Brian Knowlton at the New York Times Caucus Blog posted on a conference call with the White House’s new Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra. Of special interest to social scientists is his plans to create a data.gov repository. I’m getting a bit wary of these new free standing “.gov” sites and wondering if they represent an “openness meme” rather than actual openness. But the rhetoric sounds promising. From Saul Hansen’s Bits blog at the New York Times:
Another initiative will be to create a new site, Data.gov, that will become a repository for all the information the government collects. He pointed to the benefits that have already come from publishing the data from the Human Genome Project by the National Institutes of Health, as well as the information from military satellites that is now used in GPS navigation devices.
“There is a lot of data the federal government has and we need to make sure that all the data that is not private, or restricted for national security reasons, can be made public,” he said.
While more data availability is all good, we in the social sciences should keep an eye on the type of data that gets released. The federal government puts out a fair amount of quantitative data already. What I’m interested in is how that data is going to be made available. Will the layman with an interest in an issue be able to quickly mashup data and application to create information they can use. Can a local activist get water quality data from the EPA and be easily able to create a Google Map that shows areas of concern? it’s one thing to do a “data dump,” it’s another to be intentional in empowering people to use the data. Then again, that might be best left to “the crowd” of politically active geeks whose numbers I hope grow exponentially in the next few years.