Data for Democracy: The First Two Months of D4D

Let’s hear about how Data Science is used for democracy and well being of human societies by Data for Democracy organisation.

By Lilian H, D4D.

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

Since its inception in December 2016, the small community of Data For Democracy volunteers has grown into a network of over 700 people, spanning a range of locations, timezones, and backgrounds — as you can see on our brand new website.

This group of passionate and civic-minded people is applying a diverse set of skills and knowledge to an equally varied selection of projects, and has made remarkable progress in the past two months! Here are some highlights of what we’ve been up to.


The Assemble project is working to develop a toolkit and technological infrastructure that researchers can use to study online communities and their characteristics. With Ben and Nick at the helm, this scrappy team has rocketed past various milestones including:

  • Setting up a streaming data pipeline and database, with the generous assistance of our friends at Eventador. Mode Analytics has also donated their platform for D4D use, meaning that Assemble’s social media data, in Mode, will soon be coming to you via Eventador!
  • Holding a weekend hackathon to develop and refine Twitter data collection capabilities.
  • Starting work on a beginner-friendly scraping project, with the first milestone being to collect the 2017 congressional record.

Fig. Architecture diagram by Assemble contributor Ahmad

Drug Spending

This team, headed by the intrepid Matt and Jennifer, is focused on researching where and how Medicare tax dollars are being spent, and presenting these findings in clear and accessible ways. They’ve recently started constructing a Shiny dashboard that will make these visualizations much easier.

Fig. Drug Spending dashboard for metformin

USA Dashboard

This project is working on creating a dashboard that will display key metrics for various regions of the USA. They’ve gathered crime data for various cities including Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, and Philadelphia, and have developed a roadmap for where the project is headed next, both literally and figuratively! You can also hear project lead Sean discuss this work on the Partially Derivative podcast.

Election Transparency

Led by Scott, Chris, and Rachel, the Election Transparency project works on collecting and normalizing county-level election results, to be shared with the public. The team has put together extensive datasets of election results and population demographics, and these are all published and available for browsing thanks to the support of our friends at Data.World. Moving forward, the team plans to create various models and visualizations that will help to explain election outcomes.


This team carries out data analysis to support the work done by the non-profit investigative journalism organization ProPublica. With the fearless leadership of Eric and Ryan, the team is investigating campaign spending expenditures, and has recently developed a nifty text-scraper to navigate some messy reports of government officials’ foreign travel.

What’s Next?

“Is D4Ding a verb? Because that’s what I’m doing all weekend.” — Ben

This has just been a small sampling of the many projects Data For Democracy is currently tackling. Even more new projects are always taking shape — whether initiated by our own community members, or taken on through partnerships with other organizations. In particular, we have some exciting collaborations brewing with the Cities of San Diego, Los Angeles, and New York.

If one of our projects piques your interest, or you’d like to propose an idea of your own, come join us! There are all sorts of ways to get involved, no matter your level of commitment, skill, or experience.

If you’d like more detail on possible ways to jump in, and why you should be a part of this, stay tuned for upcoming posts!

Original. Reposted with permission

Bio: Lilian H is Editor of Data for Democracy