Accessing CKAN in R

Oleg Lavrovsky edited this page Dec 16, 2018 · 1 revision

This is a short tutorial in using R to run a search for and directly use live open data through the portal's API interface. Details of the API are documented at

As a first step, we install the ckanr library package, and activate it.


We can initialise the CKAN library with any Web-accessible open data portal simply by supplying the web link to the starting page.

ckanr_setup(url = "")

As a further exercise, try running the same code on or

If there are no connection errors, we are now ready to run a search to get some data packages:

x <- package_search(q = 'name:arbeitslosenquote', rows = 1)

Note that on the Swiss server the titles are multilingual, so we extract just the German (de) title.


You can print the contents of x$results, use the API reference, or the inspection tools of R Studio to see the full data contents.

To download live open data, now we can select the URL of the first resource in the first package:

tsv_url <- x$results[[1]]$resources[[1]]$download_url

We wish to download the remote (Tab Separated Values) data file, and parse it in one step:

raw_data <- read.csv(tsv_url, header=T, sep="\t")

At this point we are ready to draw a simple plot of the first and second column with visualization code such as:

plot(raw_data[,2], raw_data[,1], type="b")

Get the full example script on GitHub.

This document was adapted from materials from a lecture on Advanced Studies in Data Analysis at the Berne University of Applied Science, as first posted on the School of Data CH forum.

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