Thursday, March 7, 2013

Publicly Available Data Sets

Publicly Available Data Sets

Charles R. Collins, M.A.

Community-based research can be a taxing endeavor for the individuals within the communities of interest, and often times for researchers. As such, community-based research can require a significant investment
View detailsof time and resources (again, on part of the communities of interest and for researchers). Often, this community investment may be an unnecessary burden for communities involved. Alternatively, data collection within community settings may be impossible for researchers without a large funding stream.

Fortunately, many foundations and federal agencies have already done the work for us! Currently, there are a wide variety of publicly available (community-based) data sets from which researchers can quickly access to address questions of interest. These data span a swath of topics including childhood outcomes (e.g. Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count data), neighborhood outcomes (e.g. AECF Making Connections data; Census Data), and cultural surveys (European Social Survey; World Values Survey). Indeed, researchers have utilized these data directly to answer research questions of interest and in conjunction with their own data collection (e.g. utilization of the American Community Survey to integrate neighborhood level variables).

As a community-researcher, I feel we should utilize these data more often so that we can 1) reduce the burden we place on our communities through data collection (especially if data have already been
collected elsewhere), 2) enhance current community data, and 3) reduce the amount of time and resources needed to collect said data. Additionally (and possibly, unfortunately - you be the judge of that), tenure waits for no person! Utilization of publicly available data sources allows community researchers to move the community-based empirical literature forward on topics that are at the forefront of our field.

The link here
provides an incomplete list of publicly available data sets that we can utilize to supplement our own research.

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