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Vinson Institute’s Byars wins 2023 Staff Award

James Byars is a scientific computing professional specialist for the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Since joining the Vinson Institute in 2014, Byars has worked to create reliable, accessible data to support projections and plans for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, the University System of Georgia (USG) and other clients.

Over the past five years, Byars has been key to producing annual projections for Georgia’s population by age, sex and race for the state’s 159 counties for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. His role in refining and evaluating the computer algorithms for this data has produced more stable and accurate annual estimates. These projections are used to inform major infrastructure planning, from road and water systems to funding for schools and healthcare. Byars’ 2021 projections were only 0.11 percent off of the official census estimates for Georgia’s 2022 population.

One of the early products Byars helped develop was a data system and dataset that combined three families of University System of Georgia data. Bringing the datasets together allowed Vinson’s analytics team to develop innovative products and conduct research for the USG and its 26 institutions on student transfer patterns and changes in recruitment strategies. With Byars’ dataset creation and data modeling talents, all USG institutions have access to the data on a secure portal. This innovative solution to data access and analytics earned the USG the Excalibur Award from the Technology Association of Georgia in 2016.

Additionally, he has utilized his expertise and experience to mentor students, provide professional training opportunities for his peers and present at national and state conferences. Byars has mentored three undergraduate students and served as a mentor for three master’s and six doctoral students in completing their theses and dissertations. He also actively invests in his staff by hosting professional development opportunities for learning complex statistical methods, new coding concepts and new visualization techniques.

“Throughout James’ career at the Institute of Government, he has been a team player and innovator,” said Rob Gordon, director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. “The foundation James has provided for data analytics and visualization and his creativity and technical dexterity have enabled the institute to grow.”

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