Put data to work – How connected funding information eases administrative burden

The Finnish tax administration provides an exemplary service for a taxpayer. The tax return is a pre-completed form which usually includes all necessary information without any need for revisions. Required information is already stored somewhere, which is the crucial factor behind the service. Information is received directly from third parties such as employers, other payers of income as well as many other sources. After the resulting information flows are connected, the filled-in tax return form is served to the taxpayer who avoids the arduous annual work.

The analogy is obvious for the researcher’s services. For instance, when applying funds for research the funder usually requires scientists to deliver a wealth of data which largely is already available somewhere outside the funder’s systems. These data silos can be connected together by automatizing flows of information. Success is probable when systems are interoperable, co-operation between different stakeholders exists and information flows are conformable. When these conditions are satisfied, it is possible to develop digital services which genuinely reduce the need for administrative work and benefit the whole scientific community.

The planned research funding database (part of the Research Information Hub) is a manifestation of these ideas. When completed, it contains metadata of the open funding calls and funding grants in addition to the jointly agreed data models and processes about the flow of information between parties.  Useful international reference for the funding database is the SweCRIS-system where Swedish funders store their funding information. However, the funding database is not isolated. Through the Research Information Hub, the data is enriched with the metadata of publications, research data, and research infrastructures. Researchers are identified mainly by their ORCID-iD’s. The database contains only information originally meant to be public and can be shared openly.

Information flows converging at the research funding database allow funders (or other actors) to tap into these flows for the development of their systems to be more proactive. Application forms and reports can be pre-filled with researchers affiliations, previous outputs or funding. Grant information can flow to the opposite direction reaching the researcher’s home organisation. The final result is diminished administrative work and more time allocated to research. Hopefully, the open approach also inspires third parties to utilise the data and build new services for researchers.

The database gives funders enhanced visibility and reveals the diversity of research funding.

For the first time combined data of funding awards is easily available which provides a comprehensive view of the research funding in Finland.

 

Walter Rydman

Author coordinates the development of research funding database at CSC.


Read more about the research funding database here.

 

 

 

 

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