Home > Public Domain Data > Data, data, every where, nor any point to map

Data, data, every where, nor any point to map

Having spent more time over the last 2-3 years than I care to quantify trawling the internet for public domain datasets to use on various projects, I’ve reached some disappointing conclusions: I will rarely find exactly what I’m after, working with data portals can be very frustrating, adding and maintaining metadata is a frequently neglected chore, and all too often data are published but not adequately promoted.

Co-author Joseph Kerski recently described a particularly frustrating day spent trying to find some geology data for a presentation he was working on.  Having failed to locate a data source on-line,  he ended up contacting a colleague at a state geological survey office who was able to provide access to some data. Joseph was also given permission to publish the data on ArcGIS Online for others to use, but he was left wondering why the organisation hadn’t chosen to publish and promote the data source itself.

In this era of open access, when organisations are rushing to liberate their data stores, many of these new on-line repositories often lack an effective interface to the data. Increasingly sophisticated search engines quickly return a list of candidates for each inquiry, but the success of a query can often rely on the syntax of the search instruction. Depending on how each query is worded, the whole process may be very hit or miss. From my own experiences, it would be good to see a more task-based approach to searching for, and providing access to, data. When people go looking for data, they generally have specific requirements for a given task and they’re looking for specific data, in a specific location, over a specific time period, with a view to producing a specific information product as the output.  Few people have the time or inclination to trawl through everything every to do with ‘housing’ or ‘planning’; they also need the tools to allow them to extract the information that will serve their purpose.

Frank Biasi (National Geographic Maps) once commented on the demise of a conservation geoportal noting, amongst other things, that  “.. the concept of sharing data is much more advanced than the practice“. Seems like we still need a lot more practise.

  1. Claudia Naber
    May 25, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Good post, Jill. I’m so glad you are getting the discussion going on this subject.

  2. May 31, 2012 at 9:19 am

    I hope I can help you in the near future. I’m starting a new GEOportal in sept/oct which will show on a thematical way what you are looking for. Keep updated at: MapVision, mapvision.eu

  3. mappingsupport
    January 15, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    Jill, I share your pain. In particular, I am interested in finding ArcGIS servers that have open data. And since I am a “top down” kinda guy, I want to find the “top” endpoint of public-facing ArcGIS servers so I can then drill down through the server’s table of contents. This is a different way of searching compared to the “bottom up” method of data.gov and similar sites.

    Finding those “top” endpoints turns out to be fairly easy. After all (1) each server table of contents page is simply a webpage and (2) Google indexes webpages. Here is my standard Google search: _____________ “rest/services”. Replace the underline with some identifiers and include the quotes in your search.

    Using that search technique I recently posted a list of 50+ federal ArcGIS servers and 150+ state ArcGIS servers. These servers all have open data. Here are the links.

    Federal: https://mappingsupport.com/p/surf_gis/list-federal-GIS-servers.pdf

    State: https://mappingsupport.com/p/surf_gis/list-state-GIS-servers.pdf

    If anyone knows about additional federal or state ArcGIS servers with open data, then I would love to get links to those “top” endpoints and I will add them to the appropriate list.

    Joseph Elfelt

  1. May 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm
  2. August 12, 2013 at 1:01 pm
  3. October 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm

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