23 Questions You’ve Always Wanted to Ask (and the 11 Datasets You Need to Answer Them)

A satellite against a blue sky.

Public data enables us to learn more about the world we live in. By public, we simply mean created by (and about) the public. Much like the more broadly used term “open data” suggests, public data embodies the notion that data should be freely used, without restrictions to access. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

Locating the data you need, much less actually getting your hands on it, can prove to be quite a challenge. That’s where Enigma Public comes in. We’ve spent the last couple of years curating tens of thousands of public datasets — from the new and noteworthy to the widely utilitarian and wildly eccentric — to make data usable and easily accessible to all.

However, data is only as valuable (or interesting) to you as the questions you are able to ask of it — and that can be half the battle. So, in the spirit of curiosity, we’ve compiled a list of interesting, free* datasets and some questions from the data that we’ve pondered to get you started.

1. Orbiting Satellites Database from the Union of Concerned Scientists

  • Which nations are launching the greatest number of satellites?
  • How have the number of satellite launches changed over time?
A chart showing satellites, the years they were launched and their kilograms at launch.  The dots are clustered in the far right corner, indicating that most satellites are under 7,500 kilograms at launch but there are a few jumbo satellites out there.

2. U.S. Medical Adverse Events from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

  • Can we predict a combination of medical drugs associated with greater side effects
  • What is the age and sex of someone most likely to experience an adverse event?

3. Near Mid Air Flight Collisions from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration

  • How many near flight collisions occurred before the millennium?
  • What proportion of near mid air flight collisions were defined as ‘critical’? Has that proportion changed over time?
A graph with years on the x-axis from 1990-2015 and percentages on the y-axis from 10 to 70%.  There is a yellow line around the 60% mark for potential events, a blue line between 20 and 30% for no hazard events and a red line between 10 and 20% for critical events.  The headline of the graph states that 2011 was a particularly safe year for near mid-air flight collisions.

4. U.S. Liquor Licenses from all state governments

  • Based on the concentration of liquor licenses, where is someone most able to buy a beer in the U.S.?
  • Are newly licensed establishments predictive of complaints to a city?

5. U.S. Government Spending from the U.S. Treasury

  • How does the level of government spending change across different U.S. presidential administrations?
  • What kind of organizations does the government invest in?

6. U.S. Work Layoffs from 13 state governments

  • How do layoffs in California compare to layoffs in Texas?
  • What is the average number of employees terminated from mass layoffs across 13 U.S. state governments?

7. New York City Restaurant Inspections from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

  • Which zip code of New York City has the lowest average restaurant rating? Can you rank boroughs by restaurant ratings?
  • Can you predict a restaurant rating based on cuisine?

8. Work Health and Safety Violations from the U.S. Department of Labor

  • How have types of workplace injuries changed since the 1970s?
  • What are some industries that have a higher number of workplace injuries than expected?

9. MoMA Art Collection from the MoMA

  • Can you predict the likelihood that an artwork is produced by a female artist at the Museum of Modern Art?
A graph showing males and females on the x-axis and number of artists (from 0 to 10,000) on the y-axis.  The bar for men goes all the way to 10,000 while the bar for women extends just a bit over 2,000.  A headline on the graph reads that "there are four times as many male artists represented at the MoMA as female artists.

10. New York City 311 calls from the NYC local government

  • What are people complaining about most in New York City?
  • Which borough calls 311 the most? The least?
  • What is the most common complaint by borough?

11. U.S. Farm Subsidies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture

  • Which crops are most subsidized by the U.S. government?
  • Has that changed over time?

*All data in Enigma Public is free for non-commercial use, published under CC BY NC 4.0. If you would like to use our data for a commercial purpose, please do be in touch. We’d love to chat about how we can help you work public data into your workflows.

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