Quality, Assessment and Development at the Finnish Social Science Data Archive
FSD is responsible and reliable
An international certificate has demonstrated FSD’s reliability as a data archive since 2014. FSD was first awarded the Data Seal of Approval (DSA) in 2014 and the newer CoreTrustSeal (CTS) in 2017.
The current certificate is valid until the end of 2019. We strive toward continuous development so that FSD is always ready to renew the certification for the next term.
In Finland, FSD was accepted on the roadmap for research infrastructures in 2009 and 2014. The roadmap prepared in 2014 is in effect until 2020.
Quality assurance at FSD is guided by the University of Tampere’s quality management system, supplemented by FSD’s own quality control practices.
Operations are guided by FSD's Archives Formation Plan and internal manual
Quality control is an essential feature of FSD’s operations.
Our role as the leading expert organisation in long-term preservation of digital research data in Finland, as a national support unit for research and teaching and as an international actor requires an innovative approach as well as procedures that are carefully considered, consistent, instructed and transparent.
We follow established national and international standards, models and practices when processing and describing data. These include, among others, the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) used for describing data in the social sciences, the reference model for an open archival information system OAIS (ISO14721:2012), and the specifications of the National Digital Library.
The most important document that outlines the operations of FSD is the Records Management and Archives Formation Plan. It describes, for example, the work process of FSD’s User Services and Data Ingest module, privacy and data security practices, and the role of legislation in archival work.
The Records Management and Archives Formation Plan is supplemented by an internal manual, which contains detailed practical instructions of the archival process and data documentation in the DDI format.
In terms of systematic development, we deem it important to maintain and improve the following practices in particular:
FSD’s operations manual (in Finnish). FSD’s operations manual, which is part of the Quality Management System implemented at the University of Tampere, has been produced according to the structure specified by the University, and it consists of four main chapters: Objectives and management, Resources, Tasks, and Quality management & development. The manual is maintained by FSD’s quality coordinator and quality group. The manual is available in Finnish on the University’s Intranet.
Strategies, operational plans, rules of procedure and annual reports. FSD conducts yearly planning according to University practices and instructions. A national advisory board directs FSD’s operations.
Internal manual. FSD’s internal manual describes all central archiving operations: data acquisition, documentation in accordance with the DDI format, processing data files, User Services, communications, administration, software used at FSD, staff orientation materials and data security guidelines. The manual ensures the consistent high quality of services and staff training.
Operational database. FSD’s internal database is used to maintain user information and to coordinate the archiving of datasets and User Services activities. The database allows running statistical reports that facilitate monitoring the archiving of datasets and the objectives specified in strategies and operational plans.
Documentation. Many of the work tasks at FSD are unique at the national level, and as such may only be familiar to one professional at an organisation of this size. Documenting the work processes and tasks is important to ensure the continuity of activities especially during changes in personnel.
Staff meetings and Intranet. Practices ensuring the flow of information within FSD include a common staff meeting once per two weeks, shared network drives, meeting memos, staff email list, and the FSD intranet.
Staff training. Professional and knowledgeable personnel is FSD’s most essential resource. A multitude of competences is required of FSD staff, including good interaction skills and being able to develop professional competences in the changing work environment. FSD human resources planning is done in accordance with the University’s human resources management guidelines.
Communications. FSD’s services are described in detail on the up-to-date public website. The website reaches students as well as researchers at all universities in Finland. In addition to the FSD website, information concerning FSD’s activities and services are communicated on FSD’s email newsletter (in Finnish), the FSD Bulletin, seminars and fairs, and news releases forwarded to media representatives and universities’ communication channels. The FSD Bulletin, which is published in print in Finnish, is delivered to the most important customer and stakeholder groups.
FSD develops operations continuously
FSD works actively to fulfil national and international quality standards.
FSD is also strongly involved in defining and developing these standards. FSD’s Development Manager Mari Kleemola is a member and secretary of the CTS Board, and FSD is a member of the DDI Alliance.
In January 2017, a five-year project funded by the Academy of Finland was initiated. FSD works in the project to fulfil the requirements of the Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives, CESSDA. As part of the project, FSD is also actively involved in developing CESSDA and its quality standards.
Enforcement of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) began in 2018. FSD prepared for the regulation beforehand by preparing annual "data balance sheet" reports on how data are handled and processed. The documents describe what the status of data processing is like at FSD and assess the privacy and data security measures taken.
Operations are regularly assessed
As part of the University of Tampere quality management, FSD regularly conducts a self-assessment of its performance based on the Common Assessment Framework (CAF).
In addition, FSD assesses its activities with the help of user feedback surveys, other feedback received from users, and reports produced from the internal database.
When FSD applies for research infrastructure funding from the Academy of Finland and when Finland’s strategy and roadmap for research infrastructures is being updated, an international board evaluates FSD’s development plans and their progress.
Promotion of research
The Data Archive promotes the openness and transparency of scientific research, accumulation of knowledge and effective use of existing knowledge. FSD’s basic services, archiving and dissemination of data, are its key activities in advancing and promoting research and international collaboration. FSD also provides information services relating to the use of data and guidance on searching for data from Finland and elsewhere.
The Data Archive gives advice to researchers concerning research data management and questions concerning research ethics, and provides instructions on how to follow good scientific practice at different stages of the research data life cycle. Experts at FSD participate in national seminars on research ethics and give presentations on open data, research ethics and data security. FSD’s Data Management Guidelines are available online and openly usable by anyone.
Support for teaching and studying
Data archived at FSD are disseminated for teaching and study purposes, and students are an important user group for the Archive. FSD users can order presentations on reuse of research data, long-term preservation and other basic services. Presentations are given, for example, on research methods courses for students, seminars and conferences. FSD staff also provide tailored, paid training in their field of expertise and inform users about select training sessions provided by FSD partner organisations.
The FSD website contains freely accessible instructions and guides to support teaching and studies, such as the Research Methods Web Resource (in Finnish), a guide to reusing quantitative data (in Finnish), the Data Management Guidelines, and pages on research ethics. These services allow flexible learning and studying that takes different kinds of learners into consideration.
FSD promotes the social impact of the scientific community by providing research data for reuse as well as training and information service on data management. At the national and international levels, FSD has an active role in the institutions and organisations in the field.
FSD actively participates in national and international cooperation and discussion in its areas of expertise and is a member of several major international organisations in the field. FSD promotes cooperation in and the outreach of international research by having an important role in planning and funding the data collection of regularly conducted international comparative surveys. Publications based on these surveys have increased the social impact of FSD. FSD's holdings and international cooperation allow Finnish researchers and students easier access to international comparative survey data. As a result of FSD’s efforts, Finland is also included more often as one of the countries under observation in international surveys.
We are happy to receive feedback both on this quality document and our services in general.
You can send comments, criticism or suggestions to Helena Laaksonen or fsd [at] uta.fi.