Poverty, disease, hunger, climate change, war, existential risks, and inequality: The world faces many great and terrifying problems at the same time. It is these large problems that our work at Our World in Data focuses on.
The world has the resources to do much better. And thanks to the work of thousands of researchers around the world who dedicate their lives to studying the world’s largest problems we often have a good understanding of them. But we believe that a key reason why we fail to achieve the progress we are capable of is that we do not make enough use of this existing research and data: the important knowledge is often stored in inaccessible databases, locked away behind paywalls and buried under jargon in academic papers.
The goal of our work is to make the knowledge on the big problems accessible and understandable. As we say on our homepage, Our World in Data is about Research and data to make progress against the world’s largest problems.
It is possible to change the world
To work towards a better future, we need to understand how and why the world has changed in the past. There are two reasons for this:
It shows us that progress is possible. The historical data and research shows that it is possible to change the world. In many important ways global living conditions have improved. While we believe this is one of the most important facts to know about the world we live in, it is one that is known by surprisingly few. Many believe that the world is stagnating or getting worse in aspects where the opposite is true.
The second reason is that it allows us to learn. Progress is possible, but it is not a given. If we want to know how to reduce suffering and tackle the world’s problems we should learn from what was and was not successful in the past.
A publication to see the large problems the world faces and the powerful changes that reshape our world
To contribute to positive change, we need to know our world as well as possible. We cannot know our world from the daily news alone. Because the news focuses on current events it largely fails to report the long-lasting, forceful changes that reshape our world, as well as the large, long-standing problems that continue to confront us.
To understand issues that are affecting billions, we need data. We need to carefully measure what we care about and make the results accessible in an understandable and public platform. This allows everyone to see the state of the world today, track where we are making progress, and where we are falling behind. The publication we are building has this goal. Through interactive data visualizations we can see how the world has changed; by summarizing the scientific literature we can understand why.
Comprehensive perspective on global living conditions and the earth’s environment
We take a broad perspective, covering an extensive range of aspects that matter for our lives. Measuring economic growth is not enough. The entries on Our World in Data are dedicated to a large range of global problems in health, education, violence, political power, human rights, war, poverty, inequality, energy, hunger, and humanity’s impact on the environment.
Covering all of these aspects in one resource makes it possible to understand how long-run global trends are interlinked.
Measuring what matters
On the closely integrated website SDG-Tracker.org we present the data and research on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2015, all countries in the world signed up to reach the SDGs by 2030 and we built this site to track progress towards them. Our SDG-Tracker is a widely accessed publication that presents all the latest available data on the 232 SDG-Indicators with which the 17 Goals are assessed.
This is the core of our mission and extends beyond the SDGs. We all, the citizens of this world, are investing vast resources towards the ambitious goal of making the world a better place: we dedicate our lives to medical care and education, we are developing new technologies, we are spending large sums of money on infrastructure and the education of the next generation. What we do not do enough is to investigate whether these efforts are actually getting us closer to achieving our goals.
If the world wants to be serious about achieving progress we need to be much more serious about measuring what matters.
Our World in Data is based on the work of others – and should in turn be a base for others
The research we publish here is not only the work of our small team. Instead we rely on the work of a global community of scholars and wherever possible we see our role as presenting the best available research and data in an understandable and accessible way. Only when we find that important questions have not yet been answered do we do the necessary research ourselves and fill in the gaps.
Newton said, “If I have seen further than others, it is because I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants.” This is how science should work. Those who want to understand the world should be able to stand on the shoulders of those who came before them. A key part of our mission is therefore to build an infrastructure that makes research and data openly available and useful for all.
Building the infrastructure to make data and research accessible and understandable
The web allows us to publish in a way that was unimaginable just a few years ago: distribution is free and research and data can be explored through interactive documents. Yet much of today’s research is published in a format essentially the same as that made available by Gutenberg’s printing press, 500 years ago.
To make research and data as accessible as possible we are a team in which researchers are collaborating with developers. Together we are building the infrastructure that allows everyone in the world to understand how we make progress against our most pressing problems.
If you want to join us as a developer or researcher, see our Jobs page.
Our World in Data is a public good
We have big plans for the coming decades, but we are already having an impact. More than a million readers come to our site every month. We receive very regular coverage in the media, our publication is informing many writers in their often widely read work, our writing is widely shared through social media, and we are regularly cited in top journals including Science and Nature.
For many relevant search queries – ‘CO2 emissions’, ‘world poverty’, ‘child mortality’, ‘population growth’ – we are one of the top search results in many parts of the world. And our work is commonly used as teaching material in schools and universities.
We design our work with the aim of generating an impact beyond what our team can achieve directly. By producing charts and data that can be freely downloaded and embedded in others’ work, we support and empower colleagues in policy, media and civil society also working on the problems we focus on.
This is why all the work we ever do is made available in its entirety as a public good.
- Visualizations and text are licensed under CC BY and may be freely used for any purpose.
- The data is available for download.
- And all code we write is open-sourced under the MIT license and can be found on GitHub.
Feel free to make use of anything you find here.
Based at Oxford
Our World in Data and the SDG-Tracker are collaborative efforts between researchers at the University of Oxford, who are the scientific editors of the website content; and the non-profit organization Global Change Data Lab, who publishes and maintains the website and the data tools that make our work possible. At the University of Oxford we are based at the Oxford Martin Programme on Global Development.
Financed by donations and grants
We are a nonprofit that is building a public good. This means that funding is a key concern for making our daily work possible. We rely on donations and grants. You find a list of our supporters here.
If you care about the big problems in the world, you believe that our open platform contributes to solving them, and you can support our work please get in touch with us.
If you’d like to make a donation to support our work you can do so here. Thank you very much!
If you want to use data or visualizations from the site, you don’t need to contact us: please just go ahead and do so! The terms of our license only require attribution.
To the fullest extent permitted by the applicable law, Our World in Data offers the websites and services as-is and makes no representations or warranties of any kind concerning the websites or services, express, implied, statutory or otherwise, including, without limitation, warranties of title, merchantibility, fitness for a particular purpose, or noninfringement. Our World in Data does not warrant that the functions or content contained on the website or services will be uninterrupted or error-free, that defects will be corrected, or that Our World in Data servers are free of viruses or other harmful components. Our World in Data does not warrant or make any representation regarding use or the result of use of the content in terms of accuracy, reliability, or otherwise.
Except to the extent required by applicable law and then only to that extent, in no event will Our World in Data, or the people working on and related to this website (“the Our World in Data parties”) be liable to you on any legal theory for any incidental, direct, indirect, punitive, actual, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages, including without limitation, loss of revenue or income, lost profits, pain and suffering, emotional distress, cost of substitute goods or services, or similar damages suffered or incurred by you or any third party that arise in connection with the websites or services (or the termination thereof for any reason), even if the Our World in Data parties have been advised of the possibility of such damages.
The Our World in Data parties shall not be responsible or liable whatsoever in any manner for any content posted on the websites or services (including claims of infringement relating to content posted on the websites or services, for your use of the websites and services, or for the conduct of third parties whether on the websites, in connection with the services or otherwise relating to the websites or services.