HSSH receives €9 million for human sciences research on datafication - "Datafication is fundamentally transforming societies"

Funding awarded by the Academy of Finland will be used to support multidisciplinary research groups and recruit specialists in research methodology and data management.

The Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities (HSSH) has been granted €9 million in funding awarded by the Academy of Finland for the profile-building activities of Finnish universities.

The funds are extremely significant for HSSH’s future research initiatives and operational development efforts. They will be used to recruit staff to advance new research that transcends disciplinary boundaries and to develop research infrastructures in support of such research in the social sciences and humanities.

“It’s very exciting! We can support research groups and establish international relations in this field in an entirely new way. We will be able to assemble a community of experts that will generate a lot of good and tangible results,” says Professor of Media and Communication Studies Risto Kunelius, director of HSSH.

HSSH was collaboratively established by the Faculty of Arts, the Faculty of Educational Sciences, the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Theology and the Faculty of Social Sciences as well as the Swedish School of Social Science, the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and the Doctoral School in Humanities and Social Sciences. The allocation of the funds will be agreed among the founding faculties.

“Human sciences must investigate datafication”

With the profile-building grant, HSSH aims to focus on investigating the societal, social and political phenomena and problems associated with a world undergoing digitalisation. The significance of digitalised information has increased in all aspects of life.

“Datafication is fundamentally transforming societies and the future shape of interaction between people and institutions. If we want to understand society, human sciences must investigate datafication. And this is indeed something that everyone wants to investigate,” says Kunelius, describing the demand for and importance of the research theme.

HSSH will recruit three part-time research directors who will plan and coordinate inter-group cooperation in three thematic areas related to datafication in the humanities and social sciences. Furthermore, HSSH will offer residencies to promising cross-disciplinary research groups and expand the University of Helsinki’s international partnership networks in the social sciences and humanities by providing opportunities in international researcher exchange.

HSSH to recruit experts to develop research methods and infrastructures

In addition to being a significant research theme in the human sciences, datafication increasingly requires research based on a range of digital data sources, the utilisation of computational methods or the combination of different methods. At the same time, growing data streams pose new challenges as well as unparalleled opportunities for analysing datasets and developing methodologies.

With the new funding, HSSH will be able to tackle these challenges and grasp such opportunities. In concrete terms, this means that HSSH will recruit specialists in new research methods and data management who will help advance methodology expertise in the social sciences and humanities at the University of Helsinki and engender continuity in research through well-functioning research infrastructures. The new recruits will be assembled into an HSSH ‘methodology unit’, which will operate in close cooperation with both research groups and the University’s Research Services.

A long-term goal is to establish in the institute a cluster of services through which researchers in the field will find the research equipment, datasets and tools they need, as well as advice and guidance pertaining to the legal and ethical aspects of research. With these investments, HSSH is remedying deficiencies in research infrastructures observed in the field of social sciences and humanities at the University of Helsinki.

HSSH is one of the three profile-building areas of the University of Helsinki under the Profi6 scheme. The other areas in the University’s Profi6 application were Understanding the Human Brain and Interdisciplinary Research for Health and Wellbeing. The application for the three profile-building areas succeeded in obtaining a total of €28.6 million in funding from the Academy of Finland. The grant covers the projects’ operations from 2021 to 2026. According to the assessment of an international panel, the University of Helsinki had the best application in this round, which saw 13 Finnish universities submit an application.