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Who, What, Why: UNC Dataverse

By Kyle Ryan

Under the leadership of the Odum Institute Data Archive, we host and manage UNC Dataverse, an open-source repository software application for archiving, sharing, and accessing research data of all kinds.

Each dataverse within the larger repository contains a multitude of datasets, and each dataset contains descriptive metadata and data files. The Dataverse Project aims to make data available to others, while allowing you to replicate others’ work more easily. By creating a shared space for researchers to distribute their data, academic credit and web visibility is received by:

  • Researchers,
  • Journals,
  • Data authors,
  • Publishers,
  • Data distributors, and
  • Any other affiliated institutions

What is Dataverse?

The initial Dataverse project was developed at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, along with many collaborators and contributors worldwide. UNC Dataverse offers these benefits to the Carolina community. Developers hoped that Dataverse could automate much of the professional archivist’s job, while at the same providing services for and distributing credit to the data creator.

Before Dataverse, researchers were forced to choose between receiving credit for their data (by controlling distribution themselves but without long-term preservation guarantees), or having long-term guarantees by sending it to a professional archive without receiving much credit. Dataverse aims to eliminate the need for this choice.

Researchers also had few options for storing their data over the long term, and had no means of reliably tracking and receiving credit when others use their data. UNC Dataverse offers the infrastructure necessary to enable researchers to store and share their data in an efficient manner.

Why use UNC Dataverse?

The Odum Data Archive and Research Data Information Systems (RDIS) team make the Dataverse available to researchers not only for long-term data archiving and data sharing, but also for finding valuable datasets that others have made publicly available. The Dataverse also notably features datasets that were donated to Odum’s collection of historical social science data, including Harris Polls, North Carolina Vital Statistics and the nation’s most complete collection of 1970s U.S. census data.

The Dataverse system is designed to support and adhere to the “FAIR” Principles for scientific data management, meaning that the data are Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable. Through this design, the Dataverse is able to enhance data discovery, access, and use with the following features:

  • Automatic generation of data citation with DOI
  • Standardized descriptive metadata
  • Customizable terms of use
  • Support for restricted file access
  • User activity tracking and download metrics
  • Faceted browns and advanced search
  • Dataset version tracking
  • Data exploration tools
  • Rich data support for tabular data
  • File format normalization for preservation
  • APIs for tool interoperability and integration

Who uses Dataverse?

Researchers representing countries from 6 continents have utilized Dataverse because of these features and the software’s built-in data preservation. These Dataverse users, developers, and supporters are part of a growing, international community dedicated to the continued enhancement and sustainability of the application.

Thanks to support from the Odum Archive and RDIS staff, self-service of the UNC Dataverse is available to the research community at no cost. If you would like guidance from Archive staff, guided service is available to ensure compliance with common standards and best practices.

For more information on UNC Dataverse or for technical assistance, visit the Dataverse User Guide or contact

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