Data Collections, Resources and Tools for Aging Research (NACDA)

Using the National Archive of Computerized Data on Aging (NACDA) as a working example, Dr James McNally explains the advantages of having a local strategy geared toward the preservation and sharing of gerontological research data.

Since the 1960s researchers have recognised the value of survey research data for the study of the aging life course. As cutting edge international studies of comparative aging are emerging across Asia, Latin America, Europe, and increasingly Africa the opportunities for cross-national and comparative research are growing exponentially. This is a particularly exciting time to work, due to the large number of trained research professionals working within their home countries and providing culturally grounded interpretations of results.

The creation and maintenance of sustainable data archives can be challenging but it offers clear advantages for a national research strategy. Data that is preserved can be used by multiple researchers, testing a variety of hypotheses and increasing the return on investment to the expensive process of data collection. Having an internally managed archival system also provides greater control and autonomy in the equitable distribution of data resources. This paper uses the National Archive of Computerized Data on Aging (NACDA) as a working example, of the advantages of having a local strategy geared toward the preservation and sharing of gerontological research data. In existence for over 30 years, NACDA preserves and distributes over 1,500 studies on the lifecourse and health of the elderly living in the United States and worldwide. Funded by the National Institute on Aging in the United States, NACDA represents one of the world’s largest collections of research data on elderly populations.

Using a strategy of archival preservation combined with a strong focus on productive research and outreach, NACDA has amassed data and metadata covering a wide array of studies worldwide that address the aging lifecourse. Because the collections are multinational, these data are shared at no cost to interested users worldwide through the provision of a wide array of analysis and extraction tools that facilitate the research process for all users.


Dr James McNally

Dr James McNally is the Director of the NACDA Program on Aging, a data archive containing over 1,500 studies related to health and the aging lifecourse. He currently does methodological research on the improvement and enhancement of secondary research data and has been cited as an expert authority on data imputation. McNally has directed the NACDA Program on Aging since 1998 and has seen the archive significantly increase its holdings with a growing collection of seminal studies on the aging lifecourse, health, retirement and international aspects of aging. He has spent much of his career addressing methodological issues with a specific focus on specialised application of incomplete or deficient data and the enhancement of secondary data for research applications. McNally has also worked extensively on issues related to international aging and changing perspectives on the role of family support in the later stages of the aging lifecourse.

Dr McNally was a Featured Speaker at The Asian Conference on Aging & Gerontology 2015 (AGen2015) in Kobe, Japan.

Posted by Thaddeus Pope

Born and raised in Brighton, England, Thaddeus Pope is an experienced commercial and editorial photographer with a BA in Photography from the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. Thaddeus’s duties at IAFOR include overseeing the design, media and marketing output of the organisation, as well as producing photo-essays, short documentaries and other visual content for IAFOR and its publications, including THINK. In January 2015, Thaddeus was named as the Creative Director of the IAFOR Documentary Photography Award. tpope@iafor.org (in English)