Research published on data downloads from Aila

A recent study at Tampere University examined data downloads from Aila Data Service. The results suggest that data reuse is not restricted by the domain or location of a repository and that data citation practices are improving.

Open science culture is gaining ground globally, but attitudes toward opening access to research data and data management practices are affected by researchers’ concerns of whether the opened data are reused. A research article by Elina Late and Jaana Kekäläinen from Tampere University, published in the PLOS One journal, examined the use and users of data archived at the Finnish Social Science Data Archive (FSD), and the results show that FSD’s holdings are reused actively by students and researchers of various fields in Finland and abroad.

The study concentrated on the number and type (quantitative/qualitative) of downloaded datasets, the number of citations to data, the demographic information of data downloaders and the purposes for which data were downloaded. Data were drawn from FSD usage statistics for the years 2015–2018. The data used in the study is openly downloadable from Aila.

The results show fluctuation in the number of annual data downloads but growing reuse of qualitative data. The number of total data downloads increased in 2016 and 2017 but decreased in 2018. In more recent statistics, which were not included in the study, the decreasing trend continued in 2019, but 2020 has thus far been on track for a significant increase in the number of downloads. The proportion of qualitative data downloads has increased steadily since 2015.

The findings of the study also showed that data citation practices are improving and becoming more established. In comparison with a previous study, the researchers also noted an increase in data citations.

The demographic information of data downloaders revealed that social sciences research data are reused actively also in fields not directly affiliated with the social sciences. Nearly one in five users downloading data represented natural, medical or technical sciences, or the humanities. As FSD provides data descriptions in English for all data and translates quantitative data files on request into English, FSD data are also reused actively by foreign researchers inside and outside Finland. The study noted that while the majority of Finnish reusers downloading data are students, reusers from abroad download data mainly for research.