Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Google adds search for public data

Ola Rosling, Adding search power to public data, Official Google Blog, April 28, 2009.

... We just launched a new search feature that makes it easy to find and compare public data. ...

If you go to and type in [unemployment rate] or [population] followed by a U.S. state or county, you will see the most recent estimates:

Once you click the link, you'll go to an interactive chart that lets you add and remove data for different geographical areas. ...

The data we're including in this first launch represents just a small fraction of all the interesting public data available on the web. There are statistics for prices of cookies, CO2 emissions, asthma frequency, high school graduation rates, bakers' salaries, number of wildfires, and the list goes on. Reliable information about these kinds of things exists thanks to the hard work of data collectors gathering countless survey forms, and of careful statisticians estimating meaningful indicators that make hidden patterns of the world visible to the eye. All the data we've used in this first launch are produced and published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau's Population Division. ...

Since Google's acquisition of Trendalyzer two years ago, we have been working on creating a new service that make lots of data instantly available for intuitive, visual exploration. Today's launch is a first step in that direction. We hope people will find this search feature helpful, whether it's used in the classroom, the boardroom or around the kitchen table. We also hope that this will pave the way for public data to take a more central role in informed public conversations. ...

See also Google's Information for public data publishers:

... Google wants to eventually display data from other governmental agencies, research institutes, and other private organizations as well. To do so, we want to identify free, authoritative, high-quality data, irrespective of topic and locale. We are interested in both aggregated statistics and the underlying raw data from which they were derived. Other types of structured information like reference lists and classifications are also of great interest. We will not use any data that compromises the privacy of individuals or infringes upon any proprietary rights.

If you are a data publisher, get your data out to a wider audience, through Google, by telling us about your public data. ...

Update. See also coverage by Nextgov:

... Many federal Web sites or content on site pages cannot be indexed by typical search engines, including Google. So, much of the data on these sites is invisible, or hidden in the so-called "Deep Web."

Part of the reason is that government pages include databases, forms and other coding that search engines cannot crawl through. Many are also lacking site maps, or a visual breakdown of the pages of a Web site, that help search engines capture all of a site's pages.

Google's new tool, Google Public Data, only works with public data that is already accessible to search engines. ...

Google researchers "haven't figured out how to site map everything," said Jerry Brito, who studies government transparency as a senior research fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center. "It's kind of impossible to do that without the government agencies cooperation."

He and Google have advocated that Congress require agencies to make all of the information on their sites accessible to commercial search engines.

A law introduced last Congress by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, directs the government to "promulgate guidance and best practices to ensure that publicly available online federal government information and services are made more accessible to external search capabilities, including commercial and governmental search capabilities."