MapStats - a joint venture of the FedStats community, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Census Bureau - blends more than 1,000 datasets that once had to be acquired separately and searched laboriously.
Journalists and government officials have already begun using - and praising - the new system, for its ability to meld the Statistical Abstract with the ultra-granular data found in HUD's State of the Cities Data System behind a Web interface that allows easy access to important vital statistics on a state, metropolitan, city and even sub-city scale.
"I think we've opened up access to the State of the Cities database to a much wider audience and given MapStats a new model for data integration," said Jon Sperling, manager of geographic information analysis for HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research. "We look at this as a model for other agencies to link their datasets, as well, into this common portal."
Sperling's division and the FedStats Task Force first met last spring, when HUD suggested augmenting and deepening the FedStats network of resources with HUD's ultra-local State of the Cities data. Sperling says he had worked on the FedStats project at Census prior to joining HUD, and saw the value of marrying the two services. With a $50,000 HUD allocation, the interagency partnership built the MapStats toolset - integrating the State of the Cities datasets with the existing FedStats superstructure - and plans to continue expanding its capabilities as agencies suggest new ways of integrating their own data, Sperling says.
Adds Marshall DeBerry, Program Manager of FedStats, "It was all done with in-house resources. We leveraged a lot for very little money."
The FedStats community has already seen great value in the project and is eager to see it put to use by organizations such as the National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, the Urban League and the U.S. Geological Survey, says DeBerry.
In addition, HUD's State of the Cities, now integrated with MapStats, has data for all places (incorporated and unincorporated) within metropolitan areas regardless of size. HUD plans to expand its universe soon to all US places as it incorporates the new metropolitan and micropolitan area designations. HUD SOCDS also contains comparative and time series data on all metropolitan areas in the 50 states in addition to places, Sperling says.
"We tried to make it easy for people to find stuff," DeBerry says. "We have a lookup in there with the most current ZIP Code data so that you can cross-walk into a place - you can put in '223' and that will give you all the towns listed in that ZIP Code area."
Both DeBerry and Sperling credit the NSF's Digital Government Research program for not only giving support to the development of FedStats, but also connecting them with the DG research community as a whole: "The GovStats project is providing us with insights into how to better serve statistical information to visitors to the site," says DeBerry.
"All of these research partnerships we have developed ... would not have been possible without the monetary support from the Digital Government Program," he says. "We have - we hope - provided the researchers with interesting issues relating to access and display of statistical data, and we have been able to tap into and utilize the research community's best thinking on how to better provide data and information to our user community. It's a partnership that has worked pretty well for both sides over the past several years."
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