Seemingly Obscure Data May Already Exist as an Open Record in a Government Database

Statistics on any number of different topics applicable to your needs may already be collected by the government and accessible either online or through an open records request.  The government is constantly creating new databases and registries; according to Politico, Congress has called for the establishment of almost 40 new datasets since the beginning of 2009.  Government monitored data ranges from expected statistics (related to population or transportation, for example) to seemingly obscure information about vending machine injuries or the ages of Atlantic salmon. provides access to federal government data that has sat largely underutilized until recently.  While the more highly specified information may seem useless, the website aims to make these databases more available.  With information retrieved through, entrepreneurs have been able to set up external websites that make the data more useable to the general public., for example, synthesizes statistics for flight times and security line wait times. has a catalog of databases that is searchable by 1) the federal government agency that is responsible for the data or 2) within one of the following areas:

  • Births, Deaths, Marriages and Divorces
  • Business Enterprise
  • Construction and Housing
  • Education
  • Energy and Utilities
  • Federal Government Finances and Employment
  • Geography and Environment
  • Health and Nutrition
  • Income, Expenditures, Poverty and Wealth
  • Information and Communications
  • International Statistics
  • Labor Force, Employment and Earnings
  • Law Enforcement, Courts and Prisons
  • National Security and Veterans Affairs
  • Populations
  • Prices
  • Science and Technology
  • Social Insurance and Human Services
  • Transportation
  • Wholesale and Retail Trade

While only provides data from federal agencies, the demand for online state and local statistical data has been recognized in California, the District of Columbia and Utah.

For someone who is uncertain whether a government database exists for a certain set of statistics, searching THOMAS for keywords in proposed or passed legislation may help clarify whether the dataset currently exists and which agency or department is responsible for collecting and maintaining it.  If the dataset is not available through any of the previously mentioned online resources, it is possible to submit an open records request directly contact the appropriate government entity responsible for the required dataset.