Our World in Data – A Fantastic Site for Data-driven Analysis

Online open data repository and browser-based interaction site Our World in Data, from the University of Oxford, is a fantastic site for data-driven exploration.

Open data is gaining traction, and open data repositories, especially those at scale, are increasing in number. While any single location we can raid for large amounts of data is potentially a good thing, those which are interactive, web-based, and attractive are even better.

As you've probably noticed recently, there are increasing numbers of data purveyors and stewards making their collections available via online repositories of publicly-accessible data, including large data-oriented governmental organizations such as the European Union, the United Nations, and the US Census Bureau. Non-governmental players are proliferating in the space as well; as a particular example, just a few short months ago a KDnuggets post highlighted The Invisible Institute and their Citizen's Police Data Project, a database of previously-secret City of Chicago police misconduct records recently opened to the public.


When additional repositories of note gain our attention at KDnuggets, we pass them along. A new such data-driven project, Our World in Data, developed at the University of Oxford, covers a wide range of topics across many categories and disciplines, including health, violence, culture, and environmental changes; see full category listing here. The project aggregates data from a variety of sources and provides a browser-based method for interacting with the data. Directly from the project's website:

OurWorldInData is an online publication that shows how living conditions around the world are changing. It communicates this empirical knowledge through interactive data visualisations (charts and maps) and by presenting the research findings on global development that explain what drives the changes that we see and what the consequences of these changes are.

The project is for the public good; this point is stressed on the website. All data is freely available and usable under a permissive license. All of the tools used to publish Our World in Data and create the visualizations are completely open source and available on GitHub, extending the interaction possibilities for developers.

Our World in Data aims to tell the history of our world using empirical data and visualizations, with different categories dealing with different aspects of life and society. The site also shares a series of data visualization presentations, which provide an overview that cuts across many topics, demonstrating how progress comes about. Examples of these presentations include:

A Few Examples

It's difficult to choose a few representative examples of the work on the site, since everything is tantalizing and seemingly more interesting than what came before it! However, I was able to select a few visualizations to give an idea of what the site has to offer.

(Click the images for links to full sized versions.)

From the "A Visual History of War & Violence" presentation, this slide explores a particular correlation between declining violence and improving literacy rates.

Literacy rates

In the "A Visual History of Global Health" presentation, this slide visualizes the declining death rates of children under 5, as they were the age group for which the greatest improvements to health were experienced.

Child mortality

The final example comes from the "War and Peace" category, and shows the number of active global genocides by year from 1955 to 2015. Note the top right corner of visualization; it is tabbed, with 'Data' and 'Sources' both available for the particular visualization at hand. The data, its source, and its visualization are often conveniently co-located.


Data sources for the project are varied; each category or "A Visual History" presentation's slide cites its particular sources.

There really is a wealth of data to explore in Our World in Data, for casual dataphiles, academics researchers, and data scientists alike. If you've read this far, chances are you're someone who would appreciate the project, the site, and the data it visualizes and provides access to. This post and the few images included within do not do the project justice; have a look at Our World in Data for yourself.