March 02, 2011
By Isaac Sprik
Google Public Data Explorer, created in March 2010, is a tool provided by Google in their Google labs section (experimental projects) that allows users to create and use visualizations of 27 data sets varying from U.S. unemployment rates to World Development Indicators. The number of data sets is growing as of February 17, 2011, when Google opened to the public the ability to upload data sets. As this number grows the expansion will hopefully bring more specific uses to a wider range of users. In addition, the site could become an instrument for scholars and historians to open up their research to wider range of the public and simplify the process of publicizing data.
What makes this program beneficial is that it simplifies complicated data sets into easy-to-read charts, bar graphs, line graphs, and bubble maps; while allowing users to see trends in the data over the last 10 to 20 years. A few of the datasets that may interest historians the most are, for example, population data on the U.S. and Europe since 1900, a chart of growth or decline of GDP in the U.S. since 1930, and the data statistics of education trends in California.
This tool offers many benefits for historians, like allowing them to pair the trends of the graphs with historical research. It simplifies the connection of historical observations with quantifiable data. Creating a visual comparison which makes it easier to teach and display how certain events have impacted certain changes in the data or vice-versa.
Overall, the Data Explorer could be a great tool for research, as well as teaching, learning, and allowing individuals to better understand complicated statistics in a visual form. It may also be a way for scholars who have spent many years accumulating data to easily and effectively share their work with the public.
When arriving at the home page there are a few directions you can take:
Directory- This is the location on the site where you can access the current 27 data sets and decide which you would like to use and visualize. For example, if we look the graph of “Minimum Wage of Europe” (data provided by Eurostat) this would be the image displayed:
My Datasets- As of February 17, 2011, the “My Datasets” section is where you are able to upload your own data. One of requirements is that you must use the Dataset Publishing Language (DSPL) as your file format (which is a format that Google has created). It is fairly simple to convert to this file format from Excel and other file types. A second requirement is that your data must be smaller the 50 mbs after they are in a zipped folder. There is great potential for growth in size and usability on the site as more and more people begin to upload their own data for public use.
Whether you are a teacher using it in the classroom, a business person giving a brief, or an individual just learning about the trends of our world, this is a resource worth visiting and commenting on to ensure that it becomes a full time Google program and develops into a useful tool.