Helena Laaksonen & Henri Ala-Lahti

European Research Infrastructures and Infrastructure Projects

The European Union wants the European research area to be firmly ahead of its competitors. For this to be possible, barriers to research need to be overcome and a functional and comprehensive research infrastructure be built with facilities, services and data easily available. A new type of legal entity – European Research Infrastructure Consortium, or ERIC – was created for the purpose of establishing and operating research infrastructures. ESFRI, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures also charts other types of research infrastructures than just ERICs.

In 2013, Finland decided to participate in six European infrastructure consortia, two of which, CESSDA ERIC and CLARIN ERIC, are of particular interest to social sciences and humanities. Furthermore, three other ERICs in the field of social sciences and humanities, of which Finland is not a member, have been or will be established: the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), the Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities (DARIAH) and the European Social Survey (ESS).

ESFRI, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures

ESFRI was formed in 2002 to develop the scientific integration of Europe and support policy-making on research infrastructures. The aim is to develop pan-European research infrastructure networks that make accessing research data and services possible beyond state borders. In 2006, ESFRI published its Roadmap which included 35 projects from social sciences to astrophysics. Since then, the Roadmap has been updated twice, and the next update is to be expected in 2015.

CESSDA ERIC, the Consortium of European Social Science Data Archive

CESSDA was founded in 1976 as an organisation for the national data archives of Europe. The main objective of CESSDA is to provide access to data in social, political and economic research and to facilitate the access to data resources across borders. CESSDA also aims to develop data and metadata standardisation. CESSDA became a permanent legal research infrastructure, ERIC, in 2013.

CLARIN ERIC, the Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure

CLARIN is a pan-European initiative to build an infrastructure that makes language resources and tools available for researchers, especially in the social sciences and humanities, and provides the opportunity to deposit such resources and tools. The archives of the centres participating in CLARIN contain written and spoken language resources as well as language processing tools. Finland is preparing to participate in CLARIN-ERIC in the future.

ESS ERIC, the European Social Survey

The ESS is a biennial cross-national survey covering over 30 nations, studying the attitudes, opinions and behaviours in Europe. The core module of the survey enables the charting of change and stability in a wide range of social variables, for example, media use, social and public trust, political interest and participation, well-being, and moral, political and social values. Some topics change from round to round, allowing for the survey to adapt to changing demands. The survey data, including data collected in Finland, are available on the ESS website after registration. The ESS attained an ERIC status in November 2013.

SHARE ERIC, the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe

SHARE was the first research infrastructure project to be established as an ERIC in 2011. SHARE is an extensive cross-national, multi-disciplinary longitudinal survey that charts the health, socio-economic status and social and family networks of people over 50 years of age in 19 European countries and Israel. The surveys have been conducted every two years since 2004. The survey data are available for scientific purposes on the SHARE website free of charge. Finland does not currently participate in SHARE.

DARIAH-EU, the Digital Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities

The aim of DARIAH is to provide access to digital research data in arts and humanities, and to connect digital resources and tools as well as scholars across Europe. DARIAH’s Virtual Competency Centre (VCC) e-Infrastructure offers various digital services, such as data stores, digital scholarly tools and digital research environments. The VCC e-Infrastructure also develops standards to ensure interoperability across different locations, languages, disciplines and scholarly traditions. DARIAH is on the verge of becoming an ERIC, having submitted its ERIC application in October 2012, with 14 countries or institutions having expressed interest in participating.

DASISH, the Data Service for the Social Sciences and Humanities

The European Commission has also provided funding for the DASISH project which coordinates the activities of all five ESFRI research infrastructure initiatives in the social sciences and humanities mentioned above (i.e. CESSDA, CLARIN, ESS, SHARE and DARIAH). The aim is to find potential synergies in infrastructure development and to pursue some concrete joint activities. The FSD participates in five joint activities in the DASISH project, which cover system architecture, data quality, developing tools aiding the management of the various development stages of cross-national surveys, data archiving, and dissemination of the results of the project.