Visitors to the Department of Commerce’s website can receive a free tutorial on atmospheric rivers. Created with the map design platform Mapbox, this tutorial is one of nine available on DOC’s website and is part of the larger Commerce Data Usability Project (CDUP).

Launched at the beginning of this year, CDUP allows private companies, such as Microsoft, Zillow, and Mapbox, to create interactive tours and visualizations using the thousands of open data sets DOC offers. People can learn Python and tour the U.S. housing market without leaving their desks.

DOC announced June 2 that GitHub, an online source that allows for design and collaboration, could be used by potential software developers interested in adding to the DOC website. The collaborators who created all nine tutorials available on the website used GitHub to pair the open data sets with their own tools and designs. Most recently, the environmental nonprofit group Earth Genome used DOC’s environmental data set to build a business tutorial on “green” infrastructure.

“GitHub is good for collaboration and knowledge encapsulation,” said Tyrone Grandison, Deputy Chief Data Officer of DOC. “The whole point of it is to work with partners both external and internal to showcase data sets and show how people can use them.”

Grandison stated that publishing these data sets on the DOC website was not enough; interactive tutorials offer a more engaging way for the public to learn. For example, he said the Mapbox tutorial shows the high potential of flooding and drought, so Americans can anticipate long-term weather patterns.

Grandison also said that DOC wants to engage with people in academic fields in order to create more tutorials. Columbia University is working on three data tutorials, which he said should be available in the coming months.

“We’re hoping for academia to engage with us and tell us what they want to see these projects merge into,” Grandison said. “We want to make sure people find, understand, and use this information.”


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Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Big Data, FITARA, Homeland Security, Education, Workforce Issues, and Civilian Agencies.