One way to think about how data may be found is to consider the way it is provided. This can often influence how data is catalogued, structured and discovered by researchers. It may also have a profound effect on how it is ultimately used.
Commercial subscription platforms
Companies such as Proquest, Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS) and Bureau van Dijk have emerged as leading suppliers of digital publications and data to academia. They have developed suites of databases that may be searched for data and statistical information in the same way as you may search for publications. Some suppliers are identified with particular disciplines and increasingly offer additional analytical tools or commentary.
As part of the confirmation that data is being used for academic purposes you will need to be on the University IT network or signed in with your Oxford Single Sign On.
Institutional repositories and specialist archives
Data archives offer another rich source of information for academic researchers. Most offer free access but require registration and a simple outline of the intended use. Examples include ORA-Data, the UK Data Archive and the ICPSR. The data collections may include final publications or monographs but, more often, are comprised of the material (sometimes called raw data) collected during the course of a now completed research project.
Documentation (metadata) is often provided to allow better comprehension of the materials that have been preserved. In some cases the same data is available from open data portals and data archives but there are major differences in the kind of documentation or user support that is available.
Restricted data repositories and archives
Concerns about confidentiality have often made it difficult to disseminate certain kinds of research data. Procedures to edit or anonymise such information (eg microdata) are still one option but this is not always appropriate. An alternative approach is to simply make such data harder to access. So whilst more in-depth material is available researchers have to be prepared to accept additional usage conditions, more prolonged application procedures and, in some cases, specialised training. Eurostat and the UK Data Archive have experimented with this approach.
Open data portals
The drive to make data collected by government and non-governmental organisations more easily accessible means there is a wide range of open data portals to consult. These often follow the example of commercial suppliers by providing additional analytical tools as an aid to researchers. Generally no registration or fee is involved. However in some cases sensitive content is reserved for specialised subscription access. Examples include UN Data, World Bank Data and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) iLibrary.