Stuff explained: What is open data and why should you care about it?


Open data is, basically,  the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. A piece of data is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web talks about open data in this TED talk:


“Opening up data is fundamentally about more efficient use of resources and improving service delivery for citizens.  The effects of that are far reaching: innovation, transparency, accountability, better governance and economic growth.”


The idea would be: if you make your datasets open to the public, more researchers would have the opportunity to play with it and see what gives; potentially expanding knowledge. This can be particularly helpful for those operating on limited resources of their own: a lot of researchers using open data come from the global South/open data is being very successfully used by research informing policymakers in developed countries; see, for example, Ghana’s open data initiative or the Open Data Research network.

Now, Sir Berners-Lee makes another interesting distinction:

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Plan UK launch 2014 ‘Because I Am a Girl’ report


Yesterday Plan UK launched the 2014 edition of the “Because I am a Girl”/State of the World’s girls report; which contains all the newest research behind world’s leading global campaign for adolescent girls’ empowerment. This year’s topic is “Pathways to Power: Creating Sustainable Change for Adolescent Girls”.

There is a lot to be said about it, and I will definitely dedicate it a few blog posts; for now, I only wanted to say that I am immensely proud to have been part of the team who made this happen.


I worked for Plan UK as a research intern for 6 months, between November 2013 and April this year. This is where i learned how to do serious qualitative research, how to code in-depth interviews, how to work with surveys in Nvivo and make it spit out pretty graphs and various others such interesting geeky things; but most importantly, I have learned how to turn stories into data and data into stories with creativity and intellectual honesty- and how to do research that *matters*. I’ve been part of an amazingly creative, amazingly supportive team- and for this I am immensely, immensely proud.

More details later; for now I just want to celebrate. Go read the report! (Particularly the ‘Real Choices, Real Lives’ cohort study; that’s the bit I’ve been involved with the most).

Get Data on Origins and Destinations of the World’s Migrants, from Pew Global


Discovered via Pew Research’s Fact Tank.

The Global Migrant Stock interactive map lets you see the total number of people living outside their birth countries, counted both as immigrants in the countries they went to and as emigrants in the countries they left. It uses United Nations Population Division data and it’s very user-friendly.

Simply click on any country on the map to see the top origin countries for immigrants living in the respective country; click again on the same country to see the destination countries for its emigrants. Scroll down to read the stats and find out more.

For example:

uk migrants

Notice how the countries where most immigrants come from are not quite the same as the ones most hated by, say, readers of the Daily Express. Apart from Poland, all European countries of migration in the top 15 are Western Europe countries who have joined the EU well before the 80’s. Unsurprinsigly, also, we see quite a lot of Commonwealth countries and/or former British colonies.

Another interesting thing, as outlined by this article, is that The United Kingdom is home to the most diverse immigrant community in the world; which definitely puts the “great” in Great Britain. On the other hand, emigrants from France live in more countries than emigrants from any other nation (the top countries for French emigration being Spain, the US and Belgium, with the UK an honourable 6th). The country with the highest proportion of foreign-born inhabitants are the United Arab Emirates (84% of its population). The next three highest – Qatar (74%), Kuwait (60%) and Bahrain (55%) – also are in the Persian Gulf area.

Also, the same article points out, “countries with the fewest resources send lower shares of migrants”; it may be the casethat poverty pushes people out of their homelands in search of jobs, but at the same time those living in the most extreme poverty are the least likely to afford the initial resources to finance a trip; and the least likely to have information about work abroad opportunities. Therefore, “The Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger – countries with some of the lowest U.N. Human Development Index ratings and GDP per capita – all have less than 3% of their population living outside their borders.”

Interesting data: the OECD Teaching and Learning International survey (and a handy tool for visualising it).


For those of you interested in comparative research, I have just found via the Guardian’s Data Blog a fairly useful toy, that helps you visualise data across OECD/G20 countries and more; on topics including education, employment, migration, quality of life, poverty/inequality and others. It’s called Compare Your Country and can be found here.

The Guardian’s Sarah Marsh uses it to look at data from the Teaching and Learning International survey. As an exercise in sociological imagination, I took the opportunity to play with the data a little bit more.

According to their web page, TALIS is the first international survey programme to focus on the learning environment and the working conditions of teachers in schools. 31 countries- including the UK for the first time- have been surveyed in 2013, and the results can be found here. (It can also be embedded into websites; unfortunately WordPress won’t let me do this).


Simply select the country you are interested in to compare it with the OECD average:

cyc1Teachers in the UK, for instance, are younger, more likely to have tertiary education and teaching training; but have less years of teacher training behind them.

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