Tag Archives: data

Lost in the sea of government information

It can be like looking for a needle in a haystack to find information from the US federal government.  Most of this information is now online, but this hasn’t made the task any easier.  Here are just a few of the ways of searching for government information (documents or data) when you don’t know where to go.

The Government Printing Office (GPO) has for many years provided access to authoritative versions of major government publications through their GPO Access web site.  The information on GPO Access is in the process of being migrated to GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys). The migration is occurring on a collection-by-collection basis.  The information on GPO Access will remain current and continue to be available until migration is complete.  Using the “browse” feature to scan though available collections can
be most fruitful.  This site is especially good for legislative and regulatory materials, and for regularly published reports such as the US federal budget, but also provides a link to GPO’s online bookstore
for more general government publications.

The FedStats website provides links to statistical pages of US federal government agencies.  You can look up the statistic by topic without knowing in advance which agency produces it.  The “About” page provides more information about what’s included in FedStats.  Although this may lead to a lot of extractable and downloadable raw data in addition to statistics that are presented online, if you specifically need to locate machine-readable empirical or geospatial datasets generated by the US federal government you can try the Data.gov website. Datasets here may be in one of more the following formats: XML, CSV/Text, KML/KMZ, Shapefile, RDF, Other.

General search engines to search across websites of federal government agencies and Congress include USA.gov (the “official” such search engine) and Google U.S. Government (formerly Google Uncle Sam).  Always feel free to consult with the library’s public documents subject librarian, Mark Thomas, and visit the paper collection of federal government publications (many older ones aren’t digitized or even in the library catalog) on the second floor of Perkins Library.

Duke Campus GIS Data

Members of the Duke community who are engaged in research relating to the campus infrastructure can now download GIS Layers of the Duke campus and surrounding areas.  These are in formats compatible with ArcGIS software, and some (the shapefiles) are importable into Google Earth Pro.

The layers were created by Duke’s Facility Management and are being provided for download by Perkins Library’s Data & GIS Services Department.  Categories of data include general campus features (e.g., building footprints, parking lots, crosswalks, Duke Garden trails), campus vegetation (e.g., coniferous trees, hedges), topography (contour lines), and color aerial photography in geo-referenced MrSID compressed format.  The area of coverage includes not only West, Central, and East campuses, but many of the surrounding Durham neighborhoods.  But no, undergrads, we have nothing showing the tunnels!

We hope to improve the documentation over time with improved metadata, as well as periodically update the layers.  Users should contact Mark Thomas or other staff in the Data & GIS Services Department for help in using this data.

The World Bank Frees Data

On April 20, 2010, the World Bank announced that it would offer free access to its global development and financial indicators. This puts the widely used and well-liked World Development Indicators (WDI), the Global Development Finance (GDF), the African Development Indicators, and the Global Economic Monitor (GEM) at the fingertips of anybody who wants to use them for analysis, policy development, decision-making, etc. (http://data.worldbank.org/). The data have become freely available to anybody who wants to re-distribute them, use them in mash-ups or apps. The World Bank has created a how-to guide and by mid-2010 will make the Web API available to developers. The data catalog offers an extensive listing of all databases and pre-formatted tables. The terms of use of the data are very liberal and impose very few restrictions.

Economic Effects of Migration

One of the most pressing issues in global policy development is migration. The 2005 report by The Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM) to the UN Secretary General Kofi Anan outlines the dimensions and dynamics of international migration. The report has focused the attention of a number of inter-governmental organizations (IGO) and agencies on a variety of aspects created by migration. While the 127 member-country International Organization for Migration (IOM) is the leading body to take on an advocacy role for the implementation of “safe and orderly migration” through research and policy development, agencies such as the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been monitoring monetary streams, called remittances, which are created by migrants who send part of their earnings back to their country of origin. These transfers have reached, according to a WB estimate, $397 billion in 2008, $305 billion of which were sent to developing countries by 190 million migrants or 3% of the world population. A recent IMF publication (Occasional Paper 259) traces the Macroeconomic Consequences of Remittances. The World Bank’s ‘Migration and Development Brief 10’ provides an Outlook for Remittance Flows 2009-2011: Remittances Expected to Fall by 7-10 Percent in 2009. The brief is accompanied by country-by-country data in Excel format. Figures on monthly remittance flows for selected countries are also available. These data update the Migration & Remittances Factbook 2008 (check availability @ Duke), a “snapshot of migration and remittances data for all countries, regions and income groups of the world, compiled from various sources.” The Migration & Remittances page on the World Bank site offers access to more papers and publications related to this topic. In addition, the World Bank blog People Move provides timely updates on emerging research findings and trends. It goes without saying that the services which send the money back to the migrants’ home countries are not free. The WB traces the cost of these transfers on its Remittance Prices Worldwide site.

It is to be hoped that the sheer magnitude of these transactions and their economic impact will help to focus attention on the humanitarian and ethical issues underlying the process of migration, issues which are often, despite the apparent beneficial financial results, less than benign.