At UNLV University Libraries’ recent faculty workshop “Data Across the Disciplines,” librarians and faculty from several colleges discussed the kinds of data that they need access to for their research, and a team of librarians presented an overview of different types of online data and statistical sources currently available to researchers.
The library data team will use the details they gathered to further develop access to collections of datasets; they have already compiled a web guide that organizes an array of shared data resources by discipline and subject. The Libraries’ Data and Statistics Guides offer access to more than 125 different sources of data and statistical information. The resources include statistical databases, datasets, and free open source data. As you explore the Libraries’ online guide, be sure to check out our links to a number of different web tools to assist with data visualization.
One common thread that emerged in conversations about data was the need faculty in many disciplines had for evidence about educational effectiveness. Data about student performance, education expenditures, and community demographics can be used to shed light on research questions ranging from identifying global trends, to evaluating changing national standards, to making local comparisons.
According to education librarian Samantha Godbey, “There are a number of different resources that offer education data at the global, national, and regional level.”
For global comparisons, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) offers data on the economic and social well-being of people around the world. Global data on quality of life, education, agriculture, health, poverty, and trade is available. A wide range of statistics is accessible in online databases, in addition to key tables covering a range of topics such as energy, environment, foreign aid, health, industry, and social issues.
The OECD Factbook is a resource for researchers interested in measuring student performance and comparing it with other countries. This annual statistical publication, with more than 100 indicators, includes assessment of long-term trends, comments from OECD on the comparability of the data, tables, and graphs. OECD Factbook indicators can be downloaded in PDF format and tables and graphs can be downloaded into Excel.
Researchers can customize reports using a number of data visualization tools in the OECD Data Lab. One tool, Education GPS, is a data source for internationally comparable data on education policies and practices. Education GPS pulls data by country to create a data table with up to five countries for comparison. Indicators of student performance are organized by subject, student gender differences, and by level of performance percentages. Beyond performance data, Education GPS offers data on cumulative expenditures for students, attendance, and student-teacher ratios.
“Data from these international resources could also support arguments for policy change,” Godbey said.
Lastly, OECD provides survey data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing math, sciences, and reading performance of 15-year-old students. The assessment is unique because its tests are not directly linked to school curriculum.
Nationally, a recommended resource is the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). NCES is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education. The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) is an example of a data source found in NCES. Also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” it provides data on student performance in various subject areas at grades 4, 8, and 12.
NCES offers data tools that allow researchers to compare school district finances with its peers or longitudinally. By designating a school district, the system can identify districts with comparable r size, location, and budgets..
Other NCES data tools available are College Navigator, which is consumer-focused tool for making comparisons among 7,000 colleges and universities. Researchers can search to locate tables, figures, and charts published by NCES in the Data & Tools section of their site.
Locally, the Nevada Annual Reports of Accountability data for K-12 education may be of interest to parents as well as researchers. Data is available at the district level and in more focused reports on specific schools, including Adequate Yearly Progress reports from 2004-2012. State assessment results, cohort graduation rates, student demographic data, and fiscal information are also available.
Subject liaison librarians, including Godbey, are available to guide you in navigating the wide array of data and statistical resources available in your discipline.
Explore the new online Data and Statistics Library Guide.