Destiny of Data in Hands of Researchers in Finland and Sweden – Guidance and Separate Allocations Would Secure Re-use
In the spring, Swedish National Data Service (SND) charted the preservation and re-use of research data in the humanities, behavioural science, and social sciences. At the same time, views were probed on the barriers to and promotion of open access to research data. The respondents' familiarity with the OECD Recommendation on open access was also investigated. The survey was aimed at professors (549 respondents, response rate 38%) and postgraduates (1,147 respondents, response rate 28%).
The Finnish Social Science Data Archive conducted a similar Internet survey targeted at professors in 2006. This article presents and compares the results of the Finnish and Swedish professor surveys.
Data Left in Researchers' Possession More Often in Finland than in Sweden
About 70 percent of the Swedish and Finnish professors who responded to the surveys indicated that digital research data were collected in their own departments. After the research publication, the data are very often left in the primary researchers' possession as such - in Finland (59%) more often than in Sweden (46%).
Only rarely (Finland 13%, Sweden 11%) digital data are archived and described in the catalogues or databases of departments. Even more rarely the data end up being archived elsewhere, for instance in data archives (Finland 12%, Sweden 7%).
According to the professors, the existing digital research data in departments are often used in the follow-up studies conducted by the original researchers (Finland 94%, Sweden 54%), and relatively often in the surveys conducted by postgraduates and in other research projects within the departments. The data are also quite often used in teaching.
In Sweden, the data are rarely entirely destroyed after the completion of the primary research project (3%), whereas this is more frequent in Finland (20%). 50 percent of the Swedish professors estimated that over half of the digital research data from completed projects are available for re-use. Approximately every fifth Finnish professor agreed.
Open Access Receives Support, but Resources Are Missing
Compared to their Finnish colleagues, the Swedish professors think more often that the ethical, legal, and technical viewpoints together with the problems related to use of data (insufficient documentation and organisation of the information content and data files) offer the best explanation for why research data are not re-used. Inadequate resources are the biggest obstacle to open access to research data according to the Swedes. The researchers do not have the time and money to document and edit their data for future re-use. In addition, there is not enough information available on data documentation. The same issues seem to worry the Finnish professors as well. However, the Finns consider the fact that the research participants are not informed about archiving beforehand to be the biggest obstacle to open access to research data.
According to the Swedish professors, open access to research data would best be promoted by introducing specific allocations for submitting data for re-use to research funding (83%), and by recognising archiving data for re-use as scientific merit (83%). In addition, the importance of producing more study materials and increasing education on data life cycle management was emphasised. According to the Finnish professors, guidelines and recommendations jointly produced by universities (84%) and introducing specific allocations for submitting data for re-use to research funding (81%) are the most essential ways of promoting open access.
OECD Recommendation Already More Known
In 2004, the science and technology ministers of the OECD signed the Declaration on Access to Research Data from Public Funding. The Recommendation based on the Declaration was published in 2007.
The Finnish and Swedish surveys also charted the professors' opinions on and knowledge of the Declaration. According to the Swedish results, 61 percent of the professors had never heard about the OECD Declaration or Recommendation. The corresponding proportion was 81% in the Finnish survey, which was conducted a couple of years earlier. This difference is more likely to reflect the activity of the international Open Access discussion in the past couple of years than the Swedish professors' greater familiarity with the issue.
Learn Your Lesson
The FSD has published a data management manual for research material on its website (only in Finnish). It contains guidelines on managing digital research material through the different stages of its life cycle.
Sources and additional information:
» Carina Carlhed & Iris Alfredsson (2009). Swedish National Data Service's Strategy for Sharing and Mediating Data. Practices of Open Access to and Reuse of Research Data – The State of Art in Sweden 2009. Paper presented at IASSIST/IFDO 2009. Mobile data and the life cycle. IASSIST's 35th annual conference, Tampere, Finland, May 26–29, 2009.
» FSD2268 Open Access to and Reuse of Research Data 2006
» Data management manual for research material (in Finnish)