Selection and Appraisal

Important questions arise as soon as data are created in the course of social science research.

  • Which datasets are worthy of long-term retention? Who decides? What criteria are used?
  • How can repositories work effectively with data producers to get all of the information they need for archiving?


ICPSR's approach, as stated in our ICPSR Collection Development Policy, prioritizes the following types of data:

  • ICPSR seeks data that have demonstrated importance to the social science community as determined by: substantive value for research and/or instruction, enduring archival value for research and/or instruction, uniqueness.

  • ICPSR seeks data that support its mission.

  • ICPSR seeks to acquire data in core social science substantive areas.

  • ICPSR seeks data that are useful in utilization of current and emerging research and statistical techniques.

  • ICPSR seeks data that permit the use of quantitative and/or qualitative social science research techniques.

Within those criteria, ICPSR is especially interested in data in five areas:

  • Diversity Data. Data that fosters understanding of the experiences of racial and ethnic minorities and other marginalized peoples living in the United States.

  • Complex Data. Data arising from longitudinal research, survey research, and non-standard types: biological data, administrative records, video data, spatial data, remotely sensed data, and relational databases.

  • Mixed Method Data. Data that can support both qualitative and quantitative analyses; data resulting from concurrent (both at the same time), sequential (one following the other), or conversion (one method to the other) mixed method study designs.

  • Interdisciplinary Data. Data from interdisciplinary studies, and data resulting from studies using the research methods of multiple disciplines.

  • International Data. Data originating outside the United States and data that support crossnational, comparative research. We are especially interested in data from countries and regions of the world that do not have a national structure for archiving, disseminating, and preserving research data.

Datasets that meet these criteria are further reviewed by ICPSR staff. Datasets are accorded a high priority for inclusion in the archive when:

  • The data are not available anywhere else, or are not likely to be available elsewhere in the future.
  • The data are in the public domain.
  • Copyright is clear.
  • Copyright owners agree to ICPSR's dissemination policies.
  • The dataset adheres to standards for privacy and confidentiality.
  • The technical documentation is complete.
  • The data are in a format that facilitates ease of use.

More details on selection criteria are available here.