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Cornell's ICPSR Membership

What is ICPSR?

ICPSR is the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, located at the University of Michigan. ICPSR is a membership organization of over 550 universities and research institutions worldwide. Cornell was a founding member when it was organized in 1962.

In addition to supporting quantitative research and instruction, ICPSR helps to develop standards to describe and preserve research data. Its Guide to Social Science Data Preparation and Archiving advises researchers on how to archive their own data. You may also deposit your research data with ICPSR so it can be used by others.

What are the benefits of Cornell's membership?

  • Access to about 5,500 datasets covering political science, sociology, economics, demography, and interdisciplinary areas. Most datasets are supplied by individual researchers or organizations that sponsor research. ICPSR also distributes data from public sources (like federal statistical agencies) with many value-added features. It maintains several topical archives in the areas of demography, criminal justice, mental health, aging, child care, and education.
  • Online analysis and extraction tools. You can explore the contents of over 500 datasets before downloading them. This powerful feature also creates custom tables online.
  • Enrollment in its summer training program of workshops and courses on social science research methods. Cornell students, faculty, and staff can attend these programs at a reduced tuition rate.
  • An Online Learning Center helps instructors integrate quantitative literacy into their curricula.

How do I find the ICPSR data I need?

Search or browse the online catalog of holdings. You can search by principal investigator(s), date, series, geography, and many other fields. Studies also have lengthy abstracts that are fully searchable. Extensive online search help is available as well as video tutorials.

CISER also has many ICPSR datasets in its collection. You can search our holdings by keywords or the ICPSR study number. These can be downloaded from our online catalog or used from a CISER research server. Archive staff can help you identify datasets from ICPSR or from other sources.

How can I get ICPSR data for use in my research?

Anyone can search the ICPSR catalog, but you must be a Cornellian affiliated with the Ithaca campus to download files. Register for a MyData account from the login page and provide your academic status, department, and privacy setting preferences. After you register, log in using your e-mail address and password. You must also be using the site from a Cornell IP address. (See the next section for off-campus access.) You can modify your account settings at any time.

Subscribe to the "recent updates and additions" e-list to receive news about services and information on new and updated datasets. Postings are usually sent on Fridays. ICPSR also maintains a presence on facebook and twitter.

Can I use ICPSR Direct from off campus?

Yes. Use this Cornell University Library Gateway link and your login/password. This identifies you as a Cornell user and lets you download ICPSR files from off campus locations. If you use your MyData account from a computer with a Cornell Ithaca IP address, your account is flagged for off-campus access for the next six months.

How do I use ICPSR datasets?

Most data files require use of documentation and a statistical software package. Preparing data for analysis isn't difficult, but it can be time consuming. Many ICPSR datasets have SAS, SPSS, and Stata setup programs or distribute the data files in multiple system formats. The site includes FAQs on how to modify setup files for your own use.

Some software packages have input wizards that import plain text (ASCII) data files. Excel has such a wizard (from the toolbar, Data=>Import External Data), as does SPSS. This works well if your dataset doesn't have too many variables. It also requires careful use of documentation.

ICPSR has an online tutorial for new users, as well as many help and FAQ pages.

Are there any restrictions on use of the files?

You can't redistribute the datasets to non-Cornellians without permission from ICPSR. As with all sources, you should appropriately cite datasets you use. ICPSR has examples of how to cite datasets in papers and research publications.

Studies you get from ICPSR Direct are "public-use" datasets. This means that it's highly unlikely the individual respondents in surveys can be identified. The Cornell Institutional Review Board for Human Participants considers ICPSR as a distributor of data that do not require review. However, you should obtain IRB approval to merge a dataset with any other data that could increase the possibility of respondent disclosure. The IRB provides an informative document that discusses this and other topics on data use, Secondary Data Analysis Requiring Review.

Additional information?

The data librarian at Rutgers University has compiled a short introduction to ICPSR as part of its Data Snapshots series on YouTube.