Comparing approaches – research information hub in New Zealand

Notes from the steering group meeting on 11th June 2018

The latest steering group meeting of the Finnish Research Information Hub had a pleasant addition to the agenda, when a visitor outside the Finnish stakeholder group – and outside Finland, joined us. Jackie Fawcett, Principal Advisor of Science and Innovation Trends from New Zealand, introduced us to the  New Zealand’s national research information system NRIS which is currently being developed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment. The meeting offered us a great opportunity to exchange experiences and ideas about the process of building a national research information system.

The most important goal is to make New Zealand’s research and researchers more visible both to domestic and international audiences. Targets have especially focused on offering a comprehensive overview of the latest developments in research, science and innovation and making it easier to find experts and relevant research results. This goal, as well as reducing the administrative workload of researchers, are similar to what the Finnish national research information hub is pursuing.

Also other similarities between the NRIS and the Finnish research information hub were found. Both of them underline that everyone should benefit from the systems, and shared goals means a lot of work. Moreover, the privacy issues and openness of data has also required a lot of consideration in both countries. Fawcett told that they have been working for quite a long time in defining the concept model so that the organizations can easily integrate data from their systems to the NRIS. In Finland, the model has been developed together with the organizations.

Unlike in Finland, New Zealand doesn’t have separate source system where the information for the hub could be easily retrieved, and therefore they had to start developing the hub from scratch. At the moment, the New Zealand’s hub is ready to receive data from government departments and independent research organizations. By now, they have assembled the existing data to the portal and piloted with a few organizations. The next step will be to gradually expand the hub.

Another approach that was found to differ between the two national hubs was the order of different steps taken in the design path. In New Zealand, the major share of the attention and input was given to the technical model construction over outputs. In Finland, the first step has been to think the needs of the end users, and only then to design the data model and integrate systems, yet these steps are also done simultaneously. At the moment, we are utilizing a service design process to build a portal that would best serve the end users.

In both countries, however, much work still remains to be done. Moreover, besides Finland and New Zealand, many other countries are currently building or have already implemented their own national research information systems. Even though all hubs have their own background, characteristics, and use cases, we can learn from the successes and challenges that others have already experienced. Therefore, it is important that we do not compare to others as competition, but as an asset.

The full memo from the latest steering group meeting can be read from here (in Finnish only).

Links to other national research information systems:

New Zealand: NRIS



Portugal: PT-CRIS

The Netherlands: NARCIS

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.





Benefits for researchers and a comprehensive picture of the Finnish research

Notes from the executive group meeting on 19 March 2018

The development of the Research Information Hub is supervised and guided by two high-level groups appointed by the Ministry of Education and Culture, namely, the Executive and Steering groups. The Executive group will, for example, decide on a developmental path, consider approaches to lighten the workload for the researchers and administrative staff, and identify the research administration information needs. It will also promote cooperation between actors. The Executive group meets three times in 2018. This year’s first meeting was held on 19th of March.

One of the main topics discussed in the meeting was how the researchers benefit from the Hub. How to identify and open up the accruing benefits for the researchers, when the final aim is to promote a more fluent flow of the already submitted information between all parties?

User cases and especially the benefits to the researchers have been described hereThe Hub (and its user interface) will provide researchers a platform to gain national level visibility for their research. However, the most concrete benefit for the researchers will most likely follow from the automated information flows. Researchers don’t have to report the same information several times to different systems anymore. For example, when a researcher is applying for a funding, the funding organization can retrieve the necessary information directly from the Hub. The Executive group asked for a more tangible presentation from such examples. From the researchers’ point of view, it would be also important that interoperability with the international research information systems should be taken into account when designing the Hub. Many researchers are already involved in several international information systems and the metadata should, therefore, be consistent.

