A Note on Data Sources

March 16, 2020 5:16 p.m.

This is a brief note about adding a new data source to the COVID-19 Crisis links you now find below every Editors’ Blog post. It’s more for the record and to refer back to. No big need to read unless you’re interested in evaluating data sources in general.

One of the most copious sources of information on the COVID-19 Crisis is Worldometer.info. Many people are referring to it. It has a lot of the information you can find on other sites like the Johns Hopkins data site which has become something like the canonical source for the global epidemic. But it has many more helpful visualizations and breakdowns and in many cases just more information – at least more than I was able to find easily on the Hopkins site. It’s a really good resource.

I had not added it to our list because at least a few days ago I could not find an ‘About’ link or anywhere else on the site I could find an explanation of where they got their information, who was behind the site, etc. It also used network ads for revenue. Nothing wrong with that. We do that too. But most of these sites are either institutions or paid services. Looked solid. I was using it. But without clearer info I didn’t feel comfortable circulating it.

Today though I found the Statista data service referencing it as a source of information. That adds credibility. When I looked again I found this About page. Not sure why I hadn’t found it before. It provides some but still rather limited information about who is behind it: It’s “run by an international team of developers, researchers, and volunteers with the goal of making world statistics available in a thought-provoking and time relevant format to a wide audience around the world. Worldometer is owned by Dadax, an independent company. We have no political, governmental, or corporate affiliation.”

There are also references and a recommendation from the American Library Association. I’ve also found other similar reliability references. From what I can tell they are using ‘scraping’ to pull data from organizations like the UN, WHO, and other international organizations. etc. So it’s as reliable as those sources of information, which is about as good as we can get.

I’d still like to know more and it would be nice if they made it easier to see the specific source behind different datasets. But given the extreme, urgent need for information I think I’ve seen enough to add them to our list. I would advise focusing on them mainly for trends and visualizations. Check other sources where necessary to additional validation where necessary.

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