Guidelines for research projects planning to archive their data

FSD archiving services in a nutshell

  • We provide guidelines on informing research participants and formatting the written consent for archiving.
  • We can help you with anonymisation planning.
  • We examine and review your data thoroughly.
  • We store the data in a file format that is suitable for reuse.
  • We describe the data in the DDI format in Finnish and English.
  • We publish the data descriptions in various data catalogues (Aila, CESSDA Data Catalogue, Etsin, Finna, Data Citation Index).
  • We assign persistent URN identifiers (PIDs) to all archived data.
  • We collect information about publications using your data.
  • We remind users to cite the archived data.
  • We preserve the data for decades to come reliably and in accordance with current data security regulations and requirements.

See also the Finnish Social Science Data Archive’s (FSD) guidelines for depositing data.

What kind of data does FSD accept?

FSD accepts both quantitative (numerical) and qualitative (i.e., text or visual images) data that can be reused. Typically, the data archived at FSD consist of statistical data recorded in a data matrix (data based on surveys), transcripts of interviews, group interviews or different interaction situations, or data authored by research subjects. Additionally, data collected for research purposes from newspapers and periodicals, for example, can be archived at FSD. FSD mainly archives data that have been anonymised.

Are you collecting textual data?

If your research project is collecting textual data, we recommend you read more about FSD’s Penna, which is a data collection tool created to facilitate collection of qualitative textual data. For the time being, Penna's user interface is only available in Finnish.

What kind of data are not archived?

FSD does not archive audiovisual material. Audiovisual material are archived and disseminated for further research by the Language Bank of Finland. If you are planning to collect audiovisual material in your research or already have such material that you wish to archive for data sharing, contact the Language Bank (Opens in a new tab) . Additionally, as a rule, FSD does not accept social media data. This is because of the ambiguity in the terms of use of international service platforms, among other reasons.

How about pictures?

We can also archive pictures taken by the researcher. If a research subject appears in the picture, consent for the archiving of the picture for reuse must be asked from the research subject. If the picture has been taken by someone else than the researcher, attention should be paid when necessary to the transfer of copyright and ownership right to the data.

In which languages are data archived?

We archive datasets In Finnish, English and Swedish. Data in other languages can be archived if the researchers contact FSD before data collection and follow the given instructions for minimisation. In this case, the researchers have full responsibility for anonymising the data according to the instructions given by FSD. We are happy to help with planning the anonymisation for data in other languages. The data controller of research data in other languages is accountable for compliance with data protection legislation.

How should the research participants be informed?

Human subject research usually always involves processing of personal data. As such, research subjects must always be informed about the processing of their personal data. When you inform the research subject, also consider the possible archiving of the data. Follow the instructions given by your organisation on data privacy and protection and use the privacy notice templates provided by your organisation to inform research participants. If necessary, contact the data protection officer in your organisation for more detailed advice.

Think about archiving during data processing: metadata, anonymisation

Carefully describing and documenting the content, data collection procedures and variables of research data is essential to ensure the usability of data. When applicable, you should collect this descriptive information, metadata, on how the study was conducted, the instruments of data collection, and the data files for the entire duration of the research project.

When processing data for archiving, follow the guidelines for quantitative or qualitative data. Adherance to the guidelines ensures good data management and the adequacy of metadata. In quantitative data, it is essential to clearly name the variables and their value codes. In qualitative data, enter the interviewees’ basic background information at the beginning of each data file, such as a transcribed interview.

As a general rule, only anonymised transcriptions of interview data are accepted for archiving, and audio recordings of interviews are not archived. In some cases, expert interviews can be archived with personal data, if the interviewees have given written consent for the archiving of the research data with their personal data. Once you have collected your data, anonymise the transcribed interviews according to the instructions.

Anonymisation should be considered already during data collection: you should collect only the minimum amount of personal data. This will reduce later anonymisation needs before the data can be archived. For example, background information should be collected in a categorised form if possible.

If necessary, we are happy to help you plan the anonymisation of the data.

What should I do when my research data seems ready for archiving?

Make a suggestion by filling in the following form: Suggest material to be archived. In the form you tell about your data and about the way you have informed research participants about the reuse of the data.

You will then receive more detailed instructions regarding the archiving agreement. As a rule, data are archived as anonymous, which is why all direct identifiers and indirect identifiers that might lead to the identification of an individual must be removed according to FSD instructions.

At FSD, we review the anonymisation carried out by the researcher and, if necessary, remove further identifiers during data processing. If necessary, FSD is happy to help with questions regarding the anonymisation of data that will be archived.

Make sure the archiving agreement is in order

Before the deposit, you and the data archive will sign an archiving agreement. For the agreement, FSD will ask you for information regarding the data controller of the research data, categories of personal data included in the data, and categories of data subjects in the data.

Depositing your data at FSD

When the archiving agreement has been signed, you will receive an activation link to Aila Data Service from FSD to deposit your data. Depositing a dataset through Aila requires registering as a user of the service and logging in. Aila login is supported by the Haka identity federation. Users can register with Aila using their personal Haka credentials, such as the user ID and password issued by their university.

The data file(s), data description and other material are securely transferred to FSD on Aila. When depositing your data, you are also asked to enter basic information on the contents of the data, data collection, and the publications where the data have already been used.

The final decision to archive the data is made after FSD has received the data and assessed their suitability for archiving as well as evaluated which access conditions are the most suitable for the data.

Do you need to provide your data with a persistent identifier to publish an article?

Many scientific publications require you to share your research data to enable the verification of the research findings and to increase transparency. FSD assigns all archived data persistent identifiers (PIDs). FSD's PIDs are URNs (Uniform Resource Name). You can request to receive the persistent URN identifier assigned to your data through User Services.

How is data processed at FSD?

Typically, the whole archiving process at FSD takes a few months. The schedule depends on, for instance, the condition of the data and the documentation, and the order of urgency. If you receive enquiries regarding an upcoming dataset, you can forward them to FSD User Services via email.

When the original data have been processed into an archivable form, the data are described and the key documents relating to the contents of the data (e.g. interview questions, invitation to write, questionnaire) are stored in a digital format. Finally, when the processing of the data is finished, the data file, data description, code book/dataset guide, and a compiled account of the removal of identifiers carried out at FSD are sent to the depositor or designated contact person of the data via email for commenting and reviewing.

We erase the original files deposited at FSD when the client has reviewed and accepted the data package that will be archived and the anonymisation carried out at FSD. We expect a response within two weeks. If we do not receive a response during this time, we will assume that everything is in order and publish the data description and related documents on Aila Data Service. The actual data files are available for download according to the use conditions from Aila.

  • Aila is FSD's data catalogue and user interface for managing data downloads

We are happy to answer any further questions regarding our datasets and services! Please contact us at user-services.fsd ( at )