Data science is a rapidly growing field vital in driving innovation and informing policy decisions. The data science field relies heavily on access to diverse and high-quality datasets to give insight to data scientists, researchers, and members of the public so they can make informed decisions. Fortunately, governments worldwide are taking steps to make datasets publicly available through open data initiatives, data portals, data request forms, APIs, and bulk downloads. These initiatives aim to make government data freely available to the public without restricting its use or reuse, providing valuable resources for data science projects.
This article explores 10 free government datasets that you can use for your next data science project. These datasets cover economic development, weather, climate, population demographics, transportation, and the environment. This initiative provides access to datasets for research, business, and civic engagement. We will discuss the different types of data available and provide guidance on how to access the following datasets:
- American Community Survey (ACS)
- World Development Indicators (WDI)
- Climate Data Record (CDR)
- Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Indicators
- Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA)
- Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS)
- Mineral Resources Data System (MRDS)
- National Transportation Database (NTD)
- Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO)
1. United States Census Bureau
The United States Census Bureau offers a range of population, housing, and economic data, including demographic information (age, gender, race, and education levels), housing statistics (the number of homes and the number of people living in each), and economic conditions (employment rate and median household income). This data can be accessed through their data dissemination platform, and is available as CSV, Excel, and shapefiles that make it easy to integrate it into data science tools and software. The Census Bureau offers documentation and tutorials to assist users in effectively utilizing the data. Additionally, they provide an application programming interface (API) that allows developers to access the data programmatically. However, an API Key is required to obtain access to the data. The American Community Survey (ACS) is the dataset within the United States Census Bureau data dissemination platform that best represents the aforementioned data through annual updates. Businesses, governments, and organizations use this data to decide how to serve their communities best.
2. World Bank
The World Bank is abundant with global economic development data, including income, poverty, and education levels. These data are collected from government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the World Bank’s research. These datasets can be used to analyze global trends and identify areas in need of international aid and development. This data can be accessed through the World Bank’s data portal which provides data in formats that can easily be integrated into data science tools and software, such as CSV, Excel, and JSON. Developers can retrieve the data using an API using an API key for access. The World Bank offers a variety of resources like documentation and tutorials to help users effectively utilize the data, while also providing interactive visualizations and tools for data exploration and analysis. The World Development Indicators (WDI) dataset within the World Bank portal is considered one of the best datasets for global economic development data. The WDI provides data for over 200 economies, covering GDP, population, poverty headcount ratios, Gini coefficients, labor force, inflation, trade, agriculture, environment, energy, education levels (enrollment rates, literacy rates, and education expenditure), infrastructure, health, finance, governance, and institutions. This dataset is widely used by policymakers and researchers to track progress and identify areas where further action is needed to promote economic development.
3. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA provides datasets on weather, climate, and ocean conditions. This includes data on temperature, precipitation, wind, and atmospheric pressure, as well as on ocean conditions such as water temperature and sea level. Additionally, NOAA also provides satellite imagery, which can be used to study cloud cover and weather patterns. These datasets can be used to study climate change’s impacts and develop more accurate weather forecasting models. NOAA’s data can be accessed through their one-stop data search platform, available in CSV, netCDF, and HDF formats that make it compatible with data science tools and software for easy integration. Data can be accessed through an API, with the requirement of an API key for authentication. NOAA offers guidance documents and tutorials to help users understand and make use of the data. NOAA also has iterative visualizations and tools for analyzing data. The National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) Climate Data Record (CDR) dataset within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is considered one of the best datasets for weather, climate, and ocean conditions. The NCEI CDR dataset provides long-term historical records of weather and climate variables such as temperature, precipitation, and wind, as well as ocean conditions such as sea surface temperature and sea level. The dataset is updated regularly and includes data from satellites, weather stations, and buoys. This dataset is widely used by scientists, researchers, and policymakers to study the climate system and the potential impacts of climate change.
4. European Union Open Data Portal
The European Union Open Portal makes data available on its website through CSV, Excel, and JSON formats, making it easy to import into data science projects. Considered to be the best at the data it provides, Eurostat offers insights on agriculture, energy, and transportation, sourced from various EU institutions and agencies. The datasets can be used to study European countries’ trends and patterns and compare them to other regions. The portal provides access to information on EU funding and projects, statistics on the EU economy and society, transportation data, environment, and climate change data. The EU open-source API is currently deprecated. The portal also offers documentation and publications to help users make the most of the data. Eurostat is the statistical office of the European Union, and it provides a wide range of statistical data on agriculture, energy, transportation, and other topics. The dataset covers all EU member states and some non-EU countries. The dataset includes data on agricultural production, land use, rural poverty, energy production, consumption, access to electricity, transportation infrastructure, modes of transportation, and freight and passenger transport. The dataset is widely used by policymakers and researchers who track progress and identify areas where sustainable development and economic growth within the EU needs to be promoted.
5. United Nations Data Portal
The United Nations Data Portal provides access to an extensive range of datasets on global issues like health, education, and poverty, sourced from various UN agencies and organizations. These datasets can be used to analyze global trends and pinpoint areas in need of international aid and development. The portal offers data on population, labor, economy, environment, gender equality and women’s empowerment, migrant and refugee data, climate change and sustainable development, agriculture and food security, and human rights and governance. The data can be accessed through the UN Data Portal website in \CSV, Excel, and JSON formats that make it easy to integrate into data science workflows. Programmatic access to the data is possible through an API, which requires an API key for authentication. The UN Data Portal also offers a glossary and data marts outlining various datasets, sources, and related topics to help users understand how to better utilize their data. Users can access, download, and explore with the interactive visualizations and other analysis tools from this portal. The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Indicators dataset in the United Nations Data Portal (which can be easily downloaded here) is considered one of the best for the aforementioned issues. The dataset is updated regularly and includes data from national statistical offices, UN agencies, and other international organizations. This dataset is widely used by scientists, researchers, and policymakers to track progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to identify areas where further action is needed to promote sustainable development globally.
6. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) offers a diverse collection of datasets on Earth science, including climate, weather, and natural disasters, featuring data on temperature, precipitation, wind, atmospheric pressure, ocean conditions such as water temperature and sea level, and satellite imagery for studying the land cover, vegetation, and other Earth observations. These datasets can be used to research the effects of climate change and enhance the precision of weather forecasting models. NASA’s data is easily integrated into data science projects by accessing it through the NASA data portal in CSV, netCDF, and HDF formats. NASA open APIs ensures that NASA data, including imagery, are accessible to application developers. NASA offers developer resources such as documentation, test, and open data applications. They also provide free access to its Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) for data discovery, access, and services. The Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) dataset has been covering climate, weather, and natural disasters since 1979 by providing a comprehensive dataset of the Earth’s atmosphere, land surface, and ocean conditions. It integrates satellite data, surface observations, and weather prediction models to provide global coverage. MERRA provides long-term records of key climate variables like temperature and precipitation, detailed weather patterns, and data on extreme weather events like hurricanes and typhoons. This information can be used to study Earth’s climate system, improve weather forecasting, and understand the causes and impacts of natural disasters to develop strategies to reduce their impact.
7. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a diverse dataset related to agriculture and food, including information on crop yields, acreage, food prices, food consumption, and food assistance programs. The USDA also provides data related to rural development and natural resources, which can be used to analyze agricultural industry trends and identify areas where interventions are needed to improve food security. The USDA data is available through its open data catalog in CSV, Excel, and JSON formats that make it easy to incorporate it into data science projects. Developers can access USDA data programmatically through an API by registering for an API key. The Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) data is a comprehensive dataset that provides information on agriculture, rural development, and natural resources in the United States. It offers insights into the cost and returns of various agricultural commodities and provides detailed information on the inputs used in agriculture production, such as seed, fertilizer, labor, and machinery. The ARMS data also has information on crop yields, revenue, production costs, and the demographics and characteristics of farmers and ranchers, including their age, education level, and race. This information is widely used by policymakers, researchers, and other stakeholders to understand the economic conditions farmers and ranchers face, inform policy decisions related to agriculture and rural development, and promote sustainable development and economic growth in rural areas.
8. United States Geological Survey (USGS)
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) offers a collection of datasets on geology, including minerals, water resources, and natural hazards, such as geologic maps, mineral resources, water resources, natural hazards, land use, land cover, energy, and mineral resources. These datasets can be used to research Earth’s geology, resources, and hazards and identify areas vulnerable to natural disasters. Users can access USGS data on the USGS website. The data is available in CSV, netCDF, and shapefiles format, which facilitates easy integration into data science projects. Developers also have the option to retrieve the data programmatically through an API. The USGS Mineral Resources Data System (MRDS) is a comprehensive dataset that encompasses information about the whereabouts, extent, and composition of mineral deposits, water sources, and natural hazards globally. The MRDS dataset offers a complete representation of geological features, making it an essential tool for resource extraction and land use planning decisions.
9. United States Department of Transportation (DOT)
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) offers a diverse collection on transportation, including information on vehicle traffic, public transit, and air travel such as vehicle miles traveled, traffic congestion, public transportation ridership, air travel statistics, transportation infrastructure such as highways, bridges, and public transportation systems. These datasets can be used to research transportation trends and identify areas where improvements are needed to enhance transportation efficiency and safety. Users can access and incorporate data from DOT into data science projects via the DOT’s data inventory of publicly available datasets, which are provided in CSV, Excel, and JSON formats. Programmatic access to the data is also possible through an API. Users can access and download the data, interactive visualizations, and other data exploration and analysis tools from the DOT’s data inventory. The best dataset from the DOT data inventory is the National Transportation Database (NTD). NTD provides data transportation indicators such as vehicle miles traveled, traffic congestion, public transportation ridership, air travel statistics, and transportation infrastructure such as highways, bridges, and public transportation systems. This dataset is a comprehensive source of information on the nation’s transportation system, including its physical and operational characteristics, funding, and performance.
10. United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a collection of datasets on environmental issues, including air and water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, toxic chemicals, air and water pollution levels, greenhouse gas emissions, use and release of toxic chemicals, environmental enforcement and compliance, energy use, and efficiency. These datasets can be used to research trends in environmental issues, identify areas where improvements are needed to enhance air and water quality, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and protect human health and the environment. Users can access and integrate data provided by the EPA into data science projects through its public data repositories in CSV, Excel, and JSON formats. The EPA data can also be retrieved via its API. The best dataset from EPA that represents environmental issues is the Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) database. ECHO provides information on air/water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, toxic chemicals, and energy use. Key data includes pollution levels, greenhouse gas emissions, toxic chemical use/release, enforcement/compliance, and energy use/efficiency. This database is a comprehensive source of information on the nation’s environmental performance, including data on facilities, pollutants, and regulatory actions. It is the best representative of ecological data in the EPA inventory.
This article has highlighted 10 of the many free government datasets that offer information that can be used for research, business, and civic engagement purposes, making them valuable resources for data scientists, researchers, and the general public.
The availability of free government datasets has made it easier for data scientists, researchers, the general public, and even policymakers to access valuable information for informed decisions and innovation. Whether you are a data scientist, researcher, or just interested in exploring the data, these 10 free government datasets offer an extensive array of information that will be useful for your next project.
Thank you for reading!