Data limitations remain one of the challenges of scholars seeking to publish work on social movements and activism. But, there’s a new tool in town that might help social movement scholars overcome some small part of those long-standing data issues. Google recently released a Beta feature called “Google Dataset Search.” The tool compiles datasets that meet their requirements (contain metadata and structured data, and exist on pages with sitemaps). This means there are many datasets that are not being catalogued, but the developers have released guidelines in case others want to ensure their data is included in the search. For a full description of the tool, you can read their blog.
I took the tool for a spin to get a sense how it might be useful for movement scholars. I searched “protest” to get started and was pleasantly surprised that the large number of search results included sites I often search for data (e.g., ICPSR) and many small, one-time studies I’d not heard about prior. Scrolling through, there was a diversity in the type of data (both quantitative and qualitative) as well as in the size and extensiveness of the datasets. In exploring briefly, for instance, I located a dataset containing a twitter archive from the Women’s March in 2017 as well as interview data on protests across Europe.
Right now, I’m working with some lynching data, so I went ahead and searched “lynching” to see what was catalogued. There, I only received 5 search results. On the positive side, I found datasets I did not know about prior, like this one from a data scientist. On the other hand, I did not see data sets I expected like the EJI lynching dataset. The limited terms of inclusion remain a restriction to finding data. However, the capacity to locate unknown and available data is novel and potentially useful, especially for young scholars who are looking for opportunities to publish work in Social Movements.