The data-hungry among you may have noticed that Google Correlate, the research tool released by the Google team for experimentation in May 2011, has just graduated from Google Labs and can now be found on Google Trends.
The newfangled research tool finds search patterns, ready for analysis, that correspond with real-world trends (think Bird Flu).
According to the Google Blog, the idea for Correlate stemmed from a wish-list request made by researchers “who wanted to be able to enter the trend of some real-world activity and see which search terms best matched that trend….they wanted a system that was like Google Trends but in reverse.”
Correlate allows you to upload your own data series. Then, delivered to you promptly and magically is a list of search terms that have popularity to match the trend.
In one Google experiment, a few years of flu activity data from the CDC was uploaded. It yielded the finding that people searched for the terms “cold” and “flu” in a pattern that mirrored the actual flu rates. Very cool, no?
The masterminds at Google went on to use the correlated terms they discovered to build Google Flu Trends.
It’s worth mentioning that you can also use the Correlate research tool to identify which pattern of activity across the US matches the activity in your own state or the state you are studying (search terms can vary in popularity according to state).
“Search activity is an incredible source of data that may lead to advances in economics, health and other fields,” reads the Google blog, “but we need to handle that data with privacy controls on mind.”
Well said. As per the usual, new technological developments bring a whole new slew of challenges along with the nifty discoveries. And while relationships can be identified using Correlate, the tool is not able to determine causation (we’re nodding to you, scientists).
Go here now to try Google Correlate for free.