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Number 9 (3/2002)

From Hasset to Madiera

FSD develops multilingual content description

Maria Forsman | Susanna Keränen

When the Finnish Social Science Data Archive, FSD, was founded in 1999, one of the first tasks was to decide how to describe research data in the database. The format for describing bibliographic citations and the best solutions for content description were sought for.

From the very beginning international cooperation with other data archives was deemed important. Content description methods of other archives were examined. The British data archive UKDA had worked on HASSET (Humanities and Social Science Electronic Thesaurus) for about twenty years. HASSET is based on the Unesco thesaurus, as are many Finnish thesauri.

Thesaurus for research data

Research data and research publications differ. When describing research data a number of details must be taken into consideration in order to ensure that researchers have easy access to the specific data they are looking for. Therefore The Finnish General Thesaurus (YSA) is not always sufficient for the content description of research data. In the autumn 2000 FSD set up a project to translate HASSET into Finnish and hired Susanna Keränen as a planning officer.

During 2000 it became evident that some other European data archives were also interested in a multilingual social science thesaurus. EU-funded LIMBER project had begun. Its primary aim was to develop ELSST (European Language Social Science Thesaurus) in English, German, French and Spanish. From the beginning FSD participated actively in the development of ELSST as an "associate member" of the project, evaluating the thesaurus and suggesting new concepts and options. FSD representatives expressed their interest in participating in any further projects covering additional languages.

In the autumn 2002 a consortium of various European data archives received EU funding for a new project, which included a multilingual thesaurus. This was the beginning of the MADIERA project.


The goal of the MADIERA project (Multilingual Access to Data Infrastructures of the European Research Area) is to create an effective infrastructure for the European social science community by integrating data with other tools, resources and products of the research process. The three-year project will start at the end of 2002.

MADIERA-project has six specific goals:

  1. The development of an integrated and effective distributed social science portal to facilitate access to a range of data archives and disparate resources.
  2. The employment of a multi-lingual thesaurus to break the language barriers to the discovery of key resources.
  3. The development of specific add-ons to existing virtual data library technologies.
  4. An extensive programme to add content, both at the data/information and knowledge levels.
  5. Extensive training of data providers and users to encourage the continuos growth of the infrastructure.
  6. The gradual integration of the emerging national infrastructures of the EU candidate countries into the European Research Area.

Several data archives will cooperate in the project. The Finnish Social Science Data Archive is responsible for the dissemination of the project's results and services to the wider research community. FSD also plays a significant role in the development of the multilingual thesaurus. The ELSST thesaurus created in the LIMBER project will be extended so that it covers the core concepts needed in the content description of research data.

New concepts will be added to ELSST and it will be translated into Finnish, Norwegian, Danish and Greek. The project will set up an overall administrative framework with mechanisms by which new concepts can be added. Guidelines will be written on thesaurus construction and translation.

The ELSST translation project (Workpackage 5 of MADIERA project) will begin in the FSD in December 2002 and some results will be available already the following spring. Information officers Marja Oksa-Pallasvuo and Terttu Turunen will be working for the project.

Research on multilingual thesauri

Susanna Keränen's research Content Management - Concept and Indexing Term Equivalence in a Multilingual Thesaurus is closely connected to the thesaurus project. The study concentrates on thesauri translation problems from a multilingual and multicultural content management viewpoint. It is financed by the Finnish Cultural Foundation and the Academy of Finland and is a subproject of the academy's project Cultural and Linguistic Differences in Digital Storage and Retrieval of Information. The Academy project leader is Sara von Ungern-Sternberg from the Department of Information Studies at the Åbo Akademi University.

Further information

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