Gapminder: an interesting place for a self-proclaimed sustainable development nerd

I looked at the clock at the top right of my screen. 23:20. I triple-checked the submission page, took one last look, and clicked “Submit Final”. I heard a “bing” and checked my email—my MD thesis had been successfully submitted. Forty minutes later, I was in bed as the clock struck the deadline as I slept.

Thankfully, my school makes students complete a project and write a manuscript, and for me, that confirmed for me that research is weakness. My project was on complex drug regimens in older trauma patients who fell. Having gone through the process, I am grateful for it, as painful as that process could be when I was in the thick of things. I picked the project to be useful to the team more than anything else (ha ha and to meet my requirement), but I did feel strongly connected to the subject matter. However, the work has motivated to continue working on projects and keep getting better.

I am not great at research. I’ll follow up with a post sharing more of my journey through research actives and sharing some tips for students who were not close to research as undergrads and for whom it does not come naturally, but for now, that’s all you need to know.

That said, I am grateful to my school for providing access and a course for learning the basics of R on DataCamp. Although sometimes painful, I learned quite a bit, and I noticed my ears really perked up when the website presented some exercises using the public Gapminder dataset, the portion of which contained data about the national GDP of various companies. Previously, DataCamp had me working through exercises concerning Legos and tourist bike rentals, and although I am a lifelong Lego fan and will take a bike over a car any day of the week, I felt a bit bored.

Then, here we were talking about more serious things, things that had real impact on people’s lives. Starting in college, I caught wind of the United Nations’ many, many Sustainable Development Goals, which focused on many, many issues facing the world as contributed by people across the globe. I continue to be fascinated about the progress the world had made in the last 50-100 years in terms of quality of life and material wealth, for millions and millions and millions of people, especially the world’s poorest.

Hoping to capitalize on my forward momentum in research and follow up on this interesting dataset, I searched for Gapminder during a lull at the hospital and fell down a rabbit hole. The photos and stories from families of various incomes across the globe, all featured on Swedish foundation Gapminder’s Dollar Street platform, captivated me. The Worldview Upgrader quizzes, designed to help users better understand the problems underlying the SDGs, complete with animations sure to entertain the least interested and helpful explanations of the correct answers, were addictive. And there, in a link from the front page, were the Gapminder datasets I sought.

Looking forward to exploring that data and sharing the story as it unfolds. In the meantime, go check out Gapminder to learn more about our beautiful, amazing world!

Do you have a subject for which you felt the idea of research become exciting? Recommend any similar datasets or resources?

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