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Workshop research and information skills GEO1-2208 (Innovation Systems): 4E. Statistical data and research data sets


Depending on the need for quantitative insight and evidence, try at least 3 of these 5


  1. Visit the website of (national) statistical agency of your country to retrieve any basic demographic, economic (think of R&D investment) or environmental data that you need.
  2. Visit statistical sites of international organisations (OECD Statistics, or Eurostat for the European Union, IMF country information or the World Bank World Development indicators) to look up more basic and thematic data by country, especially also you want to make comparisons with other countries.
  3. Use the World Competitiveness Yearbook to also compare basic data and see developments through time.
  4. Use Google Dataset Search to search datasets and statistics worldwide, both official government data and data from smaller organisations, including commercial. You can also encounter data sets that have been produced and shared as output from a scientific research project.
  5. In some of the most useful articles and reports that you have found so far look for the sources of tables and quantitative information that they include. Then look up those original sources or the organisation behind them to find more (recent, elaborate) data of that kind.

Finding statistical data and research data

Finding data and statistics is fundamentally difficult because much data does not consist of text but rather numbers (or even visual information, sound recordings etc.). Using textual search terms to search for that kind of information thus needs to match the little bit of text that is in the titles/metadata/descriptions of these tables or datasets, instead of full texts of articles, reports etc.

Although some tools (like Google data set search) make a good attempt at indexing data and datasets, it is recommended to use more strategies.

Four strategies to find data and statistical information:

  1. Use search engines designed to find data, statistics and datasets:
    1. Google Dataset Search
    2. Mendeley data
  2. Think of which organisations might collect data on your topic and check their websites for statistical databases and publications, e.g.:
    1. National statistical agencies (like CBS in the Netherlands)
    2. International agencies, like UN, EU, OESO, ASEAN, UNEP, UNICEF, IMF, ILO etc.
    3. NGO's
    4. Industry federations
    5. Specific (project) organisations (e.g. IPPC)
  3. Find mentions or references to statistical and data sources in the literature (articles, books, reports)
  4. A general web search engine (like Google), combining terms describing your topic with terms like statistics, data, database etc.

Note that some organisations might only provide information in their local language. With some addition (translation) efforts it is still possible to find to organisations, their data/tables and understand what is in the tables. But take care to only use data if your really understand what they stand for.