Tommi Rikkinen

Data Covering 20 Years of Finnish Substance Abuse Treatment


This year, Professor Pekka Saarnio from the University of Tampere deposited a valuable longitudinal data collection on substance abuse treatment to be archived at the FSD. The collection has been divided into a dozen datasets that contain a wide range of data for those interested in the subject.

The earliest data in the data series were collected in 1987-88. Cognitive functions and coping strategies of people with substance abuse problems were studied in the Lammi alcohol rehabilitation centre. Between 1995 and 1997, data were collected on how people who had undergone substance abuse treatment were coping. Structured interviews were conducted on five separate occasions in the period of 12 months.

Continuity of substance abuse treatment and substance abusers' readiness to change were studied between 2000 and 2004. The data collected in 2008 included both qualitative and quantitative data and explored, for instance, the characteristics of therapists, cooperation between clients and therapists, the influence of the therapist's gender on treatment, therapists' career choice, and factors influencing clients' readiness to change.

Several standardized tests have been used in the data (including URICA, STAXI and AASE). For re-users of the data, the standardized tests open up a range of possibilities for making comparisons and conducting further research. In addition to variables relating to the main themes in the datasets, there are a large number of variables relating to the backgrounds of clients in substance abuse treatment and their religiosity, childhood and personal experiences of recovery.

Helena Laaksonen

It is sensible to archive data for the use of others

Pekka Saarnio, professor in Social Work, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the archiving of datasets.

The Academy of Finland has provided guidelines that recommend the reuse of research data. Did these guidelines affect your decision to have your data archived?
In fact, they did not. For me, it was clear from the beginning that the data would be deposited for archiving. The only obstacle in delivering some of the older datasets was simply a lack of time. A lot of work has been put into creating the data which is why it is sensible to make them available to others.

Was archiving the data a laboursome process for you as a researcher?
As the project was funded by the Academy of Finland, there was enough money to hire a person to prepare the datasets for "final placement". That was very good. The earliest dataset was from the 1980s, so it was high time to get its metadata sorted out. If more years had passed, I might not have remembered things so well. I personally also had the opportunity to go through the original research material and publications in order to have the oldest datasets archived.

Do these experiences of archiving influence your future data collections and data management?
I have, of course, always been aware that it would be good to complete variable descriptions and labels properly…

Can you think of research that someone might conduct with these datasets - any ideas for a master's or doctoral thesis, for example?
Sure, many kinds of research questions can be based on the extensive data. In teaching, for example, I try to make the students see how big an advantage it is to have at least a half-ready dataset. It saves up huge amounts of time and you only realize it when you're trying to transcribe the data with your headphones on. It pays to browse the FSD data catalogues!

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