Hats off to two Agriculture Department divisions for seeking feedback Thursday and Friday about how and whether their open data are being used by researchers and other data consumers.
In the push to make government data more accessible to the public, phase two -- figuring out what data the public wants, what data it's using and what effect that’s having -- sometimes gets skipped.
USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service tweeted around 10 a.m. Friday asking what use the public was getting from its census data. (Scroll down to see the tweet).
Note this response from the University of Kentucky’s Agriculture College.
Late Thursday, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service tweeted asking how data consumers were using its web soil survey data.
There aren’t any replies to that tweet yet, but that’s only one data point. If USDA continues to reach out to data consumers in similar ways it may begin to spot trends about which data are and aren't being used that can help it better spend its limited data transparency resources. That’s the kind of information you can only get by asking for it, though.