public
- Creating interactive visualizations
- Making your research practices reproducible
Consultations provide no-cost, short-term support to answer questions, help you get started, direct you to the right resources, or tackle small tasks. For larger projects, see the Research Project Support section on this page below.
Note that while we assist researchers with statistical programs and languages, assistance with or advice on choosing, evaluating, and interpreting statistical models or tests is limited; we are not a statistical consulting service, and such requests are often outside the expertise of our consultants. The Biostatistics Collaboration Center is an excellent resource for researchers affiliated with the Feinberg School of Medicine. Other researchers may request a consult for statistics questions; we will evaluate our ability to help on a request-by- request basis.
Schedule a Consultation
Consultation services are provided to students, postdocs, faculty, and staff to support research only. There is no cost for this service. Assistance with coursework or commercial endeavors is not available.
Ready to get started? After you tell us a little about what you need help with, we'll follow-up by email to get more details or schedule a video/phone call.
Research Computing and Data Services staff may also be available to support longer-term projects for faculty, research groups, or centers where specialized data science, visualization, or software development skills could enhance a project or are required for its success. Longer engagements often require funding to support, but there's never a cost for initial consultations and planning conversations. It helps us to hear about projects where such skills are required, even if funding is not available. We can support unfunded projects depending on our availability, and we can help you apply for funding to support your project. Learning more about your research allows us to plan future services that will best serve the needs of the research community.
Examples of Our Past Work
See the Data Services Annual Reports for information on some of our recent projects. Past projects have included the following:
- Web application: Created a web-based tool that allowed research assistants to review a large collection of email documents and code information about the emails using a custom form. The tool increased research assistant accuracy and speed, allowed for easier monitoring and review of the work by the faculty member, and stored the work in a backed-up database.
- Data workflow redesign: Automated an hours-long, manual data workflow for a research lab that involved editing multiple spreadsheets in an error-prone process. The raw data files are instead uploaded to a cloud service, and lab staff can now run automated queries to extract the subset of data they need on demand in seconds.
- Data analysis support: Combined the results of a dozen online surveys, multiple participant activity logs from MOOC courses on multiple platforms, and several SQL database dumps to create datasets to analyze the impact of the MOOC courses. Analyzed and visualized the data for inclusion in study publication. Created code and data files to allow analysis to be shared and replicated.
- Research replicability: Reviewed and revised code and data files for a forthcoming journal article to ensure research results could be easily confirmed and built upon by other researchers. Created data dictionary, R Markdown document to produce paper's results, and a unified dataset.
- Data extraction: Extracted data on schools' performance from PDFs with varied formats. Exported data to a CSV file.
- Text processing: Developed dictionaries of key terms related to topic of interest, tracked prevalence of topic in a collection of documents overtime, and evaluated the accuracy and precision of the topical coding. Determined that machine learning methods would not produce the required level of accuracy for the research task given the amount and complexity of the data available.
- Interactive data visualization: Created interactive visualization to allow users to explore relationships between variables in a dataset and produce plots of the data in their web browser.
Support is not limited to these examples. We are always excited to be challenged with new projects!
Interested in talking about support for a longer project? Request a consultation and let us know you'd like to talk about support for a research project.