Data Is Plural

... is a weekly newsletter of useful/curious datasets.

2024.01.31 edition

Groundwater levels, military surplus, study abroad, dot-gov metadata, and Taylor’s colors.

Groundwater levels. To assess global trends in groundwater levels, Scott Jasechko et al. have analyzed data from ~170,000 monitoring wells in 40+ countries. The researchers’ public datasets include annual groundwater levels “in all cases for which we have received permission from a database manager to post data,” amounting to more than 4 million measurements (59% of the total). The published records also include the boundaries of 1,600+ aquifer systems, “manually delineated […] using maps and descriptions from 1,236 local and regional studies.” The study’s supplementary documentation describes each data source and method of access. Read more: Coverage in the New York Times, with detailed maps of Iran and Spain, and in Wired. [h/t Patrick Tanguay]

Military surplus. Through its Excess Defense Articles program, the US military offers free and reduced-price equipment to foreign governments. The Department of Defense publishes a spreadsheet of the program’s authorizations and transfers, last updated in mid–2020 and going back to 2010. Each of the 4,100+ entries lists the foreign country, item description, transfer status, status date, whether it was a sale or grant, quantities (requested, allocated, accepted, rejected, delivered), “current” value, and acquisition value. Items range in size and significance, from vinyl tape (55 rolls authorized for transfer to Iraq in 2016) to Abrams tanks (including 178 provided to Morocco in 2018). [h/t David Vine]

Study abroad. Open Doors, an Institute of International Education initiative funded by the State Department, “is the only long-standing, comprehensive information resource on international students and scholars in the United States and on U.S. students studying abroad for academic credit.” Its annual reports provide aggregate statistics by country, field of study, and/or institution. For example: NYU hosted more international students (~25,000) than any other US university in the 2022–23 school year, followed by Northeastern (~21,000) and Columbia (~19,000); Italy, the UK, and Spain were the most popular destinations for US students in 2021–22. Related: The State Department’s statistics on non-immigrant visas, including student visas. Previously: Data on Europe’s Erasmus exchanges (DIP 2022.02.09). [h/t Kate Miller]

Dot-gov metadata. Father-son duo Luke and Elias Fretwell are grading government websites’ metadata. Starting with a dataset of 1,300+ federal domains maintained by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Fretwells have tested whether each homepage’s source code includes a <title> tag, certain Open Graph markers, and other key HTML metadata, which “can have a significant impact on how citizens experience government digital services.” The results, presented online in the form of report cards, can also be downloaded.

Taylor’s colors. Last year, Reddit user swiftdata1989 published a spreadsheet and visualization of the colors mentioned in Taylor Swift’s albums. Each spreadsheet row lists the album, song, specific color (e.g., “scarlet”), closest generic color (e.g., red), number of times mentioned, and clarifying notes. Previously: Colors from the World Color Survey (DIP 2017.08.23), Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours (DIP 2021.11.17), and Bob Ross paintings (DIP 2020.12.09).