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Scientific Data

This guide provides information on scientific data and data repositories.

How To Use This Guide

Welcome to the Scientific Data Library Guide!



Use this library guide when you are looking (1) for datasets across the sciences and/or (2) to publish your scientific data in a data repository.

Tips for Locating Data

When searching for data, think carefully about what organizations might have collected the data you need.  Governments and international organizations often maintain and provide access to the data they collect, while businesses and independent researchers' data are less available to the public. For the later, subscriptions to data archives are sometimes a solution. Scientists who complete projects funded by public grants are increasingly becoming required to publish that data online.

Here are some possible data collectors to consider:

Government/Government-funded Research

International Organizations

  • May be free or subscription/fee based
  • Data format varies widely
  • Collected through research to help aid policy decisions

Data Archives and Repositories

  • Usually subscription/fee based
  • Often includes data collected by individual scholar/researchers
  • Data generally available in formats like SPSS, SAS, Stata or Excel

Don't ignore the scholarly literature (books & articles). Bibliographies and existing research may help you identify what types of data are available, and where to access them.

Before you search for a data source, think about what kind of data you need. Ask yourself the following:

What topics do you need?

  • Genetic, Psychological, Topography

What unit of analysis do you need?

  • Length, time, mass, temperature

If applicable, what geographic unit do you need?

  • National: U.S., country level
  • State, regional, county/parish, local, cities...
  • International

What time period/years do you need?

  • Fixed time: most recent available, past 5 years, historical...
  • Time series: annual, quarterly, every 10 years...

Not sure the answer to these questions about your research interest? Start by conducting a literature review. Find studies related to your topic and look for the data used by other scholars. What data points did they analyze? Where did they find the data?

Knowing what you need is an important first step. Don't skip it! You need to have a strong idea of the specific data needed to answer your research question before you meet with a librarian.

Consider the following questions when determining if data is trustworthy --

Does the data have a use license? 
Is there information describing the data collection and analysis strategies? 
Are the data authors/creators identifiable by name and contact information? 
If the data includes sensitive information, are proper protocols included in viewing the data (use agreements)? 
Is the author/creator/organization, data collection process, data analysis, or data publication tied to a financial, political, or social interest? If so, identify the measures taken to ensure ethical compliance. 

Scientific Data Repositories by Discipline

Visit these links to search for datasets by discipline or topic.

Related Library Guides

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