I am in a dilemma. I have used an old publicly available dataset for some of my analysis and want to publish it. But the problem is that it was publicly available and hosted in a website (infochimps.com) some 4 years ago. But now it's not available there and I got the data from a Github repository. It's not possible to reach the owner of the dataset as the email id given in the readme file is no longer valid. But recently there have been some analyses on the web which have used this data directly from the github repo.

So my question is can I use this data for my paper? And if yes, how to cite it?

  • Not sure about the legal aspects, but Re "how to cite" - see guides.github.com/activities/citable-code. Not having done this myself, I'm not sure whether you can take a snapshot of somebody's else's repo this way - you may have to fork it first, and then make it very clear in the readme that it is not your work. – Flyto May 17 '16 at 6:41

I can think of at least a couple issues.

  • Is the data actually available for use? Just because it is on Github does not necessarily mean that you can legally use it. You still need to determine how the data is licensed (easy if a license is published with the data, possibly difficult otherwise). I'm not exactly sure how data on Github is treated, but code published on Github is "All Rights Reserved" by default and I assume data is similar.
  • How do you know you can trust the data? One reason you cite the owner or original creator of data is to assert that it is reliable. If the data you're using is not from the source, you'll also want to cite where you obtained it and hope that it's a trustworthy source.
  • You may not need a license to use something to write a paper about it. – Anonymous Physicist May 14 '16 at 5:47
  • @AnonymousPhysicist Standard not-a-lawyer disclaimer, but I believe that if the data is not in the public domain, you can't simply use it at-will. You have to either abide by the terms of the license if it is licensed, or obtain permission from the owner. Without more details on the dataset it's unclear what the situation is. – Roger Fan May 14 '16 at 5:55
  • Copyright restricts copying, but not ALL other uses. In the United States, there is an exemption for critique or parody. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use – Anonymous Physicist May 14 '16 at 6:50
  • @AnonymousPhysicist Does fair use generally cover data used for research? Am I (legally) allowed to use any data I can get my hands on for research purposes, assuming that I am only publishing the results of analysis and not reproducing any data? – Roger Fan May 14 '16 at 14:28

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