By and large, I agree with the practice of closing questions which refer to specific datasets (Matt Parker very nicely summarizes the issue in his answer here).

Nevertheless, it's undeniable that some datasets hold a unique place in the realm of Data Analysis, transcending their particular (specialized) domain (e.g. Fisher's Irises, Old Faithful data). Shouldn't these be treated differently?

I realize that it's hard to draw a line between these exceptional cases--perhaps an easy rule-of-thumb would be: "If it's built into R then it's ok."

Anyway, this is just something I was thinking about earlier and wanted to hear what you guys thought about it--as I think about it more I'll update this post accordingly.

[Note: I also think that Cross Validated could benefit overall if it even outright encouraged the use of these types of built-in datasets in the questions themselves. But that may be a whole different meta-post entirely...]


1 Answer 1


Is someone really going to struggle to find the Iris data-set or whatever if they already know the name of it? The current wording of the off-topic reason is

Questions about obtaining specific datasets are off-topic because they are too specialized and narrow in scope.

which I read as allowing requests for non-specific data-sets that can be used to make some statistical point.


  • Request for US macroeconomic indicators by year—off-topic.

  • Request for dataset to test regression procedures with nearly collinear predictors—on-topic.

  • Request for Longley data—lack of research.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for your response--in the process of reading different answers on meta I must've lost track of the specific wording of the off-topic reason (namely, that it only refers to "obtaining" datasets). In addition, I didn't realize that it would be acceptable to ask about obtaining certain exemplary datasets (as indicated by your second bullet point). $\endgroup$
    – Steve S
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ Well, that's my reading of "specific", plus the feeling that the intent's to rule out "Where can I get data on $X$?" questions, which are better suited to CV sites covering $X$. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 9:26
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    $\begingroup$ I meant "SE sites covering $X$" of course. Perhaps also worth pointing out that there's Locating freely available data samples, to avoid duplicates of the general "Where can I find data to practise on?" question. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ There's also opendata.stackexchange.com (which like any big haystack is not easy to search). $\endgroup$
    – denis
    Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 16:49

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