TITLE: Social Sciences Data on the Net

ACCESS: http://odwin.ucsd.edu/idata/

The University of California, San Diego maintains "Social Sciences Data on the Net" as one component of its Social Sciences Data Collection. Although data collections are accessible elsewhere on the Internet, only San Diego provides the two specialized search utilities that are available on this page. The first of these, the "original, classic version of Data on the Net," searches a collection of pages chosen and annotated by librarians. The second, the "new robotic-experimental Data on the Net," uses a robot to collect information about social science data sites. Librarians then use this information to choose specific sites for indexing by a spider. The spider assigns information to fields and also assigns weights to search results based on word frequency. The current status of the project is described on the site.

A sample search on "adoption" using the classic version yielded only one result. The same search on the experimental search utility produced sixty-one hits, which are arranged by presumed relevance and which can be further sorted using convenient drop-down menus. The results of these sample searches suggest that the experimental search utility is superior to the classic version, but users are advised that the file is still incomplete. For best results, users should, therefore, use both search utilities if only for the annotations available in the classic version. It should also be pointed out that not all the data identified by the two search utilities are publicly available.

The second feature of "Social Sciences Data on the Net" is a set of hyperlinks to categories of data on the Internet. Although careful examination is sometimes required to discern the distinctions between these categories, the seasoned researcher who is willing to plow through long lists of links may find valuable resources. Less experienced researchers who are browsing for data sources would be better served by resources such as the University of Michigan's "Statistical Resources on the Web" at http://www.lib.umich.edu/libhome/Documents.center/stats.html.

"Social Sciences Data on the Net" will be a boon to serious social sciences researchers for its specialized access to data sources. Others, who are less interested in data, will profit from the many search results that describe, announce or summarize data.

Tom Nichol
Public Services Systems Librarian
College of St. Benedict & St. John's University
February 1999

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