Open data visualizations and analytics as tools for policy-making

Loni Hagen, Thomas E. Keller, Xiaoyi Yerden, Luis Felipe Luna-Reyes
July 1, 2019


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Government agencies collect large amounts of structured and unstructured data. 

Although these data can be used to improve services as well as policy processes, it is not always clear how to analyze the data and how to glean insights for policymaking, especially when the data includes large volumes of unstructured text data. 

This article reports opinions found in “We the People” petition data using topic modeling and visual analytics. It provides an assessment of the usability of the visual analytics results for policy making based on interviews with data professionals and policymakers. We found that visual analytics have potentially positive impacts on policy-making practices. 

Experts also articulated potential barriers regarding the adoption of visual analytics tools and made suggestions. Potential barriers included insufficient resources in government agencies and difficulty integrating analytics with current work practices. 

The main suggestions involved providing training and interpretation guidelines along with the visual analytics tools. Major contributions of this study include: 

(1) suggesting viable visualization tools for analyzing textual data for policymaking, and 

(2) suggesting how to lower barriers to adoption by increasing usability.

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