The final report of Yhtakoytta-project

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1. The methods and tools for evidence-based decision making


Current practices and improvement needs

The purpose of this overview is to find out what would be good and consistent methods and tools to help improve the processing use of scientific knowledge in the Government's preparation work, decision making and strategic policy. It is also important to understand those principles that are supported by these methods and tools. The recommendation aims for the kind of universality that the methods are good in societal decision-making in general and can thus be taken into use also elsewhere.

It is not examined here how and for what reasons the political decision is finally made. Of course the aim is that the preparation work helps both the decision maker to choose the solution best matching their values, and an outside observer to understand, how the final decision was reached.

The goal is not to give a full and accurate picture of the current knowledge practices. Some kind of general notions are useful to be said in the beginning because they help understand, why and how the current practices should be improved. Some important views are found from op_fi:Tiedolla johtamisen menetelmät ja työkalut#Perustelut (in Finnish).

We especially examine methods, that could be implemented into use already in the near future. However, we do not argue, that there methods should immediately be used in all of the Government's work or that it would even be possible. Rather we offer a justified vision of what kind of methods the methods for improving the use of knowledge in decision-making are, according to research. We hope the stepping stones we suggest are so practical and feasible, that there will be projects and operations where these principles and methods identified here can be tried in practice and implemented into use.

It must be said in the very beginning that the current knowledge practises in Finland are good, and compared to many other countries excellent. When the preparation begins goals, responsibilities and schedules are set, and officials or committees who are familiar with the topic are chosen for the work. There is usually a lot of knowledge for doing to work, and it can be easily found online. The officials and experts are committed to their work and do it with the good of the society in mind.

However, there are important improvements to be made. Especially difficult are decisions about highly complicated matters that have significant long-term effects, like questions about refugees, climate treaties, energy taxation or civil salary. This is when one expert's knowledge is not enough, and even the resources of a diverse group of experts may not be enough to get a proper grip of the complicated situation.

On the whole the activity has been higher in the last years, and progress with open policy practices have been made with a good speed. Transparency and knowledge-based work have become one of the main themes in both the fields of governance and research, and a a large net of people, committees, projects, strategies and corporations has formed around the topic. Open policy practise and open access and wide use of knowledge have been taken into account in almost all strategic policies about the future in ministries, research organisations and the Government (OHRA-recommendations (in Finnish), The improving of knowledge use in political decision making - from goals to reality. (in Finnish)) This has lead to a situation, where many different people and organisations have developed guidelines, methods, tools and services for decision making based on openness and knowledge.

The main idea of this literature review if to go through fresh material especially from Finland but also elsewhere and try to gather a coherent group of the most important principles that can be supported with tools that help the practical work.

Shared understanding as the core goal of new practise

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Yhtakoytta-pronciples and their significance in creating shared understanding from observed data.

From scientific and political literature discussing the use of knowledge often stands out many different goals and principles, but usually the thinking is going towards goals based on scientific understanding and involvement. From these megatrends and other goals consistently found in literature we have worked out one core goal that we believe sums everything up to a useful and concrete form:

Decision preparation work has to aim for shared understanding. Shared understanding means a situation where the views of all different involved parties is described thoroughly enough it can be said, of which relevant facts and values there is agreement, of which a disagreement and why. Shared understanding can thus be used to predict, which decision option any party would choose and why.

The idea is of curse radical applied widely, and completely opposite points of view has it's support in today's Finland (that decisions are only spoken about after they have already been made). However, our experience has shown the idea of shared understanding to be a) easy to understand and so an easy guide for thinking, b) an efficient way to find on the whole good solutions in small groups based in trust, and c) an efficient way to identify the mistakes in failed decision preparation processes. In other words if the preparation fails, shared uderstanding helps evaluate and identify those things that could have been done differently to probably avoid the problems.

The methods an tools of decision making have developed so that we can apply shared understanding widely and test if problems are avoided and if the decision making is really made better. This literature review gives tools for this kind of work.

Knowledge crystals create shared understanding

The creation of shared understanding requires many different things and action. However there are three principles above all else, because they are always present when shared understanding has been created and them missing seems to be connected to failure to create shared understanding. These are openness, shared information objects and critique.

Shared understanding
A situation where the views of all parties is described thoroughly enough it can be said, of which relevant facts and values there is agreement, of which a disagreement and why. Shared understanding can thus be used to predict, which decision option any party would choose and why.
All information is open for everyone to see at all times. Anyone can participate in the work at any point and affect the result. Only the content and quality of the participation are relevant, not the status of the participator.
Shared information objects
The product if written so that the real-time draft can always be found in the same place. Also the changes are done to the same draft so no parallel versions are created.
The product is always open for comments and critique, and valid (follows the more accurate rules) critique is taken into account in the content.
Knowledge crystal
An object of knowledge built around a specific research question that applies the principles of openness, shared information objects and critique and aims to a shared understanding about the answer by using observed data as arguments.

The wide success of openness, shared information objects and critique requires a specific kind of work among the knowledge. For example a web-workspace is needed, where all relevant information can be put for everyone to see. The workspace has to allow open participation so that the knowledge doesn't distort or break down but can be with reasonable work summarised. The summaries should consistently and inclusively take into account everything said so far. Aside from the workspace also fitting knowledge structures and practises are needed to keep the knowledge organised.

