Why Use Existing Data and Resources.

Initial Publication Date: December 21, 2006

Allowing students to explore real questions with the best scientific data available adds excitement to your course and enhances student motivation for learning.

Other reasons to use published data resources from scientific projects include:
  • Ease of Use. These data sets are typically very easy to access and can be readily incorporated into an inquiry-based interactive learning activity appropriate for introductory courses.
  • Data Quality. Quality control of the data ensures that students have the best data available.
  • Spatial Coverage. These data sets typically have large spatial coverage enabling students to address regional to global questions. For example, the NASA Earth Observatory (more info) provides global coverage for a variety of measurements related to geology, geography, and life science.
  • Temporal Coverage. Many existing data sets have extended temporal coverage that can be helpful in investigating how observations change over time.
  • Focus on Process. Using high quality existing data sets allows students to focus their attention on data interpretation and on the scientific processes being investigated. However, when the development of measurement skills and experimental design are core learning objectives, time must be devoted to allow students to collect their own data.
  • Visualization. Published data sets often come with data visualization and analysis tools making an ideal learning environment. IRI/LDEO Climate Data Library (more info) is a good example.