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Background to datasets activity

Research data is the scientific information generated by various scientific means, including observation, computation or experiment, forming an evidence base for the work of researchers. This may take many forms, from audio and visual recordings, to automated collections of temperature and pressure, through to written species descriptions.

In 2007, the Science, Technology and Medicine team commissioned two reports to look at how the team could support researchers' needs for data. The reports are available via the links on the right. They offered the following options:

  • Aggregating datasets: Enabling discovery of data resources, without searching within them.
  • Metadata harvesting: Enabling alternative access and searches for data resources, by harvesting and standardising metadata.
  • Data harvesting: Providing alternative access, deep search and manipulation of data by harvesting all data and metadata from an existing dataset.
  • Data creation: Creating datasets by aggregating and integrating data from multiple free and paid-for sources.


The Science, Technology and Medicine content strategy for 2008/9 went on to outline our aims. The key areas of focus were:

  • Developing and testing selection criteria for reference datasets for inclusion in the British Library ‘collection’, concentrating on biosciences and environmental sciences.
  • Developing relationships with data centres, data curators and stakeholders to aid discovery of and access to datasets for reuse by other communities.
  • Exploring the role of Libraries in developing mechanisms to facilitate long term access and persistence.

We are currently piloting the use of the Library's new Explore the British Library discovery tool to help researchers identify datasets for their research. Find out more about this pilot.

Related content

Datasets Programme

PDF files

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