Finnish publication metadata to OpenAIRE – national level integration to support interoperability and visibility

Finnish research organizations submit every year research metadata to national VIRTA-publication information service. So far this data has been utilized, for example, in the Vipunen reporting portal, in Juuli portal displaying information about individual research publications and as a part of Academy of Finland online portal service.

Since mid-2018, VIRTA-publication information service development has aimed for integration to the European OpenAIRE-portal. The OpenAIRE portal is part of the OpenAIRE projects supported by the European Commission. Behind them are several organizations around the EU-member states working with research infrastructures, and also some from outside EU as well. The goal of the collaboration between VIRTA-publication information service and OpenAIRE is to bring the Finnish research publications metadata to international information hub via centralized service. This will also substantially increase visibility for the publications. Furthermore, the availability of interoperable and up-to-date metadata on an international level can be ensured. The integration is expected to be ready in mid-2019. Read more from the OpenAIRE blog.

Joonas Nikkanen

Author is the project manager of the VIRTA-publication information service at CSC – IT Center for Science

Blog post “Providing Finnish national Publication Data to OpenAIRE – Case VIRTA” (published 23.4.2019) available at

Read more about VIRTA-publication information service here.

The Finnish Research Funding Database compiles information on granted research projects

The Finnish Research Funding Database is ready to receive data from the funders. We listed the Five Key Points.

  1.      Research Funding Database is part of the national Research Information Hub

The Research Information Hub gathers information regarding publications, research data, researchers and funding decisions from multiple sources, and they can be utilized for various purposes. Research Funding Database collects information related to the research funding process from both public and private funders. The gathered information contains, for example, information about the amount and length of funding, description of the granted project, granted researchers and organizations and information about the funder and the associated call.

  1. The Hub helps to get rid of unnecessary administrative tasks

The main purpose of the Research Information Hub is to lighten the administrative burden endured by the researches. The Hub enables information entered in one system to be utilized in other systems as well. For example, publication information stored in the Hub can be used in funding applications or reporting. Furthermore, the researcher can easily discover and access different funding options thanks to enhanced visibility. The Hub also provides information about grants directly to the researcher’s home organization.

  1.    A window to the research in Finland

The upcoming public portal of the Research Information Hub – – provides free and unlimited browsing access to the Hub’s information. A comprehensive picture of the research conducted in Finland will be available for the first time. The hub offers insights into what is being researched and funded. Regardless of the funding source, domestic funding is equally discoverable. The private foundations and funds have a significant role in supporting research, and thanks to the Hub, their role will be accordingly presented.

  1.    Highlighting the impact of the research

Research Funding Database supports the evaluation of the results and impact of research funding. It lays the groundwork for the foundations to build new tools to improve existing processes and increase collaboration. Research results supported by the funding can be actually followed up, and grants can be connected to research outputs, data, researchers, and organizations. Cumulative data allows analyzing the development of research funding in Finland.

  1.       Principles of processing personal data thoroughly addressed

Each funder is responsible for their own data disclosed in the Research Funding Database. Currently, the funders either grant their funding under the condition that the information can be published or request consent from the applicant.

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.