The most important way to keep knowledge organised is to identify exact questions, finding answers to which is the main task of knowledge work. The questions have to a) serve needs of decision-making and b) be research questions i.e. can be answered using scientific knowledge and the drafts of answers can be critiqued with scientific reasons. The scientific requirement also applies to value questions; in these cases the questions are phrased for example "what things does group x find most important considering topic y?" This way also values are seen as research questions and the answers aim to be consistent with observations.

Knowledge crystal is the kind of object of knowledge built around a research question that follows the principles of openness, shared information objects and critique and aims for shared understanding about the answer using observed data as reasoning. The knowledge crystal has indeed been identified as the most important tool or information object for organising knowledge that guides the process of decision preparation work.

The scientific methos produces knowledge crystals

Yhtäköyttä-project suggests a new practice the basic idea of which is quite simple. Because science has proved to be the most efficient way obtain useful information about the world, the same method should also be used in decision making. How is this done?

"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts," said the Nobel-award winning Richard Feynman.[1] This means that scientific information is based on observation and theories that cannot be disproven with observations despite trying. Believing in experts is not science. Social decision making can follow the same principle. Knowledge can be organised into research questions and attempts at answers that are examined critically based on observations. These collections of a question, an answer and a rationale are called knowledge crystals, if it is the target of open crowd sourcing, meaning it is possible for everyone to participate in building it.

The basic idea of science is that through rational critical thinking some attempts at an answer eventually turn out to be impossible to defend in light of observations. If there is a lack of observations there are multiple possible answers and people amongst themselves have conflicting views. According to Yhtäköyttä-principles this is when must be aimed for shared understanding, understanding the point of view of others. This is different than consensus, which tries to find one option agreeable on by all.

Around the research question is built a group of workers who gather observations, discuss and interpret them to produce an answer or answers that are consistent with all the observed data. This kind of knowledge crystal is then free for anyone to use.

The production of knowledge crystals is a crowd-sourced, communal activity. Thus to work this kind of work requires a few clear principles that help guide and encourage the work into the correct direction and also to prevent the advancement into a wrong direction. By sticking to the principle a practise of coherent way to work is created. The creation of the practise is further helped with suitable tools, so doing the right things would be easy and doing the wrong ones hard. The goal is to make developing and using knowledge crystals as easy and efficient as possible and so make the creation of shared understanding easy.

One of the basic principles of open policy practise is the inclusion (or at least enabling it) of citizens in the decision making process and transparent openness in handling things. Joukkoistaminen demokratiassa (Crowdsourcing in democracy) -book outlines elements tightly to do with crowd-sourcing that must always be present so the crowd sourcing process can work as decision support. There are 1) Defining of goal, narrowing the question and scheduling, 2) communication, 3) simple technical implementation, 4) taking care of the crowd-sourcing process, 5) time limits, 6) event, 7) analysis and process monitoring and 8) commitment to process. [2]

Principles supporting the production of knowledge crystals

In this pondering and previous literature it's possible to find repeatedly several principles that should be shortly described to understand the recommendation. The four first ones already mentioned are aiming for shared understanding, openness, shared information objects and critique. With these are seven other principles that together support the creation of knowledge crystals and shared understanding. More accurate descriptions can be found on the pages of Yhtakoytta-project and Open policy practice. The product in this context means a decision motion, report or other concrete information object. Work means the making of this product.

The decision maker publishes the effects and values aimed to with the decision.
The attenders describe the decision's effects to relevant issues as a causation-correlation chain from the decision to the desired effects.
The attenders share the product and the information gathered for it so that they are as easy to use as possible for anyone for any purpose.
The skill of summarising
The plaintiff invites to the work enough people who have both substance know-how and the skills to organise knowledge according to these new principles of knowledge work.
Evaluation and management
The attenders describe the progress of the work continuously and clearly. The plaintiff mirrors the situation to the decision maker's goals continuously and guides the work according to that and more accurate guidelines.
During the work the plaintiff ensures the attenders feel a part of such a group to which the attender's work is important and which work is socially important.
The plaintiff gives everyone participating in the work public respect according to the real value of their work. The importance of each task is assessed with crowd-sourcing.

In the end it is important to note, that almost all of the principles mentioned above actualise in modern open source development methods and development environments used as tools, such as GitHub or Bitbucket services. These examples are probably less compelling to people solving humane problems for a living, but they represent well the power lying in the creation of answers found with co-operation for problems quantifiable in code. General knowledge work approaches this paradigm continuously, because solving multi-sector problems requires an exact description and language defining, so the plaintiffs and experts in different fields could at all fit together their views and goals expressed in different languages.

The changes required for the principles to work

Here is a summary of those methods and tools which use should be increased or decreased from the furrent situation, so evidence-based policy could be improved. The base for the recommendation is, how well the method or tool advances the goal principles, that have been identified as important for the success of social knowledge work. Thus all recommendations are examined in relation to every principle in the table.

