1 Oct 2016

Sourcing information for journalism: Where to find your data

There are many different sources we can go to when looking for data to tell a story.

These can be more complex, like scraping, freedom of information requests or querying APIs, but there are also many websites that already host public datasets that are easy to find, download and analyse.

These data portals mean that it's easy for both beginners to get into data, and for more seasoned data journalists to continue finding useful information to assist their stories.

Sourcing data can often be the first stumbling block in the data journalism process, but there are many sites you can go to to find useful and up-to-date data. Below is a list of some places to go for reliable and informative data, giving you somewhere to start if you’re struggling to figure out where to find your story.

The ONS release calendar tells you what new datasets will be released in the coming days

Office of National Statistics

Government releases are a good source of up-to-date information and the ONS is one of the best places to get your data on the UK's demography, economic and business subjects.

As well as getting to grips with the national picture, we can also use the ONS is getting information on variables that shift across the country. For example, we can see differences in immigration across the different local authorities in the countries.

World Bank

The World Bank’s portal releases free and open data about development across the world. When looking for data on every country in the world, the World Bank is often a good starting point. 

It has information on demographics, global finances and public health and safety. They have an interface ready on the site for you to trawl through a multitude of datasets in an attempt to find global trends and issues, and all their data is ready to download.

Data.gov.uk and Data.gov

Data.gov.uk is the UK government’s data portal, releasing information on the topics the governments works on. The USA has a similar model with Data.gov, giving people access to their data, and many governments are beginning to adopt similar initiatives.

One warning, however: governments may not release information that makes them look bad. If you want to make sure you’re getting the full story about an institution, never just consult one source on it.

Eurostat

The European Union's own open data agency. If you’re looking to compare the UK against other European countries, or are looking to cover a story across the EU, Eurostat contains a variety of publications containing statistics on EU member states.

This site has information on economic output, labour markets and demographics – to name just a couple. Considering the fact that the UK's relationship with the EU is likely to dominate headlines for years to come, this source is going to become increasingly important.

Open Corporates

When looking into companies across the world, Open Corporates is an important source. It is the largest global open database of companies. Its eventual aim is to list a URL for every company in the world.

United Nations

The UN Data Portal has information on many different variables, broken down by countries across the world. If the World Bank doesn't have data on an international topic, it is worth going to the UN to see if it has it.

The UN Refugee Agency is a similar portal dedicated to one specific issue that is current in the news: data on migrants.

Data.police.uk

Data.police.uk is a hub of data on crime and policing in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. You can access CSVs on street-level information and explore the site’s API for data about individual police forces and neighbourhood teams.

This is a very handy site to see how the police are performing on a local basis. You can compare crimes by location and time, enabling you to find any correlations or patterns there are out there. The Metropolitan Police also publishes their data on each crime in London on police.uk.

Nomis

Nomis is a good source for official labour market statistics – you can get detailed data based on local areas, and can search summary statistics by local authority, ward or constituency.

MyNHS

Want to see the data that the NHS and local councils use to monitor performance and shape the services you use? MyNHS gives you this chance: it is one of the best places to get your data on the UK’s health service.

WhatDoTheyKnow

WhatDoTheyKnow.com aggregates freedom of information requests and responses, making them available and open for us to find and analyse. We can also use this resource before sending our own requests off, check ing if the data you want has already been released.

World Health Organisation

The World Health Organisation Data is a huge data library with maps, reports and country-specific statistics. From air pollution to child stunting, to epidemics and data relating to the Sustainable Development Goals, WHO has lots of information that it is opening up to academics, researchers and journalists.

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