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I recently started to work as a remote independent contractor part-time data analyst/content writer. I proposed a topic for a new article that involved developing a Python scrapper to analyze text and images of a popular website. The proposal was accepted.

I spent about 2 weeks developing the scrapper and gathering the data, after a lot of failed attempts. But the data is not interesting and not worth publishing. Also, I couldn't implement a tool to analyze the images, beyond size and colors, but this data is also not interesting to be published.

Should I ask to cancel this project and not count the hours I spent on this since I'm not an actual employee. To clarify, I'm working as an independent contractor but I'm being asked to submit some content/work each month and I'm working closely with a supervisor.

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    1. Was the proposed article about developing the scraper, analyzing the data it collected, or presenting an analysis of that data? 2. Is your arrangement that you are paid for your time, or are you paid for each submission? 3. What communications have you had with your supervisor on this project? – Upper_Case Feb 28 at 19:23
  • 1- The proposal was about scraping the data, analyzing it and writing a blog post about it. 2- I'm paid on an hourly basis 3- My supervisor is following the project almost on a daily basis but has no technical knowledge, so he just points me to some tools or links I could use or gives very broad advice – Juan Carlos Feb 28 at 19:29
  • Did you market yourself as analyst or developer? because there is a big difference. What was the customer looking for? – user86742 Feb 28 at 19:30
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    For (1), what was the blog post going to be about? Writing the scraper, analyzing the data, or talking about the analysis of the data? – Upper_Case Feb 28 at 19:30
  • I was hired as an analyst/writer. The post was about talking about the analysis of the data – Juan Carlos Feb 28 at 19:37
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The short answer: that's how research goes!

Exciting results are what everyone wants to find, but they're not exactly guaranteed. Your work would have progressed the same way, even if the results had turned out to be supremely interesting. You did the work, for a project proposal that was reviewed and accepted by your supervisor (and maybe others). That the outcome is unexciting does not invalidate the time and effort you put in.

It's not clear to me exactly how this project came to be, or what you were expected to produce. But a proper data analysis project will generally begin with a question that you want to answer, and then the output will be an answer to that question (or a precise explanation of why the question can't be answered, or is problematic to answer, etc.). Whether or not the underlying data is interesting or the results sexy isn't really at issue. That the data is so uninteresting that you are considering cancelling the whole project is a bad sign regarding how the project was conceived and carried out, but still does not render your work valueless.

A "let's see what's there" type project will come up sometimes, but you (as the analyst) should insist on specifics, like questions to be answered or goals to pursue, upfront.

Finally, while the lines blur a bit, it shouldn't be up to you to decide what is worth publishing and what is not. An analyst's role is generally to investigate, analyze, and interpret. Decisions on what to do with your work products usually belong to people further up the chain.

So, do not request that the project be cancelled. Speak with your supervisor about your work, the results, and any problems you had or limitations you faced. Your supervisor may decide not to publish, but absent a serious data issue or methodological problem (these are in your domain as an analyst) the supervisor should be making the call.

  • Thanks @Upper_Case for your comment! It's hard because my performance is based on the final result and not on the analysis per se – Juan Carlos Mar 1 at 18:09
  • @JuanCarlos That's a dangerous setup for an analyst, and one that you may want to reconsider continuing. If you do maintain that arrangement, my advice would be for project proposals to include some basic, exploratory research before being fully undertaken. Things that can give some guidance as to what sort of results you can expect, so that those can be compared against what results your bosses will accept, and then only go forward with those where the estimated risk is acceptable to you. – Upper_Case Mar 1 at 18:33
  • Thanks. Your thoughts look reasonable to me. You seem to be an experienced data analyst or something related. I'm also in a dangerous position because I need this job, but will talk to my boss about setting this up in a different way – Juan Carlos Mar 1 at 19:55
  • @JuanCarlos I am a data analyst in a research role. Likely outcomes (especially emphasizing that exciting results are not guaranteed, since we're limited by the reality underlying what we study) are always something I discuss at the outset of a project. It could be a case of you needing to translate for your boss-- default expectations seem to revolve around analytics finding awesome, actionable solutions to problems every time, which is simply not the case. – Upper_Case Mar 1 at 20:05
  • approximately what % of the time, or time, do you spend in preliminary research for proposals? For a new project, I actually need about 1 day to 1-browse potential subjects 2-gather some data and do basic exploratory analysis of one single dataset to see if something valuable could be in a single dataset. I guess it differs a lot on the subject of research. I'm being asked to find novel views on popular trends and actionable conclusions not found elsewhere – Juan Carlos Mar 1 at 20:53

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