Searching for data (archives)

   Main points

In the section data archiving you were already given a couple of examples of data archives. But what if you were looking for this type of archive yourself? How would you find out which data archives there are? And how would you find research data?

Two frequently used strategies for finding research data are: 


  • Via directories.

Via directories such as you can search for data archives. In you can search by Subject, Content type and Country. In addition, you can select whether you want to search for data archives with a certificate, with data sets that are available via open access or for data sets that have a persistent identifier. and another well-known service,, will be merged.(4)

Subsequently, you can search for the data sets in the data archive of your choice. Each data archive has its own search options.

  • Via data portals.

You can also search for data sets via so-called data portals. This allows you to search in multiple data archives at the same time:    

  • NARCIS(5) allows you to search for data sets which are available in Dutch data archives and repositories.
  • A portal which was developed in 2013 is the Surveydata Netherlands portal.(7)
  • Via the Data Citation Index(8) you are able to search in the metadata of the data sets for an increasing number of connected data archives(9). Thomson Reuters uses metadata harvesting. She 'catches'all the metadata in the data archives she indexes. The data sets are linked to the primary literature. There are licensing costs involved in using the Data Citation Index.

    The data sets of 4TU.Centre for Research Data can be found via the Data Citation Index.(10)

   Case metadata as a search key

"To date, access to data is primarily provided by means of annotated, textual metadata. For example, an information seeker can retrieve all documents that were obtained in a specific region or within a certain period of time. However, retrieval via textual annotations is limited and does not allow for content-based search, e.g., retrieving data which is similar to example data the information seeker provides." -Maximillian Scherer(11)

If you are looking for research data, you must do so via the metadata that has been assigned. And not - as is suggested in the quote above - by going through the actual contents of the data sets. So, if you are looking for the data set below, you will find it by entering search terms that match the characters in the fields Creator, Contributor, Date Created, Description, Language, Publisher, Title, Spatial Coverage, Time Coverage or Related Publication. The data itself is mentioned under the grey line. The search engine doesn't search this area. 

  An in-depth look

Are you interested in searching for data and other information? During the course Professioneel zoeken naar informatie (Dutch)(12) (Professional search for information) VOGIN will discuss this subject in detail. 

   Sources and additional reading

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  1., registry of research data repositories. Retrieved from
  2. Databib. A searchable catalog of research data repositories. Retrieved from
  3. nvt
  4. news (2015, March 9). Merger of Databib and, first version of API available. Retrieved from
  5. NARCIS (datasets). Retrieved from
  6. nvt
  7. Survey Data Netherlands. Retrieved from
  8. Web of Science, the Data Citation Index. Retrieved from
  9. Web of Science. Master data repository list covered by data citation index, Thomson Reuters. Retrieved from
  10. 3TU.Datacentrum. (2013, October 21). 3TU.Datacentrum datasets in Thomson Reuters Data Citation Index [nieuws]. Retrieved from[tt_news]=142&cHash=d79601e1b44481d200a2cca9de8254d1
  11. Scherer. M. (2013). Information Retrieval for Multivariate Research Data Repositories. [PhD thesis]. Retrieved from
  12. KNVI. Vogin Cursussen. Retrieved from

Additional reading