Looking back on my time as a Data Impact Fellow – Esmeralda Bon

Image of Esmeralda BonYou never know where a journey might take you when you take the first steps. Esmeralda Bon, one of our #DataImpactFellows, takes a look back at what she feels she has gained from her time as a Fellow.


About two years ago I was fortunate enough to be chosen as a Data Impact Fellow for the UK Data Service. Although I am not going anywhere (this is not a goodbye), my formal fellowship is sadly coming to an end.

However, this does allow me to reflect. How has the Data Impact Fellowship affected my research and development as an early career researcher?

Here we are, two years in, and I’m still not sure what ‘impact’ really is. Asking around, I don’t think many of us do.

It’s a measurable construct to some extent, sure, but one ever so subjective. What is clear, however, is that with research we strive to influence policy, to improve circumstances and to foster progress. With passion, we strive to change the world for the better.

Although impact can take many forms, it is this goal-oriented approach, an attitude to using data, that ties us together, as researchers in general, and Data Impact Fellows more specifically. It is this attitude that matters.

As you may guess, one of the gifts this fellowship has given me is time to reflect on the notion of ‘impact’ itself: the good, and the bad. And I’m a better academic for it.

Do not compare.

Do not quantify what cannot be quantified.

After all, in the end, the impact and success that we have, is all subject to a roll of the dice.

20-sided dice on a laptop

Image: 20-sided dice on a laptop.
Esmeralda Bon (CC BY 4.0)


At the same time, this fellowship has given me the chance to look into best practices for data quality and data management.

I am now able to pass this knowledge on to my peers and my students, online and offline. Admittedly, for some these may not be the most sensational topics to talk about, but it’s all about time and place, right? If we truly want to contribute to knowledge and to build on past knowledge, especially in this age, rigour is a must.

Keep a logbook.

Use a script.

Use version control.

Add notes.

Avoid misunderstandings, misconceptions and, yes, misinformation.

Furthermore, this fellowship has given me a chance to spread awareness on a platform greater than my own. Awareness about these best practices, but also about the research I conduct, together with different organisations. This is invaluable.

What are we academics, without an audience, without a chance to reach the impact we are capable of? In the same vein, what are we without a network?

This fellowship has allowed me to become part of a small network, a community of like-minded peers, who inspire and encourage me, in my research, public speaking, and teaching.

Therefore, reader, if you are on the fence about applying to become a data impact fellow in the future, I strongly encourage you to do so.

The road is long. Let’s learn and spread knowledge, together.

As with knowledge, comes power.

Image: Empty train tracks leading into the distance

Image: Empty train tracks leading into the distance.
Esmeralda Bon (CC BY 4.0)


About the author

Esmeralda Bon, @EsmeraldaVBon is one of our UK Data Service Data Impact Fellows. Esmeralda is an ESRC-funded PhD student in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham, in collaboration with the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL), an advisory non-departmental public body sponsored by the Cabinet Office. Esmeralda is affiliated with the Centre for British Politics and the Nottingham Interdisciplinary Centre for Economic and Political Research (NICEP).


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