--# : Taulukossa pitäisi vaihtaa sarakkeiden järjestystä. Oikea järjestys on se mitä tekstissäkin on käytetty. Samalla temppelikuvan pylväät pitäisi päivittää tähän samaan järjestykseen. --Jouni Tuomisto (keskustelu) 16. joulukuuta 2015 kello 14.42 (UTC)

The recommendation for using methods and tools. The table describes the ones whose use should be changed from the current situation.
green: supports goals; red: prevents achieving goals; empty: doesn't affect achieving the goal.
Method or tool and what it produces Use as a part of a whole Supports the goal principle?
Shared understanding Openness Shared information objects Critique Intentionality Causality Reuse Skill of summarising Evaluation and management Grouping Respect
Open policy practice: a method for evidence-based policy and impact assessment[3] Includes Open assessment and Variable (real-time scientific answer to a relevant question). To be taken into use in the government's work as decision preparation method and a tool for improving knowledge work.
Opasnet: a web-workspace for doing knowledge work.[4] Use the workspace to support open policy practice and open assessments.
Respect theory: an incentive for open knowledge work.[5] The Government begins to reward useful knowledge production with onors according to the respect theory. This requires a web tool for support.
Otakantaa: a web page for presenting projects and discussion.[6] The projects of decision preparation are described here. Scheduling, questionnaires and discussion forums are used.
Facebook: a community page for discussion about projects.[7] Parts of projects or questions asked are taken into conversation. Despite its problems reaches almost any target group.
Innovillage: a web-workspace for developing, describing and sharing good practises.[8] To be used for describing and discussing practices.
Avoin data -portaali: A portal for gathering and sharing open data.[9] To be used to describe open data everywhere in one place to make it easier to find.
eduuni: A common workspace with Microsoft sharepoint and wiki for cooperation. Access rights can be open or limited to a group.[10] In use in at least part of public government as a cooperation platform, also possibly coming to use for the Government
Hackpad (or Google Docs): a cloud service for text (or spreadsheet) editing.[11] Single products are drafted and written openly in for example Docs. However, larger wholes require also other functionalities.
VNK project register: gathers together all Prime Minister Office's projects.[12] Used to assemble work done in projects
Word and Excel: a personal program for producing text or spreadsheet.[13] Using separate text and spreadsheet documents is avoided. Instead everything is written in shared information objects with for example Google office programs.
Intranet-programs: Intranet solutions for different preparation work.[14] The same open source programs used in intranet as in internet, so information can be fluently moved and there is no challenge to learning to use the system.

2. Development needs for evidence-based decision preparation


What are the knowledge needs and improvement needs of social decision making and evidence-based decision preparation in civil government and elsewhere in the society? Especially under examination are things that are important for the work of the Government and help the Implementation plan of evidence-based policy of the Yhtakoytta-project.


Here will be a summary and synthesis of needs assessment.

3. Agile experiments of evidence-based decision making

Identified new practices

The needs assessment (project task 2) produces information about actual needs and needers through interviews. By comparing this information to the literature review about the methods and tools of evidence-based decision making (project task 1), alternative experimental practises can be identified. The developed practices are published through the project's and its stakeholders' communication channels.

Identified new government's practises have been represented in the recent years by:

  • The diverse participation channels of the foresight report and its anticipation phase in the internet and the real world (2013-2013). The blogs of the invited editors in chief, the web-commenting of the report and the visuality of the webreport showed an example of using the opportunities of the internet.
  • The ministry of environment's and the committee of future's experiment to crowd-source the preparation for off-road traffic law (2013). The report about the method and results recommends wider use of crowd-sourcing.
  • The visualisation of the state's draft budget shows incomes and expenses in a tree shape, with the help of search and focusing functions (an experiment of the committee for future)
  • The follow-up data of the government's programme, openly published by Prime Minister's Office (2014-2015).
  • Examples of crowd-sourcing from FinICT-project

Information designer in the house

Purpose and goal

By visually representing information complicated and huge contents can be more easily taken in than the summarising of information into text. In the experiment an information designer is taken to work for limited time for a chosen organisation as a kind of support service. The goal is to find a model where the benefit of information designing for evidence-based decision making is clearly greater than the cost of the acquisition of the service / work performance and conduct of the mandate, time and expenses taken into account.

Implementation plan and further information

See the page of the information designer in the house -project (in Finnish)

Open and agile competitive bidding

The open and agile competitive bidding on the information designer service has ended 6.11.2015. Read our notification here (in Finnish). The result of the bidding will be published 1.12.2015. Read the result of the assessment here (in Finnish).

Open impact assessment

An experiment of applying the Open policy practice.

Purpose and goal

The goal is to try open assessment in organising knowledge and producing shared understanding. The topic will be some current, socially important and complex topic from it will still be possible to produce a useful synthesis in a few months.

Implementation plan and further information

The assessment is carried out in the Opasnet-web-workspace. If needed, other means of participation, like Otakantaa-pages or Hackpad. The assessment is already being sketched here (in Finnish, about immigration), but it will get its own page once the topic becomes more accurate.

Collective writing

Purpose and goal

Collective writing means the simultaneous writing of multiple writers over the internet.

