Can data be too old to be used?

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    Millicent Musyoka

    I found quality data collected on young children by an organization that was doing a longitudinal study on young children. I would like to use a portion of this data but is was collected in 1990s. I would like to use the data to study an aspect of child development in particular play interactions. Any suggestions if this data can still be used to used. Any articles or references that I can read related on using data previously collected.


    Hi Musyoka i don’t think data is too old to be used especially when you are doing your literature review but i will like to how you one to use this data. As i know culture is dynamic and evolves with time meaning that what obtained in the 90s may not obtain today as well as this may still exist else where. it will depend on how you want to use it but respect the ethics. thanks

    Millicent Musyoka

    Hi Mou,
    I would like to analyse the children development in reference to Piaget theory on play developement and young children. Piaget suggests there is a strong relationship between play and cognitive development. I would like to use the data on these children play to identify their behabiros and characterisitcs as they apply to Piaget theory?
    Any suggestions?


    hi mysyoka…as per your question” can data be too old to be used ?” the answer ie either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. see …that will depend on the data…for eg. if the data is related to some ceonomic activities like price of goods, exchandge rate etc..these type of data are too volatile and it may not be significat to the curent sinario…but as per your mail the data is pertaining to childrens play interactions….the data was collected on 1990..that means 20 years back….you shold also see how mentel and pshychomotive developments /evelution has been occoured in childen growth and developments…. in my opinion ,over a period of time..perhaps a drastic chnges may happend in childrens psychomotive you shuld look in to the data ,i mean compare the domain thinking of todays childern and how relevent the children whose domain in 20 yeard back. you can consult a child psycholagist and go ahead with your research…


    Hi Musyoka, there is no quick answer. The validness would depend on many factors, such as one has been researched and published int eh field the past 20 years. Meta studies spanning many years are often quite valuable. Formulate your argument well as to why you want to do what you want to do and it should be acceptable.


    I guess it depends on the study, the instrument used etc. But like what we do with all kinds of data just clearly state when the data was collected in your paper/report.


    Dear Friend
    If you are trying to do a study based on a certain set of objectives giving rise to some hypotheses (in your case Piaget theory directed problem ), it is a good practice to generate new data. In Statistics there is a saying that a data collected for one purpose should not be used for anather purpose. May be the earlier data could be used to relatively see the implications of the results born out of the new study.

    Jeremy Miles

    I disagree. Collecting good data is expensive and hard. Many datasets are collected without (much of) a purpose in mind, and are then released to be used to test hypotheses. I’m currently using data collected in the 1990s to examine smoking during pregnancy, and its relationship to other measures, using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth dataset. I’m also using the California Health Interview Survey dataset (collected in 1993) to look at outcomes associated with dog and cat ownership. When they asked those questions, there was no intention of using them for these purposes, but when they have spent (literally) millions of dollars collecting a set of data, you want it to be used as much as possible for as long as possible.


    Well, it is really a problem. “Data collected without any purpose in mind” —– an example of the condition and status of research now.


    hi musyoka,
    as a Remote Sensing & GIS specialist i do use the old data sets to detect the change in any thematic study. i have used infact 1919 data also to check the change.

    Jeremy Miles


    I’ve never heard that said before, and I don’t think it’s correct.  I also think that if it is correct then millions (literally) of dollars, pounds, and everything else are being wasted on studies such as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, the National Longitudional Survey of Youth, Add Health, British Household Panel Survey, Health and Retirement Study, etc, etc.


    Let me give a couple of examples to illustrate my point.  In 1979, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth started, which interviewed a very large sample of adolescents every 2 years, about a huge number of things.  I’m currently working on a study where we look at smoking histories of those people, and this went on long enough that they had children, who are also now old enough to be smokers (or not).  It’s also useful to have things like education, behavioral problems, marital status, etc.  No one imagined that we’d do this when they started to collect the data.  But because they had the foresight to do this, we are able to. If I wanted to collect data specifically for this purpose, I’d need several million dollars, and I’d probably be retired before we had enough.  I don’t want to wait that long, so I’m glad that the data were collected with no purpose in mind.  An enough of it that we have a sample of 6000 children.


    Another example (again, one of my studies) that I’m looking at is the California Health Interview Survey, which interviews households.  In 2003, they asked about pet ownership.  I’m now using those data to examine the relationship between health status and pet ownership.  The study was funded by Waltham and the NIH, for around $400,000, so it’s not cheap.  But it’s cheaper than the tens of millions of dollars it cost to collect the data.  And no one was going to give me 10 million dollars to look at the health effects of pets.


    While I’m at it, another example.  The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children has been going almost 20 years.  20 years ago, they had the foresight to collect placentas from these children and store them.  With no purpose in mind.  Now, I’m working on a study where we look at the relationship between placental structure and autism diagnosis.  No one had this in mind when they decided to store the placentas, we’re glad that they did it anyway.


    I published a paper a few years ago on the relationship between early childhood respiratory illness and cortisol stress response.  No one collected data from children about respiratory (and other) illnesses because they thought that someone might like to relate   them to cortisol levels in 20 years.  But they did it anyway.  More details, if you’re interested:


    These all seem like good uses for old data.  You are, of course entitled to say it’s a problem, but can you provide an example of where a problem has arisen?


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