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The internet as a data source for advancement in social sciences

Nikolaos Askitas (Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), Bonn, Germany)
Klaus F. Zimmermann (Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), Bonn, Germany; AND Bonn University, Bonn, Germany)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 7 April 2015




The purpose of this paper is to recommend the use of internet data for social sciences with a special focus on human resources issues. It discusses the potentials and challenges of internet data for social sciences. The authors present a selection of the relevant literature to establish the wide spectrum of topics, which can be reached with this type of data, and link them to the papers in this International Journal of Manpower special issue.


Internet data are increasingly representing a large part of everyday life, which cannot be measured otherwise. The information is timely, perhaps even daily following the factual process. It typically involves large numbers of observations and allows for flexible conceptual forms and experimental settings.


Internet data can successfully be applied to a very wide range of human resource issues including forecasting (e.g. of unemployment, consumption goods, tourism, festival winners and the like), nowcasting (obtaining relevant information much earlier than through traditional data collection techniques), detecting health issues and well-being (e.g. flu, malaise and ill-being during economic crises), documenting the matching process in various parts of individual life (e.g. jobs, partnership, shopping), and measuring complex processes where traditional data have known deficits (e.g. international migration, collective bargaining agreements in developing countries). Major problems in data analysis are still unsolved and more research on data reliability is needed.

Research limitations/implications

The data in the reviewed literature are unexplored and underused and the methods available are confronted with known and new challenges. Current research is highly original but also exploratory and premature.


The paper reviews the current attempts in the literature to incorporate internet data into the mainstream of scholarly empirical research and guides the reader through this Special Issue. The authors provide some insights and a brief overview of the current state of research.



Askitas, N. and Zimmermann, K.F. (2015), "The internet as a data source for advancement in social sciences", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 2-12.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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