In the experiment collective writing is taken into use in meeting, pair and independent work.

The goal is to contribute to the creation of shared understanding and make sharing knowledge faster.

Implementation plan and further information

See the collective writing experiment page. (in Finnish)

4. Implementation plan of evidence-based policy


How can the better policy practises identified in Yhtäköyttä-project be implemented into national governance? Especially actions that support the government are examined.


The implementation plan includes three new social innovations that will be taken into use in the decision support for the government's work. These are a) shared understanding as a goal for knowledge work, b) variables aka knowledge crystals in structuring and interpreting of information and c) respect theory to motivate the production of information.

The implementation plan is built on top of open assessment and open policy practice, and you should also read descriptions of those methods.

Shared understanding as a goal for knowledge work

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<section begin=glossary />

Shared understanding between two individuals about a particular topic means a situation where each individual is able to correctly explain what the other thinks about the topic and why. This definition can be extended also to a larger group. Here shared understanding is a written description of the topic that covers the thinking and reasoning on the topic of all members. In this group setting, not everyone needs to be able to describe everyone else's thinking, but everyone should agree that the written description correctly contains their thinking about the topic. In this way, although not everything is known by everyone in the group, the written description effectively represents the shared understanding of the group. Importantly, online tools such as wikis can be used to develop shared understanding even about complex topics among large groups.
It is important to notice that shared understanding is not the same as consensus or agreement. In shared understanding people can still disagree on the topic, but they agree on what opinions there are about it. While the purpose of agreement in decision-making is to conclude about the best option and act based on it, the purpose of shared understanding is to identify one or more poor decision option that should be rejected. This is analogous to the scientific method. Instead of attempting to find the truth directly, it critically evaluates hypotheses and rejects all that are not plausible in the light of observations. As the scientific method has proved to be the best method known for developing knowledge about the world, shared understanding may prove to be an effective way to make public policy.

<section end=glossary />

Shared understanding in the work of the government

In decision support using shared understanding, for example in drafting a bill, it is not enough that a law text is created with valid arguments. It must also be described what other points of views there were and what were their arguments. Even views that were once suggested seriously but that turned out to be invalid will be described. This is important so they don't resurface when people not familiar with the previous work join the project. This could also be important for getting the acceptance of the public and others who have not participated.

To promote shared understanding as a practice, the law preparations will need a new, open web-workspace. It can be fully open (in the internet) or, if the situation requires, only open to those participating in the preparations. From the point of view of trying out the method, completely open preparation would be the most educational.

Additionally the work must be done in shared information objects. All separate topics have their own pages in the workspace, and all connected material is gathered on the page no matter who produced the information. The research question for each topic is precisely defined, and the purpose of the work is to produce the best possible answer to it. This means a transfer from a person-based information structure to a topic-based information structure. This way everyone participating in the preparation will have at hand the same information and tools, and are capable of evaluating what information is still missing from the goal of shared understanding. The schedule and to-do-list for the project will also be open, so following the case is easier. Separate to-do-lists are avoided, because they make it harder for the information to spread.

Thus the goal of shared understanding creates the following action proposition:

  • Action 1. Shared understanding is taken as a spelled out goal in projects that want to use the implementation plan.
  • Action 2. The preparations for the projects are done in an open web-workspace. The existing tools can still be used, but all information will be brought to the workspace without delay.
  • Action 3. The information is structured in the workspace by topic. Research questions for each topic are defined.
  • Action 4. The person in charge of the project opens the schedule and to-do-list of the project for everyone to see and maintains it for the durations of the project.

Knowledge crystals to structure the interpretation

Knowledge crystals are current best answers to specific research questions. They are produced and distributed openly using crowdsourcing and scientific criticism. For a presentations about their use, see Online collaborative models. Knowledge crystals are extensively used in Opasnet, where they are mainly in forms of variables, assessments, and methods. For descriptions of recent use of knowledge crystals, see Portal:Variables.


What do knowledge crystals have to be like to

  • be useful information odjects in impact assessments as they are,
  • contain the answer as open data,
  • withstand scientific critique,
  • be able to measure the use and usefulness of the knowledge they contain,
  • be able to, in an acceptable way, hand out scientific merit to the people involved in producing the content?


Knowledge crystals are the basic elements of for example assessments. They always describe a phenomenon of the real world. These can be the descriptions of physical phenomena, like exposure to a chemical, but also for example the population's opinion distribution on immigration. It is in the nature of knowledge crystals they are not final, but their content develops with new information and work put into them. Knowledge crystals are also not tied to any specific assessment, but can be used as parts of multiple assessments. An exception are assessments, that are produced to help with a certain decision, and whose answer doesn't change after the assessment is finished (even though the variables in the assessment may change). Knowledge crystals are also called variables because that's the role they have in assessment models. However, the word variable has so many other meanings that we prefer knowledge crystals in this context.

Another basic feature of a knowledge crystal is its standardised structure that enables the building of assessment models or different internet applications basing on it. So even though the content is updated as knowledge increases, a knowledge crystal remains in the same, computer-readable format. Usually only raw data is in more or less standard format, while the information object containing interpretations from the data are almost without exception made for humans instead of computers, like articles or reports. This makes the knowledge crystal a rare kind of information object: it is computer-readable interpretation of some specific topic.

