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Research Data Management: Finding and using data

Finding data

Magnifying glassWhether you're looking for data to reuse or integrate with your research, or trying to find somewhere to deposit your own data, a relevant data repository (also known as an archive or data centre) is a good place to start.

If you want to use someone else's data, you should always: 

  • check the copyright and licence restrictions and, if it is possible to use it, 
  • credit the original author.

Why use Open Data?

  • Saves time. If someone else has already collected the data, you don't have to.  The time saved can then be used in other research activities.
  • Saves money. If you can use someone else's data instead of collecting your own, you can save money which can then be spent on other activities in your research.
  • Adds value. You might find data or tools which enable you to enhance your research, and carry it further than you would have otherwise been able to do.
  • Provides an interdisciplinary perspective. You might find data from another discipline area which enables you to look at your research results in a different way.
  • Reduce duplication. For example, human participants in research can find themselves asked the same questions several times by different agencies and researchers, leading to 'research fatigue'.  Using data already gathered reduces this risk. 

Citing data

You should always credit the original author of any data you use.  There are, as yet, few standard citation conventions for data.  However, the following data citation guidance, taken from the Digital Curation Centre's  'How to Cite Datasets and Link to Publications' will help:

  • When citing a dataset in a paper, use the citation style required by the editor/publisher. If no form is suggested for datasets, take a standard data citation style and adapt it to match the style for textual publications.
     
  • Include data citations alongside those for textual publications. Some reference management packages now include support for datasets, which should make this easier.
     
  • Cite datasets at the finest-grained level available that meets your need. If that is not fine enough, provide details of the subset of data you are using at the point in the text where you make the citation.
     
  • If a dataset exists in several versions, be sure to cite the exact version you used.
     
  • When you publish a paper that cites a dataset, notify the repository that holds the dataset, so it can add a link from that dataset to your paper.

For further information, see: 'How to Cite Datasets and Link to Publications', which also suggests elements that should be included in a data citation.

Searching for data

You can search all datasets that have a DataCite DOI assigned by using the British Library's online catalogue .

Choose ‘Advanced search’ and pick "Research datasets" from the "Material type" list.

Examples of data re-use

The following are examples of where research data has been re-used to positive effect.

Discipline-specific repositories

Find a repository that focuses on the types of data you work with:

General purpose repositories

If there isn't a suitable specialised repository, you could try one or more of the following more general options:

  • Zenodo: An open access data, software and publication repository for researchers who want to share multidisciplinary research results not available in other repositories. It was developed by and is hosted at CERN.
     
  • FigShare: Allows researchers to post their all their data, with the aim of reducing replicating research data unnecessarily. It is free to use and owned by Macmillan Group.
     
  • Dryad: An international repository of data underlying peer-reviewed articles in the basic and applied biosciences'. It is supported by a consortium of journals and publishers such as Oxford University Press, Ecology Letters and BioMed Central. A small charge per deposit is payable.
     
  • NERC Data Centres: Several data centres run by the Natural Environment Research Council for environment-related data.
     
  • UK Data Service: Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council to provide access to relevant data.

Acknowledgements

This page is informed by websites from Imperial College London and the Digital Curation Centre's guide 'How to Cite Datasets and Link to Publications'