How to Use ICPSR and NACDA

The MCUAAAR hosted webinar for HBCU partners

Researchers often start with the arduous task of gathering data, but tapping into high-quality data sets that have already been collected can be a fast and invaluable way to survey the field, explore topics, and test ideas. By stewarding secondary data, ICPSR serves the purpose of providing social scientists with rich and broad data resources that are high in quality and publicly accessible. Among some 20,000 studies within ICPSR, more than 1,500 are part of the National Archive of Computerized Data on Aging (NACDA), funded by the National Institute on Aging, which advances research on aging by helping researchers to profit from the potential of a broad range of datasets.

“Our role is to facilitate and expand the impact of primary data research,” said ICPSR Director James McNally in a recent webinar on ICPSR and NACDA hosted by the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research (MCUAAAR). “We store, we organize, and we share primary data collected by researchers such as yourself, offering other colleagues the opportunity to do new analyses and to explore the work that’s gone on before.”

The webinar was convened at the request of MCUAAAR’s HBCU partners at Howard and Prairie View A&M Universities to help faculty and students learn how to access these data sets. The full webinar can be viewed at, and the slides are available for download

In the webinar, you will find out about:

  • The quality of ICPSR data: The data are cleaned, organized, and managed according to “FAIR” principles to make them findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable.
  • The accessibility of ICPSR data: A leader in data equity, ICPSR makes data publicly accessible all over the world. More than 800 institutions are members of ICPSR; researchers at smaller institutions that are not members of ICPSR should contact ICPSR to resolve any barriers to access needed data.
  • The breadth of ICPSR data: ICPSR has data on virtually any topic you can think of; popular search terms include mental health, education, crime, race, COVID, depression, and MIDUS (the Midlife in the US study).
  • The Resource Center for Minority Data (RCMD): The RCMD is a good place for researchers to start looking for data on racial, ethnic, or gender minorities. 
  • NACDA: By providing free access to the largest library of electronic data on aging in the United States, including longitudinal data, NACDA offers opportunities for secondary analysis on major issues of scientific and policy relevance. 
  • Online data analysis: With Survey Documentation Analysis (SDA), users can perform online data analysis without downloading files or using statistical software. This option is available across the ICPSR archives and studies, including NACDA and the RCMD
  • How to use ICPSR and NACDA: NACDA Project Manager Kathryn Lavender demonstrates how to search for relevant data, how to find publications and variables, how to submit data and metadata, how to download study data and materials, and more.

“These data sets can be used for faculty research and teaching, and also doctoral students’ dissertations,” said Robert Joseph Taylor, PI of the MCUAAAR and Director of the Program for Research on Black Americans. “It may take students years to collect their own data and sometimes that data is not nearly as good as what’s freely available. And as we know, a good dissertation is a done dissertation.”

ICPSR will have exhibit booths on its Summer Program at the 2024 Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) Conference April 4-7; on education at the 2024 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting April 11-14; and on the NACDA and DSDR archives at the 2024 Population Association of America Annual Meeting April 17-20.

ICPSR and NACDA are committed to facilitating research and helping its users succeed. Reach out with any questions: [email protected]

The MCUAAAR and the PRBA are housed within the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. ICPSR (The Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research) is also a unit within the Institute for Social Research, with offices in Ann Arbor.

This post was written by Tevah Platt, RCGD communications specialist.