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Number 3 November 2000


Accessibility to research materials is a key issue

Sami Borg October 2000

In the course of this year the FSD has made about 50 visits to the social scientific faculties and various departments of the field in the country's universities. During these visits the FSD has presented its working idea and methods to researchers. A further purpose of the visits to the various departments has been to encourage researchers and organisations to deposit their materials in the archive or just to give description information of their research materials to the databases of the archive.

Experiences of about a year and a half of nation-wide marketing of the working principles of the archive have shown that there exists an acceptance in principle of the aims of the FSD. No objections have been raised against the notion of increasing accessibility of research materials and controllability of scientific results or that it would be good if knowledge about research accomplishments was increased by gathering information on research materials in nation-wide registers and that control of data security and usability of the research material could essentially be improved through the services of a data archive. On the contrary, all around we have met only with nods in agreement and heard murmurs of approval... Yes, but.

In practice however, the FSD's contacts to researchers and departments of different fields have shown that the Archive is working in a new area that is still quite foreign to the Finnish research tradition. There does not really exist a research culture that would support and be comfortable with the idea of accessibility and re-use of materials and one can't be conjured forth by just pushing a button. One reseacher cannot find his/her old materials and documentation related with them. Another is unable to find time in his/her schedule for matters of lesser urgency. Someone might harbour suspicions about the motives of re-users when the materials are later on used in secondary research. There are surely also those who have nagging doubts about eventual flaws or defects in the research materials being exposed and brought to light.

When plans for the Finnish national data archive were made, the message from several foreign data-archives to the planners of the Finnish one was that acquiring materials is very hard and that it takes time to "sell" the idea of a data archive to the research community. In this respect, Finland has not been an exception to the rule.

Although the research materials inventory of the FSD now already contains well over a hundred research materials, the flow of data and description information on research materials has been relatively slow, especially from research projects within the universities.

The purpose of this Journal is to further encourage social scientists to take note of the significance of information sources and electronic research materials in their field. The archiving of research materials and organising centralised information services helps to effectify the use of existing materials. Also in view of economics and research ethics it's sensible to try to avoid overlapping and superfluous collecting of information. Preventing this is one of the aims which the data archive serves to promote.

Hopefully, this journal induces many to give a serious thought to utilising the developing Internet services in social scientific research and teaching. The data archive has been established to support social sciences as a nation-wide research resource, and it's effective functioning calls for a close co-operation with the scientific community. It is time to keep in touch.


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