There are different kind of knowledge crystals for different uses, and they are more accurately described on for example the pages variable, assessment and method. Here is a short description of the most important qualities of a knowledge crystal.

  • Knowledge crystals answer a specific research question.
  • The answer of a knowledge crystal is the current best synthesis of all available data. Typically it has a descriptive easy-to-read summary and a detailed quantitative result published as open data. An answer may contain several competing hypotheses, if they hold against scientific criticism. This means it also includes an accurate description of the uncertainty of the answer.
  • The rationale of knowledge crystals includes all information that is required to convince a critical rational observer of the validity of the answer.
  • The content of knowledge crystals is produced by crowdsourcing. Anyone can participate.
  • Knowledge crystals are aiming to find shared understanding. It is a situation, where all participants' views have been described well enough so that people can know fact facts and opinions exist about the topic and what agreements and disagreements exist and why.


Different information objects and their usage

Knowledge crystals contain scientific knowledge, but they differ from classic products of scientific research. Here is a short description and comparison.

A scientific article is the basic unit of publishing science today. For it a researcher or a research group produces data, i.e. observations about the world. The data is analysed, and in the end interpretations and conclusions are made based on the new results and previous scientific articles. The goal is to publish the article in a peer reviewed journal. Peer review means that a few researches in the field look through the manuscript and back it up before it is published. The peer review system aims to raise the quality of the manuscripts and weed out bad research. It is commonly agreed that the system isn't especially efficient for either purpose, but no one has come up with anything better. Someone has said that the primary product should be the original data, not an article: researchers should publish what they found, instead of writing descriptions about what they think they found.

Expert reports are gathered by an expert well familiar with the field in question, and are usually about some specific question like the topic of a future decision. They produce new knowledge but not new data. They are usually not peer reviewed, so they're not well respected among researchers and research funders. However, they are much better suited for decision support, because they answer the actual questions that are relevant to the decision at hand.

Open data is usually measured raw data that has been made public for anyone to use. It depends on the case whether the data is well cultured and quality-proofed, but it often has quality issues such as poor meta data. The practises of open data have only begun to take shape in the last few years, because researches haven't been in the habit of publishing raw data before. The problem with supporting decision-making with raw data is that it doesn't involve any interpretations or conclusions, and even less so of the relevant issues. Open data is great raw material for someone who knows how to analyse and interpret it and has the time, but quite useless to anyone else.

The idea of a knowledge crystal is to combine the parts of other information products useful to decision support and avoid the bad parts. The idea of a knowledge crystal is to build an information object around a specific research question. The question can be purely scientific, but in the case of decision support it is usually phrased to help precisely the future decision. To answer the question experts gather all possible material that will help answer the question. This includes research articles, expert reports, open data and all other silent knowledge of the experts that is not found in written form.

The knowledge crystal is worked on from the beginning in an open web-workspace with the help of crowdsourcing, and all information it contains is free to use. The material is structured, assessed and interpreted. The result is an answer that has passed all critique that has come up during the working process. Thus the answer is the best current interpretation of how the thing the question asks is in reality. Criticising the knowledge crystals openly during the work ensures that the answer is scientifically sound. The answer is usually in a computer-readable format for models to use and also in text and picture format for humans.

The strengths of a knowledge crystal are that it uses all relevant information (not only own data as in an article), interprets the data (unlike open data) and is produced by following the principles of openness and critique (unlike an expert report).

Producing shared understanding by utilising knowledge crystals

Main article: Shared understanding

A key objective of strategic research is to support societal decision making. This should be done already from the beginning by utilising a method called open policy practice. It was developed in THL in 2013 and it is based on long-term experience on decision support in environmental health. [15] [16] The most important principle of open policy practice is to develop shared understanding about a policy issue at hand. Shared understanding is a situation, where all participants have collaboratively described in writing what is known about the details of the issue, what are objectives of different stakeholders, where there are agreements and where there are disagreements and why. Participation is open and includes decision makers, experts, citizens, and other interested parties.

Shared understanding is reached by utilising systematic methods of collaborative work and participation. When there is disagreement about facts, resolution is found by using criticism and observations - the building blocks of science. The work is supported by modern internet tools such as open data bases, real-time collaborative editing software, wikis, and online computational models. These have been in active use in THL for years, and there is good expertise in such work.

In practice, each research question will have an own internet page on a collaborative web-workspace since the first day of the work. The answer to each question is iteratively built based on existing and new data, analyses, and discussions during the project. Anyone can participate in these discussions at any time, and the team members will moderate the discussions. The answers are updated regularly as new information arises, and the current best answer is available for users as open linked data at any given time. Web pages that are built in this way around relevant research questions are called knowledge crystals. [17]

It is important to notice, that some of the research questions are designed in a way that they offer practical and direct guidance to relevant and timely policy issues. Knowledge crystal work should actively seek collaboration and contributions from policy makers to develop relevant questions and to include policy perspective to the work. Knowledge crystals are a practical solution to the collaboration need on science-policy interface. This work is supported by more traditional methods of communication and collaboration, such as reports, policy briefs, stakeholder workshops, and press releases.

