Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

Independent Study: Story Idea

My first assignment for my CAR independent study was to get some data from the Alachua County Health Department.

Professor Armstrong charged me with getting all current salaries, as of Jan. 1, 2008 for nurse practitioners and physician assistants working in the Alachua County Health Department, both full and part time. It took a couple of tries to get someone on the line. Then they asked me to send an e-mail. But in 3 business days, I had the data. Much easier than I thought.

I know all data requests won’t be so easy, but it’s good practice in asking for it. The experience was similar to what I did to get a gas prices map on The Independent Florida Alligator’s Web site: Figure out who has it, find a contact number or e-mail address, and ask.

My next assignment was to decide on a story I wanted to do the data analysis for. I had a lot of trouble with this, because I had to choose something that was timely, accessible, etc.

After going through a bunch of ideas

  • location trends for car accidents in the gainesville area. are holidays/game days a factor?
  • something about uf sustainability. the website was basically a bunch of press releases, but i bet if i went and asked they could dig me up some data.
  • I looked at http://earmarkwatch.org/ and found that all the earmarks for the state of Florida are for defense bills. UF and some other Florida universities were getting some cash too.
  • go back to crime or poverty :( i’m trying to avoid these because they seem too obvious/easy.

I finally hit on something:
Given that Crist just put out the budget for public universities and UF is apparently not getting any help, I think that would be a good direction to take. I can compare funding for public universities in Florida and maybe other states, compare growth in attendance, that sort of thing. Look at how funding for UF has changed now that we have fewer people in legislature and other schools are building strength. (UCF, SFU) Is UF still the “flagship” university? I’ll also be looking at tuition.

So the next step is to figure out how far back to look. I’ll start at 10 years, hit up Lexis and see what I can dig up.

I’m much more confident now that the topic is locked down.

  • I like it. It’s of great interest to just about everybody at UF, naturally, but also to many others in Florida. The state university system here has been going through changes ever since I arrived in 1999, and since so many Florida adults want their children to attend UF, you can do some pretty useful stuff with this story. Let them know how the money business affects not only their children’s education (and future) but also the economy of their state.

  • I like it. It’s of great interest to just about everybody at UF, naturally, but also to many others in Florida. The state university system here has been going through changes ever since I arrived in 1999, and since so many Florida adults want their children to attend UF, you can do some pretty useful stuff with this story. Let them know how the money business affects not only their children’s education (and future) but also the economy of their state.

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