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.
We believe that the world has the resources and the knowledge to do much better. One of many reasons why we fail to achieve the progress we are capable of is that we do not make enough use of the wealth of existing research and data that allows us to understand the global issues that we face.
Thanks to the work of thousands of researchers around the world who dedicate their lives to studying these issues, we know a lot about the world’s problems and what we can do to make progress against them. But this 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 this knowledge accessible and understandable.
This is what 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 up to now. Studying global changes over the long run is helpful for two reasons:
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 I 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 just 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 wasn’t successful in the past.
Statistics is a tool for social change and Our World in Data is for you if you want the world to change.
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 moving in the right direction, 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 and human rights, war, material prosperity and poverty, 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. The development of new technologies, resources spent on medical care, infrastructure investments, and the education for the next generation – we all, the citizens of this world, are investing billions towards the ambitious goal of making the world a better place. 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 very small team. Instead we rely on the research 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. But when we find it does not yet answer relevant questions, we often carry out the necessary research ourselves to 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 for all to use.
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. 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 best use of this new technology 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 achieving a part of our mission. More than a million readers come to our site every month. We receive very regular coverage in the media and social media and beyond this we are informing many writers in their often widely read work. We are regularly cited by academics 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 small 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 finding 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.
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