  1. Wikiquote: Richard Feynman
  2. Tanja Aitamurto. Joukkoistaminen demokratiassa: Poliittisen päätöksenteon uusi aika. ISBN 978-951-53-3457-2. Finnish Parliament, 2012, Helsinki. Also published online ISBN 978-951-53-3458-9 (PDF)
  3. Tuomisto. Yhteiskuntapolitiikka 1/2014.
  4. Pohjola et al Pragmatic knowledge services.
  5. Tuomisto. Respect theory. Opasnet 2015.
  6. Loaded 23.12.2015.
  7. Loaded 16.12.2015.
  8. Pohjola Pasi, Aalto-Kallio Mervi, Englund Kristel, Heikkinen Hanne, Koivisto Juha, Korhonen Satu, Lyytikäinen Merja, Peränen Niina, Pitkänen Niina, Virtanen Kati: Kohti avointa kehittämistä - matkaoppaana Innokylä! THL, 2014
  9. Avoin data -portaali Loaded 16.12.2015.
  10. Eduuni Loaded 16.12.2015.
  11. Loaded 23.12.2015.
  12. VNK project register Loaded 16.12.2015.
  13. Microsoft. Loaded 16.12.2015.
  14. Reference?
  15. Tuomisto, Jouni T.; Pohjola, Mikko; Pohjola, Pasi. Avoin päätöksentekokäytäntö voisi parantaa tiedon hyödyntämistä. [Open policy practice could improve knowledge use.] Yhteiskuntapolitiikka 1/2014, 66-75.
  16. Pohjola MV, Leino O, Kollanus V, Tuomisto JT, Gunnlaugsdóttir H, Holm F, Kalogeras N, Luteijn JM, Magnússon SH, Odekerken G, Tijhuis MJ, Ueland O, White BC, Verhagen H. State of the art in benefit-risk analysis: Environmental health. Food Chem Toxicol. (2012) 50: 1: 40-55. [1]
  17. Tuomisto JT. Massadata kansanterveyden edistämisessä. [Big data in promotion of public health.] Duodecim 2015;131:2179–87. URN:NBN:fi-fe201601071478

Knowledge crystals helping decision support

Recently impact assessments have been made to support the preparation of laws. This is needed, and the know-how and resourcing should be developed further. Knowledge crystals help with this work. Their basic idea and structure enable them being used directly or at least easily in a new, similar assessment. This saves resources and increases the quality of the content.

The national sector and expert institutions have huge resources and expertise in their field. However, their working pace doesn't go well with the quick pace of preparation of laws, and thus it's hard to get concrete and comprehensive expert support when it's needed. Open variables will help with this too, because they are precisely built by experts for decision impact assessments.

So far these knowledge crystals have been rarely produced, even though the conditions are often good for it. Take for example Simuloitu Suomi aka Sisu-model. It is a comprehensive microeconomic description of how taxation and social support effect the population in Finland. However, it is a complex and huge model and there are only a handful of experts in Finland who can use in with a few days' notice. Most of the information from the model is thus only usable if one of these experts has the time to use the model exactly when the knowledge is needed. A special problem is the population data required for the model. It's not accessible by other people because of privacy protection issues.

As a solution to this example problem is that instead of using real population data, the model uses a statistically equivalent fake data that doesn't involve the privacy protection problems. Then the model could be built perfectly workable and open in the internet. It could also be built so that anyone could run the sub-models or look for precise information produced by model runs. When the amount of users increases, also know-how increases and expertise can spread wider and do more. This is possible if the model is updated to consist of open variables, aka knowledge crystals.

Research institutions could aim their operation in a way that one central product (along with expert reports and scientific publications) would be knowledge crystals.

The use of knowledge crystals creates the following action propositions:

  • Action 5. Producing knowledge crystals is added to the goals of national research institutes. The progression of this operation model in different institutes is followed annually.
  • Action 6. Education on producing knowledge crystals is held for experts in all sectors.
  • Action 7. A law preparation project is chosen for which the preliminary assessment is done by using impact assessment based on knowledge crystals. Things learned from the trial is used in following projects.
  • Action 8. Sisu-model (or some other significant model) is turned into a model working in the internet with knowledge crystals. Simultaneously experiences are collected about open use and development of a model large and complex but useful in decision-making.

Respect theory to motivate knowledge production

The respect theory is a draft of what kind of social reward system would encourage people and communities to work for a better society. Respect is measured in onors. The amount of onors given for a certain respectable act is figured out by asking: "How valuable is the act from the point of view of the society, meaning how many onors should the person doing it recieve? Note that onors don't measure financial gain, but is measured separately and measures the part that isn't measurable by money."

