I have to admit that after 15 years of working at EPA, I still have trouble finding environmental data. Web searches don’t help that much so I rely on people like my friend Tim to email me data about hazardous waste. But I shouldn’t have to know every database manager to get EPA’s data.
It turns out that I’m not the only person with this problem. Last year EPA’s Office of Environmental Information hosted the National Dialogue on Access to Environmental Information to learn about the information access needs of our major audiences. We held listening sessions throughout the country and encouraged people to comment using blogs and wikis. From the thousands of comments we received we developed EPA’s Information Access Strategy, which describes key themes and a direction for EPA to address these needs. One of the common themes was: we need environmental data, but we don’t know where to find it. In response to these comments we’ve built Data Finder, a single place to find EPA’s data sources, so people can access and understand environmental information.
Data Finder points to data sources: EPA-hosted web sites where numerical data can be downloaded. You can find data sources by clicking on key words or by typing terms into a search box. One click brings you to the source itself. By making data EPA information easier to find, understand, and use, Data Finder complements the Obama Administration’s commitment to a transparent and participatory government. It helps lay the foundation for more open conduct of Agency business and broader, more effective participation by the public.
I think Data Finder is a good first step for finding EPA’s data, but I know it only contains a subset of the data that’s out there. Please try Data Finder and tell us what information you’d like to see and how to make the site more useful. We’ll post your comments and tell you how we’re updating the site in response to your comments. And let’s leave Tim out of this.
About the author: Ethan McMahon has worked at EPA since 1994. Most recently he helped develop the Agency’s Information Access Strategy and the 40-page Report on the Environment: Highlights Document. Prior to working at EPA he evaluated alternative refrigerants and designed high efficiency heat pumps. Ethan believes that making information available can enable lots of people to find solutions to environmental problems.