FSD Bulletin

Issue 20 (1/2007)

ISSN 1795-5262

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FSD Bulletin is the electronic newsletter of the Finnish Social Science Data Archive. The Bulletin provides information and news related to the the data archive and social science research.


Finnish Social Science Data Archive
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E-mail: fsd@uta.fi

Publish or Perish

Sami Borg

The scientific community has long emphasized the importance of publishing new work frequently. A researcher without frequent publications faces difficulties in progressing and getting funding. Under the new salary system for Finnish universities, publications and other merits also affect salaries. Everyone involved in a research project, and not only the publishing researchers, must be able to demonstrate the amount of work they have done for the project in more detail than previously.

In most fields, collecting and analysing data is considered to be an important part of research. Persons participating in producing observations and analysis results may be mentioned as authors even if they have not done any actual writing for the publication themselves. This practise is rare in the humanities and social sciences, at least in Finland. Most publications in these fields are written by one researcher. If, in addition, the researcher has collected the data him/herself, there is no ambiguity as to who should get all the merit.

Still, also in the humanities and social sciences there are many research projects where data are collected and stored by people other than those doing the publishing. Many more people take part at some stage or other. One can give thanks, or refer to merits or work accomplished by others in the preface or elsewhere in the publication. However, I think we should more often question whether our writer-centred approach to publications is always fair and appropriate. Why cannot the role of other people involved in the project be more visible, as it is in biosciences, for instance.

Codebooks for data files offer a possibility to record the work of those who have contributed. This requires that the data are archived in a data archive which will then publish the codebook. In this way, all contributors receive merits due to them, the data are used and cited, and long-term preservation is guaranteed.

Publishing the original data material keeps it alive and available over time. The slogan Publish or perish is eminently suitable to describe the basic idea behind data archives. The data must be published in order not to perish.