Editorial 2/2016

Data Archive Offers Support for Research

Helena Laaksonen

Aila Data Service, maintained by the Finnish Social Science Data Archive, currently has as many as 2,500 registered users. It is wonderful to see that so many people have found our core service. However, the Data Archive has many other services to offer besides the possibility to download data from Aila.

Most of the services offered by the Data Archive are not self-services. A lot of work also goes into making data available for our users through Aila: we check and describe data, translate data descriptions into English, edit data files and publish data for reuse on Aila – all this supported by our Technical Services, of course. Nurturing of data also continues after dissemination. For quantitative data, actual data files are translated into English on request, and many are already available in English in Aila.

Before a dataset is processed and becomes available in Aila, it has to be identified and acquired for archiving. Although some researchers nowadays offer their data for archiving in the name of open science, data acquisition is often difficult and time-consuming. And even when researchers themselves offer their data for archiving, acquisition still requires plenty of work. Successfully acquiring a dataset often takes many emails as well as guidance, justification and even persuasion.

Even though our free-of-charge information service is only briefly mentioned on our website, many users have found it. Data acquisition usually no longer requires intervention from the User Services, but the demand for information service and guidance has increased. Whether it is data depositing, reuse, ethical questions or international data, personal guidance is needed. Our User Services is happy to help with these and any other questions.

The Data Archive supports the whole research process and data lifecycle, from planning to data dissemination. Data Management Guidelines, available both in Finnish and English, are an indispensable aid in this. Our users usually consult the guidelines independently, but we can also use the guidelines in providing information services.

In addition to online guides and core services aimed at the scientific community, we provide a few other databases to the general (Finnish) public: Democracy Indicators and the party agenda database POHTIVA. As these databases are not at the core of the Data Archive's basic services, resources to maintain them are scarce. Nonetheless, POHTIVA was recently updated, mostly by students as part of their course work, and using the database is now easy and enjoyable.

All of the services I have described here aim at a single purpose, which is to serve researchers and other members of the scientific community as well as possible. As our user, you can tell us how to improve. Give us feedback. Take a look at our services. Ask for more information. Invite us to tell about our services at your event.

Helena Laaksonen