Benefit, responsibility or virtue?
The respect theory doesn't say what kind of ethics should be followed: whether the respectability of an act comes from the benefit (Joth Stuart Mill), the meaning (Immanuel Kant) or virtue (Aristoteles). What's relevant is that the act is respected in the society. It's also relevant that respect is measured orthogonally in respect to economic gain. Some act can be economically very profitable, but is indifferent in a moral or aesthetic sense. That's when the economical meter, money, itself tells about the meaning of the act to society, and respect is zero. For example creating jobs and finding meaningful things to do to people brings companies onors, but making profit doesn't.
How is respect measured in practise?
There are two parts to measuring respect. On one hand it is estimated how much respect should be given for a certain act, meaning how different acts relate to each other in the eyes of respect. On the other hand evidence that someone has done an honourable act is evaluated. To the theory the first question is more important. As to evidence, it's mostly just assumed it exists and is valid. Because my purpose is to first apply the respect theory to openly published data, the evidence won't be a problem: through server logs it's possible to trace who has published some knowledge for everyone to see and where and when this has happened.
The principle of measuring respectability is simple. People interested in issues of the society come together in the internet to discuss the respectability of different acts and the arguments for it. After that every one can give the amount of onors they feel is right for the act by answering the question above. One's respect for an act can be changed over time if needed. This is how the respectability of an act is constantly determined in the markets. So that the discussion could get started, the value of one onor will be set at the amount of acts helping society that a citizen can be assumed to do during one day. Or, adapting the guideline of scouts: do one good deed a day, get one onor.
How do onors relate to money?
The purpose of the respect theory is to motivate people to do acts that help the society, and the purpose of onors is to work as moral rewards on their own. The onors one has earned are public information, and the society's task is to keep up the respect given by onors. However, doing good acts takes people's time away from other things, like a paying job. It might be beneficial for the society to support economically people who want to concentrate on doing things that gain you onors, but in the current economical system doesn't gain you money. Here is a proposition to be a base for a conversation:
  • A person earns onors as follows
Failed to parse (Missing <code>texvc</code> executable. Please see math/README to configure.): o_t = \sum_i o_{i,t} n_i,
where ot is the amount of onors a person earns at time t, oi is the amount of onors a person earns by doing the act i, n is the number of good acts provably done by a person and t is a moment in time. It is worth noting that the onors for the same deed can change in time as the values of the society change.
  • A person can reclaim their onors in money as follows:
Failed to parse (Missing <code>texvc</code> executable. Please see math/README to configure.): m_{t,i} = n_{i,k=2} a_t (\sum_i o_{i,t} \sum_{k=1}^2 n_{k,i})^{b_t}
so that
Failed to parse (Missing <code>texvc</code> executable. Please see math/README to configure.): n_i = \sum_{k=1}^3 n_{k,i},
where m is the amount of money the society pays for the onors reclaimed in the case, a is the "conversion rate" for onors (euros per onorb), b (0 < b < 1) is a progression coefficient, and k = 1,2,3 so that 1 means the acts from which the onors are already reclaimed, 2 those that are now being reclaimed and 3 those that have not yet been reclaimed. A person can so reclaim the monetary value of the acts they want. Onors stay with people permanently, but after reclaiming them they no longer hold economical value. Unlike the total number of onors, the amount of reclaimed onors is not public information. In the equation the b in the power is meant to cause progression, because the reclaiming of money is supposed to support the long lasting work of big masses of people instead of rewarding with huge amounts of money those who are able to create some new, society changing innovation. The smaller b is, the steeper the progression and the more small amounts of onors are valued. If b = 0 what we're talking about is actually a civil salary, because the respect for ones acts doesn't affect the sum paid.

When calculating the progression those acts are taken into account that have been reclaimed before or are being reclaimed now, but not those ones from which onors have been received but not yet been reclaimed. This is to avoid a situation, where new onors lower the economical value of previously gained onors and thus would tempt to reclaim them for tactical reasons. However, it is important to note that the economical value of onors are calculated based the rates for acts at the moment of reclaiming. This is because the value of many acts are often not understood until a lot later, and so the current rate is societally thinking better than the rate at the moment of the act or some other moment in time. This is true to both the reclaiming rate and progression coefficient. This is why room for speculation is left and cannot be removed.

Why should society build a respect system?
Economists have said that middle-class work is disappearing. In the future the most secure jobs are either expert tasks, that produce especially a lot of value, or the kind of practical jobs like barber or nurse that can't be moved abroad. Digitalisation and globalisation threat many middle-class current professions. However, sensible and meaningful social work isn't disappearing from the world. Instead the resources of the current economical system to invest in this kind of work ends, because from the point of view of market forces opening data, reading to children and listening to your neighbour's worries doesn't create demand on a market that runs on money. The respect theory offers a solution that doesn't involve the reader, the child or the neighbour having to pay for others to help them. Instead the motor would be people's knowledge that the society finds these acts respectable and has the practical motivator of handing out onors for good deeds, which also help one's economical situation. This is how a balance is found: people are motivated to do good to each other, and the society encourages this by offering meaningful experiences and by giving resources to support the activities.

Onors motivating governance and sector institutes

Social knowledge work isn't easily bent to the current copyright system that is based on preventing the use of information unless the user pays the producer of the information a compensation. However, it is seen in research that the highest benefit for a society is reached when knowledge is as wide spread and as well available to everyone as possible. Thus it's interesting to try out a reward system that doesn't limit but encourages the sharing of information.