Another point of discussion was to clarify, that once the Hub is in operation, we will have a possibility for a comprehensive picture of scientific research done with both public and private funds in Finland. This means that, for example, an official at the Academy of Finland who is drafting a policy, can find out which organizations have ongoing research in bioeconomics. This also means that research organizations themselves could self-evaluate their selected research activities against those of other organizations. Reliable, complete and up-to-date data would also be a valuable tool in decision-making. It could also work as a basis for statistics used by, for example, Ministry of education policymaking.  Special attention will have to be paid to the quality of the information provided in the metadata fields to reach the level of accuracy and reliability needed for solid decisions.

How to aggregate data about research data – case Metax

As the national Open Science and Research initiative came to an end by December 2017, we already had a fantastic basis for national research data services in the form of the IDA storage service and Etsin research data finder among others. As the work now continues, we are enhancing, integrating and rebuilding the services to serve the needs for long-term preservation and national management of information data. The data service family will be called, alongside with the established service brands IDA and Etsin.

From this summer onwards, all research data metadata will be aggregated in a new national metadata repository called Metax, that will serve both the service package and the National Research Information Hub Tutkimustietovaranto. The aim is to harvest as many data archives as possible in order to provide the researchers with a good field agnostic data catalogue and a search tool. We want to harvest both the Finnish and the international sources. In addition, Metax and Etsin will serve as the master data catalogue and offer landing pages for the data stored and published in the services, both IDA and the long-term preservation.

We are blogging about the development process in Metax-Blog (mostly in Finnish, though). The data models (still under development) are published in the national services for interoperability. There are several application profiles in Metax since it consists of several catalogues. We also try to use as many kinds of reference data and persistent identifiers to be able to produce as good quality data as possible for the Research Information Hub and everybody else.

Jessica Parland-von Essen

The author is MetaX and Etsin product owner at CSC – research center for science

Metax-Blog can be read at

National service for interoperability available at

Building the National Research Information Hub requires comprehensive collaboration

Currently, research metadata is being collected to several different organization specific, national and international data warehouses and other systems. Now, finally, we are moving towards an era where information once filed in one system automatically transfer to other systems as well, and several rounds of laborious information entering are no longer required. Let the powerful servers, fast web and machine-readable interfaces fulfil their duties. 

In practice, building a seamlessly working system to transfer large amounts of metadata of various types is not simple. To succeed in this task, a comprehensive collaboration between different participants is required, as well as common experience about why such system is needed. Regarding the National Research Information Hub, these questions are taken upon by the steering group. The steering group consists of experts in the field, and their task is to monitor and coordinate the national level collaboration. The National Research Information hub’s steering group gets together six times during 2018. After every meeting, a short summary of the most important discussion points will be shared here in the Research Information Hub’s blog.

The latest steering group meeting (8.2.2018) contemplated why Finland should invest in a national research information hub. Some of the already known user cases and concrete benefits  were discussed. For example, when a researcher is applying for funding, (s)he can utilize the hub’s information content by selecting from a personalized drop-down menu on what information will be shared directly to the funding organization. This is a clear advantage of the hub since often researchers have to manually enter the same, e.g. publication information, tens, if not even hundreds of times (e.g. when applying for funding, writing research reports i.e.).  As a matter of fact, the option to search and automatically include one’s publication information from VIRTA publication information service does already exist, but only for Academy Finland related reporting.  The steering group decided that in future publication information can be also utilized when applying for CSC computing services.

The steering group also discussed researcher’s identity recognition. This is a vital condition for the hub, since the right meta-information needs to be able to be connected to the right researcher. Traditionally, researcher recognition has leaned on researchers’ name. However, there can exist several researchers with the same name, one can use different name combinations in different contexts or the name can change along the way. An internationally developed solution to this problem is a persistent digital identifier ORCID. Over 4 million researchers worldwide have already registered with ORCID. The steering group aims to advocate the benefits of ORCID in Finland. A range of possible benefits and use cases where introduced in the meeting. You can read more about ORCID from here.

The full memo from the latest steering group meeting can be read here (in Finnish only).

More information about ORCID can be read in and

ORCID use cases discussed in the Research Information Hub steering group meeting can be read here (in Finnish only).