Guardian gives Brits the data goods

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We’ve had our share of political scandals in this country, but there’s something so–British–about the expense scandal swirling around members of parliament lately. A floating duck island? A little life coaching for a girlfriend? Poppy wreaths? And lots and lots of second home allowances.

While the story was broken by the Telegraph (and the word is that the paper probably paid big bucks for the information), the UK Guardian newspaper’s “Data Store” is the spot to go to get google spreadsheets detailing all the details on which members of parliament spent how much on what. And much more, it turns out, from tax databases to swine flu to school performance records. The paper’s Data Blog (slogan: facts are sacred), points out interesting trends and uses of the data.

That would include Tony Hirsch, of the Open University, who took the expense data and loaded it into the “Many Eyes” visualization tool. He came up with a number of intriguing charts and graphs, including this “scatter plot” that allows you to compare members’ expenses on two axes. (See screen shot below.)

This is great stuff, and it looks as if the British government may be poised to take the concept further. Today  TechPresident reported that the British government is considering its own version of Data.gov. While a good amount of data is already made available by the British government, it comes in a variety of awkward formats (sound familiar)? Making these data available in easily downloadable form in one place would be a huge step forward. And it all will have that disctinctly British tone. My favorite data description listed? A health care database that gives you  “conditions by body-part.”picture-3

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