The emerging discipline of social data analysis and visualization faces two challenges. First, obviously, you need data. Then, more interestingly, you need to figure out ways for people to create, share, and collaboratively refine interpretations of the data. There are a handful of well-known and powerful sources of data. The OECD’s data, for example, drives several of the visualizations at IBM’s Many Eyes site. Where else can you find data for these kinds of tools and services to chew on?

Sources I’ve used and discussed include Washington DC’s CAPStat and the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care. A number of others are listed in this summary from the session at Foo Camp 07 on liberating government data.

For my own purposes, I’ve decided to keep track of these kinds of public data sources at del.icio.us/judell/publicdata. One of the delightful consequences of doing things that way is that I can pop up a level, to del.icio.us/tag/publicdata, in order to find out what other folks have been storing in the publicdata bucket.

There’s not a whole lot there, yet, but here’s one gem I discovered by way of a link to Gapminder: the United Nations Common Database. From the Gapminder blog on June 7:

UN statistics finally liberated and free of charge!

In a bold move that hopefully will set the standard for all major producers of statistics, UN Statistical Division have made their data accessible and FREE OF CHARGE from May 1 this year. United Nations Common Database (UNCDB) is now available for everyone, with no demand of subscription or user fees on their web-site.

We now look forward to the domino-effect and the liberation of other hidden or locked global statistics from other producers and collectors of data.

Amen. To that end, I invite readers of this blog to contribute these kinds of findings — as you encounter them in your travels — to the publicdata bucket in del.icio.us, to which I’m now subscribed. I’ll in turn curate that list at judell/publicdata, with an eye toward sources that I deem to be noteworthy, conveniently accessible, and likely to yield useful analysis.