Monday, January 10, 2011

Access a World of U.S. Government Data


The U.S. government has been collecting and analyzing scientific data for years...now the government is making it available centrally at Data.gov (http://www.data.gov/).   From community health data, to earthquake trackers, geographical data, and environmental pollutant data, this is a wide collection of data available for anyone to use.

Some of the most usable data is presented through Apps created by Federal agencies for sorting and displaying the information.  These are increasingly user-friendly although the variety of application is still limited.  There are also "Raw Data" and "GeoData" catalogs filled with much larger amounts of data, though it is less organized and requires manipulation by users.  These may be difficult for less experienced users.  But we will look through this data in greater detail in future spots.

Getting Involved is Easy:
  1. Visit http://www.data.gov/.
  2. For first timers, review the easy-to-use applications by clicking on "Apps".
  3. Pick your favorite choice and follow the directions once you are re-directed. 
  4. As an example, pick the "Visualizing Community Health Data" application and then "Community Health Status Indicators Database"
  5. Choose a State (e.g., Maryland) and County (e.g., Montgomery) and select "Display Data".
  6. Review the type of data you're interested in for that county.  For example, find average life expectancy data under "Summary Health Statistics", prevalence of various infectious diseases and pollutant exposure under "Environmental Health", or comparisons to similar communities under "Relative Health Importance".  You can also find demographic data, rates of common risk factors for premature death, birth and death measures, and other types of information that may be interesting or useful for you.
Enjoy browsing all the data at your fingertips and check back frequently as the government continues expanding the data sets, making it accessible, and providing tools for analyzing and interpreting the data.

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