The value of unsolicited online data in drug policy research

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We alert readers to the value of using unsolicited online data
in drug policy research by highlighting web-based content relevant to
drug policy generated by four distinct types of actor: people who
consume, supply or produce illicit drugs, online news websites and state
or civil society organisations. These actors leave 'digital traces'
across a range of internet platforms, and these traces become available
to researchers to use as data - although they have not been solicited by
researchers, and so have not been created specifically to fulfil the aims
of research projects. This particular type of data entails certain
strengths, limitations and ethical challenges, and we aim to assist
researchers in understanding these by drawing on selected examples of
published research using unsolicited online data that have generated
valuable drug policy insights not possible using other traditional data
sources. We argue for the continued and increased importance of using
unsolicited online data so that drug policy scholarship keep pace with
recent developments in the global landscape of drug policies and illicit
drug practices.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Early online date31 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019