If you’re looking to research a specific topic or issue, it helps to know where to look to find relevant data. Fortunately, there is a ton of public data out there if you know where to look.
Public data is any information source that can be freely used and redistributed regardless of where you are in the world or what the intended use of the data is. Completely free to access, public data is used by policymakers, researchers and other interested groups to help get a quantifiable sense of a particular topic.
For those interested in exploring the public data available on the internet, these seven sources are a great place to start:
The U.S. Federal Government maintains a comprehensive data archive of its own, containing publically available data on a wide variety of different topics. Data.gov is searchable, sorted into categories, facilitates data use for app developers or researchers, and offers data downloadable in a number of different formats.
The U.S. Census Bureau is an excellent resource for researchers interested in official community data: income levels, demographics, populations, housing, etc. While more focused than data.gov, it also contains useful data visualizations that can be downloaded and used by content creators free of charge.
Another resource for those looking for specific categories of information, HealthData.gov is a comprehensive collection of just about any data pertaining to healthcare that you can imagine: public health statistics, medical information, hospital data, Medicare usage, and state and national statistics, to name some examples.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics collects information on most anything pertaining to the U.S. criminal justice system for usage by policymakers. Data includes, for example, crime statistics, drug usage and enforcement, information on prisoner demographics, school crime reports, and just about anything else of interest to researchers.
The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan organization that collects data to inform policymakers and other decision makers. Interested parties can peruse the Pew website to explore data on internet technology, social issues, politics, state and local government, media and religion, among other areas. Pew is fully independent and holds itself to a high standard of objectivity and transparency.
The United Nations Children’s Fund is an excellent resource for those seeking information on the state of children and families around the world. Included on its website is, for example, information on child health, child mortality rates, nutrition issues, education, water quality and maternal care.
Google collects a massive amount of information from its users, including data every time someone uses Google for web searches. As you can imagine, this gives Google a huge advantage when it comes to understanding what people are interested in at various points in time. Google Trends is a website that takes Google’s troves of search data and turns them into customizable visualizations that can be used to show just about anything related to internet search behavior.