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 In Data Analysis Tools, Data Resources for Nonprofits, Experts

How successful will your FOIA request be?

A question that strikes dread into journalists and researchers alike. You know the data you need exists, but will the official controlling it respond to your Freedom of Information Act (or Right to Information, or FIPPA, as the case may be) positively? Only time will tell.

Until now.

My last few posts have been getting back to statistical analysis basics as a lead-up to my Crafting Data Stories course at the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. But the even if you understand statistics inside and out, backward and forward, you still need the data to work with.

On that note, I’m very excited to tell you about a great new tool coming out that will make life — or at least submitting FOIA requests — a little less painful.

Will Your FOIA Request Succeed?

Rachel Downs, a former intern at Data.World, feels your pain. And to address FOIA request anxiety (and failure), she designed the FOIA Predictor. Simply paste the text of your FOIA request into the app along with the agency from whom you’re requesting data, and its algorithms will predict your chances of success.

The FOIA predictor helps you determine how likely it is that your FOIA request will succeed.

Image from Predict Your FOIA Request Success

How does that work?

The app will compare your request to thousands of previous FOIA requests on Muckrock — a government transparency and accountability site. It determines how likely you are to get the data you’re seeking, based on:

  • Word count
  • Average sentence length
  • Presence of hyperlinks
  • Specificity
  • Inclusion of email addresses
  • (Most importantly) Which agency you’re making the request to

A Few of Our Favourite Things

Why are we so excited about this app? Because we love anything that makes accessing public data easier. (We have no stake in FOIA Predictor, nor did we have anything to do with its creation.)

Why are we so sure it’s going to be amazing? Because it’s got so many of our favourite things brought together to do something cool:

  • This new tool is built in R, which is the data analysis tool we love the most
  • It’s based in Shiny, an elegant and powerful web development framework
  • And it’s from Data.World, an exciting network for data and people working with it

Learn More About Accessing and Analyzing Data

Need more practice collecting and analyzing data to craft your story? There are still spaces left in my Crafting Data Stories course, which starts next week! Sign up now to reserve your spot this hands-on, step-by-step introduction to telling better stories with data.

Don’t have time to take a course? Need more help than you think the course can offer? The experts at Datassist are here to help. Get in touch with us to discuss your needs.

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