Re-use of research data in the social sciences. Use and users of digital data archive

PLoS One. 2024 May 10;19(5):e0303190. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0303190. eCollection 2024.


The aim of this paper is to investigate the re-use of research data deposited in digital data archive in the social sciences. The study examines the quantity, type, and purpose of data downloads by analyzing enriched user log data collected from Swiss data archive. The findings show that quantitative datasets are downloaded increasingly from the digital archive and that downloads focus heavily on a small share of the datasets. The most frequently downloaded datasets are survey datasets collected by research organizations offering possibilities for longitudinal studies. Users typically download only one dataset, but a group of heavy downloaders form a remarkable share of all downloads. The main user group downloading data from the archive are students who use the data in their studies. Furthermore, datasets downloaded for research purposes often, but not always, serve to be used in scholarly publications. Enriched log data from data archives offer an interesting macro level perspective on the use and users of the services and help understanding the increasing role of repositories in the social sciences. The study provides insights into the potential of collecting and using log data for studying and evaluating data archive use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Archives
  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Social Sciences*

Grants and funding

This research was partially funded by Academy of Finland ( grant 351247 (EL) and benefitted from a Short Term Scientific Mission of the COST Action CA 15137 ‘European Network for Research Evaluation in the SSH (ENRESSH)’, supported by European Cooperation in Science and Technology ( (EL, MO). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.