University of Nebraska Medical Center

Don’t Overlook Data.gov

By Emily Glenn

Open data is free, publicly available data that anyone can access and use without restrictions—and it can be fascinating.

Data.gov organizes nearly 200,000 different datasets from 174 agencies and 13 organization types across 14 topics spanning eight sectors (Local Government,  Consumer, Business, Climate, Health, Energy, Agriculture, and Education). While Data.gov is for federal open data, state, local, and tribal governments can share metadata—data that describe the open data– for greater discoverability of their datasets. This metadata is hosted alongside federal data and helps to “surface” data that otherwise might stand alone on an unconnected or lesser-known web space.

Here is a sampling of some data described or hosted on Data.gov that may be new to you:

  • Biodiversity Information Serving Our Nation (BISON), is a web-based information system allowing users to find, explore, and download biological occurrence data for species (g., plants, animals, fungi) that occur at a particular location and time in the United States (U.S.). In the Omaha area, there are 65,498 georeferenced species, including Poecile atricapillus, also known as the black-capped chickadee.
  • Woozy keeps you updated on the most recent recalls issued by the Food & Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Commission. See product images, descriptions, and contact information to track and learn about recalled products. You can also customize your feed to follow specific reasons like undeclared food allergens or baby products.  The Red Cross Hurricane app and Radiation Emergency Medical Management (REMM) app also use open data to serve up Safety Apps.
  • Creative Class County Codes, provided by the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the Department of Agriculture, indicate a county’s share of population employed in occupations that require “thinking creatively.” Variables used to construct the ERS creative class measure include number and percent employed in creative class occupations and a metro/nonmetro indicator for all counties, 1990, 2000, and 2007-2011.
  • 500 Cities: Local Data for Better Health represents a first-of-its-kind effort to release information on a large scale for cities and small areas within those cities. It includes estimates for the 500 largest US cities and approximately 28,000 census tracts within these cities. Data were provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Population Health, Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch. The Health topics data catalog and HeathData.gov incorporate a wide range of health-related data.

A series of impact profiles provide examples of how open government data has been leveraged to some benefit, such as AccuWeather, the weather forecasting service, and City-Data, a hub for demographics, crime rates, weather patterns, home values, cost of living and more in U.S. cities. If you use any of these datasets, you too can submit stories describing an application or solution derived from a dataset on Data.gov.

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