Not all the research data you use has to be created by you and your research team. This page lists some of the options available for finding existing data, which may be available for re-use in your own research projects. There are many data repositories so we have listed directories to help you locate them, as well as providing links to some key data sources.
NEW! - Google has recently introduced Dataset Search which uses AI to search across multiple repositories - if their content is tagged correctly. JCU data records are harvested by Research Data Australia which means they are discoverable using the Dataset Search.
(Left:“Search!” by Jeffrey Beall, licenced under CC BY-ND 2.0; Right: [Unknown photographer:] City Library card catalogue, Townsville, 1978 [picture]. Townsville City Libraries, 'permission granted for access and copying'.)
Not all data is created -- or described, or catalogued -- equally. The Australian National Data Service has a guide on data re-use that provides advice on evaluating and using data, as well as discovering it.
Ideally, the metadata record in a repository will contain enough information about the dataset (e.g. sample and/or subjects, methods and formats) to determine relevance and usability - but quality does vary widely. ANDS suggests data re-users take time to:
• read user and technical manuals about how data collection was designed and carried out
• find out about any instruments used to collect the data
• read study protocols and interview/survey questions
• understand the characteristics of the sample from which the data was drawn
• find out if and how the data have been modified from their original form e.g. have they been confidentialised, weighted, or treated for missing data?
• find out what variables are included in the dataset and how these were constructed.
The reliability and validity of research results also need to be evaluated to ensure:
• the source is trusted
• the sample characteristics, time of collection, and response rate (if relevant) of the data are appropriate
• the methods of data collection are appropriate and acceptable in your discipline
• the data were collected in a consistent way
• any data coding or modification is appropriate and sufficient
• the documentation of the original study in which the data were collected is detailed enough for you to assess its quality
• there is enough information in the metadata or data to properly cite the original source.
Licences make the terms and conditions regarding the re-use of data explicit and ensure data is attributed correctly. If licensing information is not clear (or there is no licence) researchers should contact the data custodian for more information before they invest in using it. Data may be Open Access (it can be downloaded and re-used under an open licence) or it may be available via mediated access. The latter case requires negotiation with the data owner or custodian. Researchers may need to negotiate the licence terms and/or assure data owners that they will meet requirements for confidentiality or keeping files secure.
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