Spotlight on Research
The City of Chicago, in partnership with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, has launched the City of Chicago Data Dictionary. This website serves as a single comprehensive database catalog for the City of Chicago and City of Chicago sister agencies. It is a resource for anyone interested in understanding what data is held by City agencies and departments, how and if it may be accessed, and in what formats they exist. The data dictionary aims to help both internal city staff and external stakeholders analyze the enormous amounts of data being produced by the city, as part of the city’s efforts to improve the quality and quantity of data – a goal of the City of Chicago’s Technology Plan.
The Data Dictionary aims to provide as much information as possible on the city's data capacity including education, health and human services, infrastructure and public works, public safety, and housing and property. The data dictionary contains 13 databases on Family and Social Services, Office of Budget and Management, and some Chicago Public Library systems. At least 177 databases are slated to be included in the Data Dictionary, and more may be added as they are built. This data dictionary is the repository of metadata for its datasets. The metadata is useful, as it describes characteristics of data, and provides insight into how the data is formatted.
Chapin Hall since its inception in 1985 as a research and policy center has focused on a mission of improving the well-being of children and youth, families, and their communities through policy research. As a result, it has gathered significant experience in working with local governments to improve services. Chapin Hall designed the initial version of the Data Dictionary in consultation with the City of Chicago, agency personal, and city contractors to collect the data and metadata.
“Chapin Hall’s expertise and volume of work in collecting and analyzing government data is why the City of Chicago chose us to build this application and collect its data,” said Robert Goerge, Principal Investigator for the Data Dictionary. “As many researchers that work in the public sector know, it’s difficult to learn about what data may be available. This project will help better inform researchers to what might be available in Chicago’s data stores and trigger new research opportunities.”
The City has open source released the code for this project. Any organization, public, private, or non-profit - can take advantage of this platform. The City of Chicago Data Dictionary will also make managing different datasets easier for local governments, provide greater transparency, and allow for civic applications developers to create tools that improve city services. The project is free for other organizations to copy, and the City will work with civic technologists to improve the platform.
Visit the City of Chicago Data Dictionary at: http://datadictionary.cityofchicago.org
Access the open source code for the project at: