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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Paula Lackie wins ICPSR tech award

<rleton seniors working on science-related comps may have experienced a sense of doom when presented with a plethora of data and little idea how to respond. However, Paula Lackie, Carleton’s Academic Technologist and premier superwoman for data analysis, has swept in to help students figure out where and how to start working with their data.

“I help students understand their research,” Lackie said. “My intent is to help people understand their data, help them understand other people’s data and work with it.”

Lackie, who saves the day one statistic at a time, has worked at Carleton for almost 20 years. For all of her hard work at the college, as well as for her hard work as an official representative of the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), Lackie has received the 2011 William H. Flanigan Award for Distinguished Service.

“I got the award for doggedly pursuing undergraduate access to data, to make it easier and better to understand,” Lackie said. “I’ve also been on numerous committees of ICPSR for a while.”

ICPSR, the world’s oldest and largest data archive, is a consortium of ten big universities and colleges that strives to make data and statistics easily available to the public.

“The whole point is to have reliable, consistent access to research data,” Lackie said. “I’ve been a representative for over twenty years. I started in grad-school, and was one of the only grad students who took it seriously.”

Lackie is passionate about helping students, and the general public, truly analyze and understand data. Especially in a world that is dominated by political, scientific and socio-economic statistics, she stresses the importance of truly knowing and comprehending the numbers in context.

“Either you understand data, or you will become the victim of someone else’s data,” she says. “It applies to all citizens. We need to understand data in this country. Numbers are very powerful, especially in politics.”
To become adequately engaged with the world’s statistics, Lackie stresses a couple of things. First, do not be intimidated by statistics.

“Statistics is not math,” she said. “People who have math anxiety freeze up at statistics. But it’s not the same thing.”

Once this has been overcome, Lackie emphasizes that the nature of data manipulation is within logic.
“It’s all logic, all of it. Not math,” she said, adding that “it’s super easy and super fast to come up with stupid results. You have to have the numbers in context. Don’t be fooled by other people’s data. If the numbers matter, don’t be afraid to double check it and make sure someone isn’t making up figures.”

It is her unconditional passion and enthusiasm about facts and figures that makes Lackie a true Carleton treasure. This data adds up, and it is not hard to comprehend why she is receiving this prestigious award.

Lackie’s deep appreciation for data in the context of student research, democratic expression and global engagement as an involved citizen is reflected in her adamant involvement with Carleton students.
And despite the longevity of her career, she isn’t ready to quit.

“This award is usually given as a lifetime achievement deal,” Lackie said. “But I’m not ready to retire yet.”

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