ISO3 Country Codes (things we learn as researchers)

This year I have mostly been mapping country names from data sources found online to ISO3 country codes which are actually useful for something.

The continuing proliferation of data sources whose only country indicator is something like “Virgin Is. (UK)” or “Korea, People’s Rep Of” has staggered me over the past few years of being a development aid researcher. It makes the providers of the data look like amateurs and makes life much harder than necessary for the poor researchers trying to eak some meaning out of the profusion of numbers. (Mentioning no names. But the delightful Penn World Tables are a rare exception.)

I’ve created various little tricks for turning these into the far more useful ISO3 country codes, examples of which include GBR for Great Britain, CHN for the People’s Republic of You-know-who, and TCA for the wonderfully obscure Turks and Caicos Islands (variously represented in datasets with an ampersand, “Islands” inexplicably shortened to Is. etc. etc. ad nauseam). These techniques mostly involve fancy use of the mostly-magical and semi-mythological VLookup in Excel: the topic of more dinner-table conversations than any other mostly-undocumented software functionality since the “discovery” of BCC in the 90s.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I am about to embark on this operation once more as I launch myself into the vaguaries of the EM-DAT natural disaster database. See you on the other side.



Author: Rob Levy

Economist at NEF. Former teaching Fellow in Economics at UCL and Bristol University. Recently submitted my PhD. We'll see what happens...

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