Ending the research
12
13
Archiving or destroying the data
Utilising accumulated information
After research is completed, the data used is either destroyed or archived, according to the terms of the permits obtained for the research. To increase openness, the continued use of the data should be promoted as much as is possible within the limits set by the permit terms.

Investing in the continued use of the data and the usability and visibility of the information produced by the research will not only increase openness, but also the impact of the research.

The sections below give further information about the factors that need to be taken into account in the final stage of research.

Expand all / Collapse all

Archiving or destroying the data, further use

When research data containing personal data is no longer required for research or to verify its results, the data must be either destroyed, archived or modified to prevent the identification of individuals.

The decision should take into account the terms of the use permit and the archiving instructions and practices of the researcher’s organisation. Public administration organisations and universities are bound by the Finnish Act on archives (Arkistolaki) that requires an archive assembly plan listing the storage times for data compiled as a result of various activities. Thereby researchers often have no say in how the data is destroyed or kept after the research is completed, and must adhere to the organisation’s guidelines.

The permit authority will often want to ensure that the data is processed appropriately after the research has ended. The terms of a permit may require, for example, that a data destruction or archiving report is submitted to the authority that granted the permit.

Utilising accumulated information and the further use of anonymised data

For further use, the data compiled for research may be anonymised and stored in a service that will allow others to access it. This service is offered in Finland by the Finnish Social Science Data Archive (FSD). Opening up research data for external use promotes openness and transparency and reduces the need to collect new and overlapping research data including identifiers.

The anonymisation of the data takes great care. For example, the removal of single identifiers, such as personal identity codes or exact places of residence, is not sufficient anonymisation of the data. To be truly anonymous, individuals must not be identifiable based on one or more data items available in the dataset or elsewhere. The privacy of the research subjects can also be protected by setting detailed terms and conditions for further use of the data.

The usability of the information produced by research can be enhanced by clearly stating what the data used in the research is and how it was compiled. For example, this can be done by describing the registers and the collected data used for the research. This allows those interested in the use of certain health and welfare data to better learn of studies using said data.