FSD Bulletin

Issue 24 (2/2008)

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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Changes in Science and University

Helena Laaksonen

My one-year contract as the director of the FSD is coming to an end. This year's extensive experiences of university administration and science policy can be distilled into one word: change. It seems that things are changing particularly fast right now - or is it just a novice's illusion? I will here go through some signs of change.

Three years ago I wrote an article on compiling a roadmap of European research infrastructures for FSD Bulletin. This spring the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies studied existing Finnish infrastructures and future development needs. The results of this study should be available by the end of this year. Thus, a roadmap of Finnish research infrastructures is in preparation.

The criteria for "infrastructure" seem partly unattainable from the viewpoint of social sciences. The FSD itself fulfils most of these criteria as well as supports Finland's participation in international social science infrastructures with approximately 100,000 euros every year. However, Finland's participation in international comparative data collection projects is implemented by relatively light structures. I wonder whether it is sufficient. Data infrastructure that social scientists consider important may look very insignificant in the eyes of a particle physicist or a genetic researcher.

Last December at the Register Research Infrastructure conference, a Ministry of Education representative said that no additional resources had been allocated for funding infrastructures. It seems that the roadmap is not a sign of change after all - it is hard to realise any substantial change without funding, at least a positive one.

The FSD is not undergoing any great structural change at present. On the other hand, we have no knowledge yet of what the new alliance between the University of Tampere, Tampere University of Technology and the University of Jyväskylä will bring with it, even though it is scheduled to begin operating already in August. In addition, the forthcoming change in the legal status of Finnish universities affects the FSD alongside with all departments and units within Finnish universities. Insecurity about the outcome is a hallmark of this change as well.

The most bewildering and positive change I have frequently noticed is the emergence of a favourable attitude towards the FSD and research data archiving. This change in the atmosphere has mainly been caused by the FSD's continuous promotion of open access to research data as well as by the international development: both the OECD and the European Research Council (ERC) require open access to research data. Finland has awakened to this requirement, and a change is on its way - although its effect is again unclear. This time, however, the FSD staff have a clear conception of the direction of the change.