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I Know That Data Is Here Somewhere…

2009 July 31

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.

screenshot of Data Finder homepage 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.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    July 31, 2009

    Some things that might increase the benefits of the DATAFINDER site, I think, would include appropriate state activity where it exists like the California EPA climate change work. Integrating state and federal environmental activity in the categories included on DATAFINDER would help get the most comprehensive information out. State information could be posted separatly and integrated with U.S. EPA. There could be a section that shows how state and federal legislation like the California Climate Change legislation and Federal Climate Change legislation that recently passed the U.S. House complement each ojther. These are some ideas to toss out. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  2. Ethan McMahon permalink
    July 31, 2009

    Thanks for your suggestion. Data Finder currently points only to data sources at EPA, but we know that states, other federal agencies, universities, and others have much more environmental data. Maybe there are good ways to find data from these other parties. Per your other point, it’s difficult to integrate activities that take place at the federal and state levels. We’re looking for ways that EPA can help you understand the environment and find solutions. Maybe we start with making data available and go from there? What are some other ideas?

  3. belle permalink
    February 4, 2010

    That’s true and it is really nice to know that our comments, the readers gives an additional idea to the author on how to improve something or any issues concern in his blogs or articles.

  4. James permalink
    April 20, 2010

    Data Finder is such a great and allows anyone to finding EPA’s data easily.

    I have to say keep up the good work.



  5. rooot permalink
    May 6, 2010

    Data Finder is such a great and allows anyone to finding EPA’s data easily.

    I have to say keep up the good work.



  6. Virtual personal assistant permalink
    March 20, 2012

    Data finder is truly a great find that direct towards the source .

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