Universities and government agencies
Research carried out by universities is made available to the public in a number of ways. Some studies are published in journals and others can be found on university websites.
Many universities have a research repository on their website, showcasing their researchers' material. The repository can include articles, reports, research material and theses written by former post-graduate students. Depending on the subject, an otherwise unpublished thesis could be the largest study carried out on a particular topic.
People can be one of the best sources of information, and universities have expert staff in many different subjects. You'll usually find academics' research interests and contact details published on university websites. One example of this can be seen on Monash University's website, where you can search for staff by topic of interest.
Universities also have libraries with material to support academic students and staff. These libraries are often open to the public as well – you can't borrow books, but you can enter and look at material on the shelf.
Some universities also have archives, where records such as personal papers of alumni, records of the university administration and donated archives are
stored. For example, the University of Melbourne Archives holds many unique collections, including the Germaine Greer Collection and the late Malcolm Fraser's personal papers.
Ajeet, a journalist, is writing an article on the future of solar energy. He visits the University of Queensland's website and finds the name and contact details of a specialist in this field. The specialist agrees to be interviewed and provides Ajeet with his predictions for future solar energy usage. Ajeet also finds information on the university's research into solar energy by searching their website.
Some government agencies act as both collection and research organisations, and can provide expert information in their area of interest.
A great example of this is the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia's national statistics agency. Their role is to collect and provide statistics on a range of subjects of importance to Australia, including population, income and social welfare.
While some information held by a government agency can be confidential, their website can provide access to useful material such as information on research projects, statistics and published reports.
Many government departments provide access to publicly available data via dataset websites such as data.gov.au (Australian Government data) and Victoria's open data directory. This is also true of other countries, including the US with data.gov, the UK's data.gov.uk and Singapore's data.gov.sg.
Here are some examples of the type of government data you can download:
- Gold nuggets discovered in Victoria
- Police service area crime statistics (Victoria)
- Television broadcast data archive 1978–2011
Mina is completing a PhD on bushfire prevention and management in Victoria. She visits:
Things to remember
- Universities have expert staff in a range of areas
- Government agencies provide research information and reports online
- Government data may be available online as datasets
Now that we've looked at the different types of collecting organisations, let's consider which ones you should use.