Onors can be used in producing and using scientific knowledge, if the principles and practises of giving out onors and the respecting of the people who get them are agreed on. Finland could act as a visionary in freeing scientific knowledge, if onors are given real value in performance conversations and in position appointments. Currently almost the only thing giving a researcher merit is a scientific peer-reviewed published article. Even though international practises change slowly, it's possible to move faster in Finland. Especially the government can make a difference to what things are emphasized in the ministry-governed expert and sector institutes. For example it would be justified that a researcher gains onors when they publish a research idea, the test setting, raw data, statistical analysis of someone else's data, or an article. Currently only the last is a formal merit.

Especially it would be possible to give onors to researchers and experts, who actively produce valid knowledge directly for decision support. On top of traditional expert work this includes producing knowledge crystals aka open variables or participating in building shared understanding.

The respect theory creates the following action proposals:

  • Action 9. A task force is set up to create rules for measuring respect for the knowledge work in decision support for the government. The task force is in charge of the work, which is done openly online and aiming for a shared understanding.
  • Action 10. The ministries bring opening knowledge and the merits that are given for producing it into conversation in the institutes they govern. The recommendations of the respect task force are taken into use in result guidance.
  • Action 11. Research institutes take onors related to opening data into use in personnel performance reviews.
  • Action 12. Onors are taken into use also in the preparation of laws, so that anyone taking part in the preparation can earn onors with their actions.
  • Action 13. The government starts a campaign to bring into use the described motivation structure in Finland. The costs and other effects of taking the system into use is investigated.

5. The communication and working plan for Yhtäköyttä-project

Acquisition notice

17.12.2015 The bidding competition has ended and we will publish the result as soon as possible.

10.12.2015 We're looking for a graphic designer to design the visual side of Yhtakoytta-project. (in Finnish)


What kind of communication and working plan should the Yhtakoytta-project have to successfully reach its goals? Especially, what should the communication be like to support the Implementation plan of evidence-based policy as efficiently as possible?



What is the central goal that is supported with interaction and communication?

  1. The activation of the Government, ministries and other state administration to improve decision making.
  2. Surveying the needs of mentioned key groups.
  3. The communicating about and promoting of the recommendations of the implementation plan.
  4. Increasing awareness about the increasing needs of performance, i.e. the operation capacity supporting decision making in state administration and research institutions.
  5. Increasing awareness and standards of evidence-based decision making.

Target groups and the users of knowledge

Who should the communication be aimed at? Who should know about research aside from the orderer?

  • All ministries
  • Open science and research -project
  • State's sector research institutes
  • Universities and colleges
  • Finnish Academy strategic research council
  • Local and municipal authorities
  • Ministry of social affairs and health
  • Citizen networks and organisations of open democracy

The means, tools and resources of communication and interaction

What are the ways and channels of communication at different stages of the project?

  • Web-workspace Opasnet. There can be put up the website for the project and maintain a project blog.
  • OKFFI's website and communication channels
  • THL's communication channels
  • Oxford Research's communication channels

The most important communicational resources are the partnets' webtools mentioned above (are usable without further resources) and the work time of the people participating in the project. This has been described in more detail in the budget.

Information management


The project produces a literary review, needs assessment and implementation plan. For these a lot of background information is gathered from literature, stakeholders and possibly through the agile experiments. All knowledge is produced openly online for also others to use.

Ownership, tenure and copyright

All knowledge is produced openly online with an open license, typically CC-BY-SA. This ensures the usability and reuse of the knowledge.

Data protection of material

Because the knowledge is open, no encryption or limitations to reading are needed. For integrity and preservation see next point.

The preservation and access to material

The reports of the project are published electronically in THL's publications, which is a part of the permanent collection of Kansalliskirjasto (public library). Detailed information is also gathered and stored in open Opasnet-web-workspace maintained by THL. THL has committed to maintaining Opasnet for the next few years, and all produced information will remain openly usable online also after the project has ended. Opasnet takes backups daily and according to the plan an archive copy for permanent storage for Kansalliskirjasto.

See also

Project topics

Project main page · Task 1. The methods and tools for evidence-based decision making · Task 2. Development needs for evidence-based decision preparation · Task 3. Agile experiments of evidence-based decision making · Task 4. Implementation plan of evidence-based policy · Task 5. The communication and working plan for Yhtakoytta-project · Task 6. The final report of Yhtakoytta-project

Methods and tools

Open policy practice · Open assessment · Open policy practice municipal pilot (in Finnish) · Assessent of environment-caused health problems (in Finnish) · Tekaisu-project · Category:Tekaisu

Publications and other things useful

Yhtäköyttä (Project introduction in Finnish) · op_fi:Avoin päätöksentekokäytäntö voisi parantaa tiedon hyödyntämistä (in Finnish) · op_fi:Ympäristö- ja terveysvaikutuksia koskeva tieto kunnallisessa päätöksenteossa (in Finnish) · All pages in category Yhtakoytta

This page is produced as a part of the Finnish Government's research plan assignment in 2015 ( The producers of the information are responsible for the contents. The contents do not represent the views of the Government.