FSD Bulletin

Issue 25 (3/2008)
1.12.2008

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 data archive and social science research.


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Finnish Social Science Data Archive
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Crime Data Available at FSD

Päivi Vännilä

It is important that research data collected with public funding are subjected to scientific re-use as widely as possible according to Janne Kivivuori, research director at the Criminological Research Unit of the National Research Institute of Legal Policy. The institute has already deposited several datasets at the FSD.

- However, an important aspect is that research data are often collected with public funding. Because of this, I consider it highly important that society as a whole gets the most out of the data. The original researchers can hardly ever use their entire data to the fullest extent, Kivivuori emphasises.

- I would think that archiving research data is constantly being seen in a more positive light in my field of science. This has no major impact on my actions because I have been an advocate for the archiving of research data for a long time, Kivivuori says.

He adds that all data on crime and criminality cannot be archived - even if one wanted to. The rules employed by a partner organisation may prevent the archiving of certain data.

Archiving beneficial to research

According to Janne Kivivuori, a potential data depositor should consider a few facts.

- The data matrix should be made with care from the beginning in any case - the possibility of archiving the data is an added incentive for this, he says.

Janne Kivivuori, research director at the Criminological Research Unit of the National Research Institute of Legal Policy.

- A researcher should not worry about re-users searching for "errors" in the original reports. In my experience, there is no such interest when it comes to reusing data. Re-users do not want to repeat what has been done before - instead, they will rather do their own thing. This is worth remembering, even though in principal the important function of data archiving is to add to the publicity, evaluability and objectivity of the research, Kivivuori says.

Janne Kivivuori encourages researchers interested in crime to familiarise themselves with the data he has deposited at the archive. He points out that it is good to remember that criminal activities are not the only thing that can be analysed in the crime surveys.

- Let me give you an example: in the 2004 and 2008 youth crime surveys, young people were asked about the job of their dreams. I think this question alone could act as a basis for a study or thesis on the formation of social strata and social mobility, especially since the questionnaire contains background variables on the respondents, Kivivuori says.

The 2008 survey will be completed towards the end of the year and archived in 2009.

Re-users from neighbouring sciences

Janne Kivivuori initially thought that his research data would be used by people in his own field. However, he has found out that his data have been used more in psychology, economics and other neighbouring disciplines. According to Kivivuori, this is probably due to the fact that since the 1980s, the focus in sociology has increasingly been on qualitative, historical and theoretical questions.

- The fact that our data have been reused relatively little may also be explained through the bad and worsening status of criminology in the Finnish university system. For instance, few people know that four teaching offices in the field of sociology of law were abolished recently, and now there is only one office left in Finnish universities. In this regard, our situation is starting to resemble that of a third world country, Kivivuori says.

Janne Kivivuori has exact information on the re-users of his data. He receives a notification from the FSD whenever someone uses his data. According to him, these notifications and especially the annual summaries are useful, because they give one an overall impression of the disciplines in which there is interest in criminological questions.

Respondents' attitudes towards re-use

In criminology, practically all surveys are completely anonymous and there is no information that would make the respondents identifiable. Janne Kivivuori thinks that under these circumstances the research subjects have nothing against data archiving and re-use, quite the opposite in fact.

In Kivivuori's opinion, the FSD has a very important research-ethical consultation task in ensuring that the archived data complies with the judicial and ethical norms of data protection. The data archive acts here as the last gatekeeper. The potential data protection risks found in the deposited data are carefully considered, and if needed, the data will be anonymised for example by removing or recoding variables.

Depositor and re-user

The National Research Institute of Legal Policy has deposited several datasets at the FSD. Kivivuori has been involved in the depositing processes. The data deposited by the institute include the juvenile delinquency surveys, the Finnish teacher victimisation survey carried out in 1997, and the 1962 and 2006 young male crime surveys.

Kivivuori has also examined some research data from the re-user's point of view. According to him, the institute has ordered some international data, but he has not yet used the FSD's services in research.