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12 February 2024

Unlocking insights: free access to the HSRC’s research data

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

Every year, HSRC scientists collect large volumes of data, often through in-person or digital surveys, interviews or observation. They interpret this data to understand various societal issues, such as people’s voting behaviour, their attitudes towards foreigners or the challenges faced in the education system. Other surveys track the HIV epidemic and monitor the country’s investments in research and development, for example. After publishing the findings in academic journals, the datasets from this work are curated, stored and shared from the HSRC’s Research Data Service.

Datasets are important because

  • they stimulate new ideas;
  • they address significant questions for the improvement of the general society;
  • they are essential to the scientific process of theory development and evaluation; and
  • collected data may be unique (in terms of a specific time or changing context), impossible to regenerate and therefore valuable for further investigation.

At the HSRC, many of these datasets are available to download for further scientific research and educational purposes, and to build further bodies of knowledge.

What data is available?

Qualitative and quantitative datasets from HSRC studies, such as the following flagship projects, are available:

South African Social Attitudes Survey (SASAS): Each year, SASAS asks a representative sample of South Africans about aspects of life in the country. Round 20 of surveying was completed in October 2023. Read more here. Datasets from 2003 to 2019 have been curated and are available for download.

Access the SASAS data here:

South African National HIV Prevalence, HIV Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey (SABSSM): This survey series has become a major source of information for measuring progress in the implementation of South Africa’s national strategic plan to curb HIV, sexually transmitted infections and tuberculosis. The first findings from the 6th SABSSM survey were released in November 2023. Read more here. Datasets from 2002 to 2017 have been curated and are available for download.

Access the SABSSM data here:

National Research and Experimental Development (R&D) Survey: Countries invest in research and development (R&D) to grow their economies, create jobs and generate better human development outcomes. The HSRC, in collaboration with the South African Department of Science and Innovation and Statistics SA, has been measuring R&D investment in the public, private and higher education sectors for more than 20 years. Read more here. Datasets from 2001/02 to 2020/21 have been curated and are available for download. The R&D Time Series dataset contains aggregated data from 2001/02 to 2020/12 on R&D expenditure by province, type of R&D, research fields, socioeconomic objectives, sources of funds and personnel data.  

Access the R&D data here:

Why use these datasets?

  • The data is of good quality. The HSRC’s datasets go through a rigorous, complex data curation process. Each dataset is cleaned up and checked for spelling. Missing variables and missing value labels are added/corrected and results double-checked. The curated data is also linked to the research outputs that have been published using the dataset.
  • Most are longitudinal, repeated cross-sectional. This allows for trend analysis, which assists policymakers in understanding how societal issues change over time so that policies and interventions remain well targeted.
  • They are free of charge. The data have been collected and curated with quality in mind – no need to repeat data collection. The datasets are free to download and reuse. It saves you time and effort. Because data is expensive to collect, it is well worth curating and preserving datasets. In the context of cuts to human and financial resources for research, preserving data avoids duplicated efforts.

Where can I find HSRC data?

To download datasets, please access the HSRC Research Data Service here:

Kindly note that access to the HSRC’s data is subject to an End User License, which stipulates that data and documentation will not be duplicated, redistributed or sold without prior approval from the rights holder. The data may be used for scientific research or educational purposes only and the confidentiality of individuals and organisations must be preserved at all times. Kindly acknowledge the HSRC as the source of the data.

Contact the data curation team for any inquiries:                                                  

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

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