FSD Bulletin

Issue 16 (1/2005)

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.


Finnish Social Science Data Archive
E-mail: fsd@tuni.fi

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Developing European Research Infrastructures

Helena Laaksonen 20.04.2005

European Union has recently emphasised the importance of appropriate and effective research infrastructures for the competitiveness of European science. Therefore, a more coordinated European approach to policy-making in the field of research infrastructures is necessary. To address this issue, roadmaps for different scientific fields will be prepared.

European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) is currently preparing a compiled roadmap for the whole European Research Area (ERA). Three steering groups covering different research areas have been set up. Professor Arto Mustajoki, chairman of the Research Council for Culture and Society (Academy of Finland), represents Finland in the Steering Group for Social Sciences and Humanities.

In the context of an ESFRI roadmap, the term research infrastructures refers to services and facilities aimed at the scientific community. These may include libraries, databases, archives, communication networks, research vessels, coastal observatories, and other facilities.

Services and facilities included in the roadmaps should be of pan-European nature, allow open access to all European researchers and be of critical value. A roadmap will include policies and plans for the future, and can be used as a strategic tool for developing the basic infrastructure of the European science for the next 10-20 years. Roadmaps will be updated yearly.

Policy-making at national and EU level

Arto Mustajoki says that ESFRI itself does not provide research funding but has a lot of influence on the preparation of EU Framework Programs. EU level roadmaps will be accompanied by the development of national roadmaps. Roadmaps will be used to help both national and EU level policy-makers to coordinate infrastructure funding and research programmes.

Finland needs to prepare a national research infrastructure policy and programmes. For this purpose, the Academy of Finland will organise a conference on 3 June where such infrastructures will be discussed.

Mustajoki thinks a common policy is needed.
- For example, when the Academy of Finland called for applications for research infrastructure funding last year, only a few suitable applications were submitted in the field of humanities and social sciences. Most applications presented short-term projects which mainly benefit the applicant and his/her own project, and not the scientific community at large.

ESS meets the requirements

Roadmaps will demand cross-border scientific co-operation. Mustajoki mentions the European Social Survey as an example of a project which meets the requirements. ESS provides harmonised data which benefit researchers in many different countries.

Another example is the work of European data archives. Archives strive to harmonise the descriptions of their datasets, and to provide an integrated data catalogue in connection with the Madiera project.