Infographics Research: Companies that Specialize in Data

By Justin Beegel, MBA, The Infographic World Team

A good infographic can visually tell a story or make some abstract or numerical point easy to understand, but none of this happens without a good base of data. A number of private companies and nonprofits exist that specialize in data. Some focus on a particular topic, such as the income gap between the world’s rich and poor, and others are generalists.

Many of these sources use information from government or intergovernmental databases, but they sometimes offer analysis or a different perspective on the information. They can also make what you’re looking for easy to find.

As opposed to the many government databases that can seem geared toward specialists or people within the government, these sites are intended for public use. That means they’re designed to be accessible, and they can prove a valuable resource to a journalist, especially on a deadline. Here’s a sampling of some of the best:

  • Links to the open data catalogs for various cities and towns around the world. If you want to know how to find the public database of Ann Arbor, Michigan, or Venice, Italy, this is a great place to look.

  • DataMarket: Aggregates public data and makes it easily searchable. The site organizes data in a few ways, including by country and industry, which is useful if you’re looking for stats on a sector (such as retail or the auto industry) but aren’t sure what’s available.

  • Gapminder: A terrific resource if you’re looking for anything related to development. You can sort data in several ways and look at what’s available on subjects such as causes of child deaths, poverty and inequality, and population growth.

  • Harvard WorldMap: Run by the Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard University, it allows users to create maps of any location in the world or to view maps submitted by other users.

  • Influence Explorer: Tracks money as it flows through Washington, DC. It allows users to search detailed records on topics such as lobbying dollars, earmarks, and who has received what contracts.

  • Knoema: Lets you search for stats on a wide variety of topics, from African tourism to European patent applications. You can browse by topic, data source, and region, or use its search engine if you know what you’re after.

Sometimes the issue isn’t finding data but analyzing it. If you have a vast spreadsheet of figures in front of you, the hard part is often making sense of it all. Thankfully, websites specialize in performing statistical calculations and offer users ways to organize and analyze messy datasets. The following sites are worth checking out to see whether they work for you: