Data repositories as data resources

In chapter 6, we presented several types of data publishing routes and types of data repositories. Similarly, when you want to discover research data you will find that they are hosted at different types of data repositories.

Data resources for researching wellbeing: a case study


Bram Vanhoutte is a Research Fellow in Sociology at the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research (CMI), The University of Manchester. Bram was appointed as a UK Data Service Data Impact Fellow for 2016-2018 and his research focuses on wellbeing in later life. In the Questions and Answers below, Bram introduces his research and the data he has discovered and uses for his research.

My research has concentrated on later life wellbeing: how to measure it, how it evolves over time and also how our social trajectories through life influence it. I have just started working on a new research project, The road to resilience: A comparative life course study (Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing, n.d.) which examines the different ways in which people live through adverse events that define ageing in the public eye, such as loss of health, loss of partner and loss of wealth.

For this project, I wanted to use longitudinal data to study how individuals change over time as well as comparative data to examine how different countries compare. Luckily, there are well-established panel studies focused on health and ageing such as t the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) (UK Data Service, n.d.b) and its sister studies, the US Health and Retirement Study (HRS) (Health and Retirement Study Survey Research Center, n.d.) and the Survey of Health and Retirement in Europe (SHARE-ERIC, n.d.). These panel studies allow studying how individuals change over time, how people differ from each other as well as how different countries compare, since they are conceived with international comparisons in mind.

Another enormously useful resource has been Gateway to Global Aging Data (National Institute on Ageing, n.d.) which provides tools for both searching for relevant search questions but also tools for creating harmonised datasets based on the different studies.

Important social science data archives

Social science data archives belong to the category of (trusted) domain repositories. They are important resources for discovering social science datasets (Gregory, et al., 2018a). It is the mission of such repositories to embed data into the research lifecycle in such a way that data are published, shared, discovered and reused. Trusted domain repositories, such as the CESSDA Archives, design their data infrastructures to follow the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) data principles (see chapter 1). Moreover, they:

  • archive and preserve data;
  • offer and manage (mostly online) access to the data;
  • provide complex services focused on data reuse for research, teaching and learning;
  • check data quality and compliance;
  • improve data interoperability, e.g. by accompanying data with rich standardised metadata;
  • maintain (mostly online) data catalogues;
  • seek to add new data to their collections;
  • develop training for data producers and data users.

Important (trusted) domain repositories are:

The Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA.n.d.b) serves as a platform for development of European integrated data services in social sciences based on wide collaboration among national data archives across Europe. It strives to be a 'one stop shop' for European data.

The CESSDA member archives (CESSDA, n.d.b) provide access to diverse collections of data. Most of the national social science archives dispose of data representing the respective national population. Some large CESSDA archives (e.g. GESIS, n.d.b or UK Data Service, n.d.c) also provide datasets from various international research projects such as ISSP (n.d). The majority of data provided by CESSDA archives are survey data, i.e. quantitative data, although some archives dispose of qualitative data, e.g., interview transcripts and field notes. The collections of CESSDA archives include data from contemporary research projects as well as older datasets, including longitudinal studies that have been collecting data over decades.

The CESSDA member archives satisfy strict requirements regarding data quality and trustworthiness of the data archive's services and they conform to international standards of data documentation and accessibility. Data services are complemented by different CESSDA products such as services and training activities targeted at data users (researchers), data archives and data professionals.

Search for CESSDA data

The CESSDA Data Catalogue (CESSDA, n.d.a) is a platform for researchers, where you can search for data from most of the CESSDA archives. Data are not directly downloadable. Instead you will be redirected to the relevant archives for access.

Expert tip

CESSDA is continuously widening with the objective to reach a pan-European coverage. However, there are data service providers which are currently not affiliated with CESSDA. A few examples are:

The Estonian Social Science Data Archive (ESSDA, Eesti Sotsiaalteaduslik Andmearhiiv, n.d.) contains Estonian social science data and survey data, as well as university publications and Estonian radio archival materials. Information is currently only available in Estonian.

The Irish Social Science Data Archive (ISSDA, n.d.) is Ireland’s leading center for quantitative data acquisition, preservation, and dissemination.

The Interdepartmental Centre UniData – Bicocca Data Archive (University of Milan-Bicocca, n.d.) is a joint project coming from eight departments of the University of Milano-Bicocca. The project aims to create a center of excellence in data sharing, enhance the secondary analysis of data and promote responsible data use in social, economic and environmental studies.

The Lithuanian Data Archive for Humanities and Social Sciences (LiDA, Kaunas University of Technology, n.d.) is a virtual centre of expertise in data acquisition, long-term preservation and dissemination established at the Kaunas University of Technology. The archive is promoting access to the national and international collections of digital data in the social sciences and humanities in Lithuania.

LISER (Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research, formerly CEPS/INSTEAD) is a Luxembourgish public research institute under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research. Its research focus lies in the field of social and economic policy including the spatial dimension. You can visit the LISER data catalogue (LISER, n.d.) to find data.

The Polish Social Data Archive (ADS, Institute for Social Studies of the University Of Warsaw and Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, n.d.) is well developed regarding internal standards of data acquisition, archiving and publishing.

The RODA archive (Romanian Social Data Archive, n.d.) contains data collections accessible for the academic community and the interested public, for secondary and comparative analysis.

The Joint Economic and Social Data Archive (JESDA, Higher School of Economics, n.d.) provides free and open access to the results of empirical research in social sciences.

Here we list some of the well developed data archives in non-European countries to show diversity of data services worldwide:

Odesi (Ontario Data Documentation, Extraction Service and Infrastructure, n.d.) is a digital repository for social science data, including polling data. It is a web-based data exploration, extraction and analysis tool that uses the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI Alliance, n.d.) social science data standard.

CESOP (Center for Studies on Public Opinion, n.d.) is a center for interdisciplinary research established at the State University of Campinas in 1992. Its central objective is the development of scientific research in the field of political and social behavior.

ISDC (Israel Social Sciences Data Center, n.d.) collects, processes, distributes and stores data from different areas in the social sciences. Since its establishment in the late 1970s, the database has developed into a national center.

SSJDA (Center for Social Research and Data Archives, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo, n.d.) is a comprehensive archive of social science data concerning Japan.

KSCD (Korean Social Science Data Center, n.d.) was established in November, 1997 to build a new system of managing comprehensive sources of social science data.

SRDA (Survey Research Data Archive, n.d.) was founded in November 1994 by the Center of Survey Research (CSR), formerly the Office of Survey Research. SRDA engages in the systematic acquisition, organisation, preservation, and dissemination of academic survey data in Taiwan.

ADA (Australian Data Archive, n.d.) provides a national service for the collection and preservation of digital research data.

ICPSR (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, n.d.) in the United States, has many datasets on American society, but its scope is worldwide, as its member institutions come from all parts of the world.

Here we list some important institutional or project data repositories:

A very important source of data on European and EU countries is EUROSTAT, the statistical office of the European Union. EUROSTAT key task is to provide statistics at European level that enable comparisons between countries and regions. It provides access to data in two categories:

  • The Eurostat data collection
    The Eurostat data collection (in aggregate form) can be accessed here (European Commision, n.d.b).
  • Eurostat microdata
    Eurostat microdata (including the European Union Statistics on income and living conditions (European Commission, n.d.a) can be accessed under specific conditions, frequently through some form of secure access (especially in case of confidential data). More information on how to access Eurostat microdata can be found in the publication 'How to use microdata properly' (European Commission, 2018).

European Union Open Data Portal (EU ODP, European Commission, n.d.c.) gives access to open data published by EU institutions and bodies.

OECD iLibrary (OECD, n.d.) is the online library of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development featuring its books, papers and statistics and is the gateway to OECD's analysis and data.

UNdata (United Nations, n.d.) is a web-based data service for the global user community. It brings international statistical databases within easy reach of users through a single-entry point. Users can search and download a variety of statistical resources compiled by the United Nations statistical system and other international agencies.

UNESCO Institute for Statistics offers data for the Sustainable Development Goals (UNESCO, n.d.).

UNICEF data (UNICEF, n.d.) monitors the situation of children and women worldwide.

World Bank Open Data (The World Bank, n.d.) offers free and open access to global development data.

European diversity

Data archives for social sciences differ considerably between European countries. Below you find an example of a 'small' archive (CSDA) and a 'large' archive (UKDS).




The Czech Social Science Data Archive (CSDA, n.d.) was founded in 1998 as a department of the Institute of Sociology in Prague.

The large majority of the CSDA collection consists of data from sociological surveys. The data collection is gradually growing (in 2018, over 800 data sets are available) and expanding beyond the frontiers of sociology. With a few exceptions, research data cover only the area of Czechia. Only a small part (less than 10 %) of the data collection is in English.


UK Data Service (n.d.d) provides access to the UK’s largest collection of social, economic and population data. UKDS also supports users with training and guidance.

The data collection includes major UK and cross-national surveys, including many government sponsored surveys and longitudinal studies and several cohort studies following individuals born in 1958, 1970 and 2000. There is data from the UK Census from 1971 to 2011 and qualitative data collections containing in-depth interview transcripts, diaries, anthropological field notes, etc.

The UK Data Service has an online repository called Reshare (UK Data Service, n.d.e) for researchers to archive, publish and share research data. Reshare is an important tool in helping researchers to comply with the data archiving requirements from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council.

Expert selections of data resources

Below, CESSDA-experts highlight key data resources for several research topics and show you how to access the data. Maybe you can find something for your research interests.