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Public Interest Data Literacy (PIDLit) Initiative

PIDLit initiative logo (monochromatic blue): At left PIDLit acronym with PID stacked on top of LIT; center styled graphic of bar chart flush left against a Y axis and sitting above an X axis, with three bars, two toward left higher and right one lower, with two silhouettes of people, one reaching down from higher bars to grab hand of other and lift them up; at right text PUBLIC INTEREST DATA LITERACY stacked on top of each other

The Public Interest Data Literacy (PIDLit) initiative, led by the Georgia State University Library with multiple campus partners and focused on reaching first-year students and underrepresented groups, expands programs that promote data literacy for the public good and builds a more diverse pipeline of students pursuing careers in data science.

What is Public Interest Data Literacy (PIDLit)?

Public Interest Data Literacy (PIDLit) weds Public Interest Technology and Data Literacy. Students who are skilled in finding, evaluating, analyzing, and using data are better equipped to serve the public good. Communities need thoughtful and well-prepared data experts who can evaluate and use data for informed decision making for the public good, while being ever mindful of the ethical implications that go along with big data collection and increased surveillance. Data careers, which require critical thinking skills in addition to technical expertise, are less at-risk of being replaced by artificial intelligence or other advanced computer technologies. While no career is “future-proof,” data careers are at least future-ready.

Why PIDLit at Georgia State University?

Georgia State University seeks to prepare its diverse students for in-demand careers, including those in the public interest.

Our student body is richly diverse across race, ethnicity, ability, gender, and socioeconomic status. For almost a decade, Georgia State University has been ranked #1 among all not-for-profit colleges and universities in bachelor's degrees awarded to African American students.[1] In 2016, the university consolidated with the two-year Perimeter College, creating the largest university in the state of Georgia and expanding opportunities in our region for students from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds and levels of college readiness. As a result of this diversity, many Georgia State University students come from backgrounds and experiences that drive them to seek careers that will “make a difference” in their communities and their world.

The PIDLit initiative is a natural fit for Georgia State University, as it weds creating a career pipeline for our diverse students to develop the technological and data literacy skills to pursue their passion of contributing to the public good.

The following barriers currently hinder undergraduate students’ ability to find and navigate the path to public interest technology careers:

  • Lack of awareness – Standard first-year curriculum does not focus on building awareness of what “public interest technology” entails and what career pathways students may pursue that apply data literacy skills for the public good.
  • Lack of engagement and skills-building – Standard first-year curriculum rarely involves data literacy application, thus missing the chance to spark students’ interest in developing their data literacy skills for future application for the public good.

The PIDLit initiative is framed around these two primary curricular goals:

  • Building PIDLit Awareness: Increase awareness among first-year students of potential careers in data science and public interest technology, expanding students’ career horizons
  • Building PIDLit Skills: Provide increased instruction and programs around PIDLit to first-year students at the Atlanta campus and two-year Perimeter College, with a particular focus on historically marginalized and underrepresented groups [2] 

The Georgia State University Library's Research Data Services (RDS) Team provides support and training on a host of data analysis tools and methods and opportunities via the "Data in the ATL" talk series for students to network with the broader Atlanta community around real-world application of data science. Georgia State University’s College to Career initiative encourages curricular enhancements that help students become aware of career competencies, connect those competencies to the work they do in the major, and demonstrate their proficiency of transferable skills. Georgia State University’s Digital Learners to Leaders (DLL) initiative organizes student-led teams that create digital solutions to real-world challenges, thereby growing students’ digital and problem-solving skills and increasing their career marketability. By conjoining these campus initiatives, the PIDLit initiative expands data literacy outreach to first-year students, fostering a career pipeline that is stronger and more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, ability, gender, and socioeconomic status.

[1] Diverse: Issues in Higher Education Rankings. (2019). Retrieved from

[2]  This focus on marginalized and underrepresented groups aims to address the clear lack of diversity in the data science community, especially in terms of race and ethnicity, as well as an underrepresentation of women [Business-Higher Education Forum & PricewaterhouseCoopers. (2017). Investing in America’s data science and analytics talent: The case for action. Retrieved from]

Thanks to our funder, PIT-UN!

New America logo (black and white): At left is a stylized flag image similar to United States flag, with a circle in top left corner where US flag stars normally appear and alternating black and white stripes (three black, 2 white); At right says NEW AMERICA with NEW stacked on top of AMERICAThe PIDLit initiative is funded in the amount of $150,681 by the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN), which is convened by New America, the Ford Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation. The network and challenge grants are funded through the support of the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Mastercard Impact Fund, with support from the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, The Raikes Foundation, Schmidt Futures, and The Siegel Family Endowment.

How will this benefit the PIT-UN and other universities?

Georgia State University will share the plan and framework we develop, as well as student and instructor experiences. At the end of the first year, our PIDLit curriculum will be published as a website for partners and other Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) member institutions to provide feedback and collaborative development going forward.

We will host webinars at the beginning and end of the first year with PIT-UN member institutions and others with interests in PIDLit in order to gain insights and share ideas for reaching undergraduates around public interest data science. The potential audience is faculty, librarians, career counselors, student success leaders, instructional technologists, and others TBD. We have confirmed panelists and partners from:

We are open to additional partners within PIT-UN.

The PIDLit Fellow and Co-Directors

For more information about the PIDLit initiatve, contact the PIDLit Fellow or the Co-Directors: