Classification based on research disciplines takes place in numerous applications. Until recently, each reporting agency in Flanders used its own discipline classification scheme that was developed based on the wishes and needs of that agency. In Flanders, this resulted in the use of 3 different research discipline classification schemes, i.e. the FWO, FRIS and VLIR disciplines.
Within the framework of simplifying the administrative reporting obligations of researchers and research institutions, and commissioned by the Flemish government, ECOOM-Hasselt has developed the Flemish Research Discipline Standard (VODS). The VODS is a classification scheme for research disciplines, which replaces and integrates the 3 aforementioned Flemish research discipline classification schemes into one classification scheme of 4 hierarchical levels that is based on the OECD FORD classification scheme.
The VODS is a versatile classification scheme that is used to classify all research activities in Flanders (both fundamental and applied research), that is used by all stakeholders in Flanders (universities, university colleges and other research institutions) and that allows research information to be reported directly, without further transposition, to Flemish and international agencies and be made visible on the FRIS research portal (https://www.researchportal.be/). The VODS will therefore be used as the standard for research reporting in Flanders.
Structure of the Flemish Research Discipline Standard
The Flemish Research Discipline Standard can be used for many purposes.
- The VODS is a hierarchical classification scheme, consisting of 4 levels of which each discipline is coded with a unique 2-digit code and inherits the codes of the higher levels so that the position of a discipline in the tree structure can be deducted at all times. The hierarchy and granularity of the VODS ensure that this classification scheme can be used in versatile way, by many stakeholders and for many purposes.
- Each discipline in the VODS is provided with a definition. This definition describes exactly what is meant by the term of a discipline and which other disciplines may be related to a discipline. The addition of semantic descriptions of disciplines not only increases the quality of the use of the classification scheme, but also facilitates the common use of language in research reports and the interoperability of the reported data.
- Each set of disciplines at the lowest level is concluded with a "not elsewhere classified" discipline, characterised by a code ending in "99". The purpose of this residual category is to detect missing or newly created disciplines. ECOOM-Hasselt will regularly analyse these "not elsewhere classified" disciplines and update the VODS based on these findings.
- In addition to the hierarchical representation of the research disciplines in a tree, the Flemish Research Discipline Standard also visualizes 3 interdisciplinary topics. Interdisciplinary topics use methods and/or techniques from disciplines that differ substantially from each other and whose unique combination has a synergistic effect on the research practice. The 3 interdisciplinary topics that occur in the current version of the Flemish Research Discipline Standard are:
Use of the Flemish Research Discipline Standard
Currently, the Flemish Research Discipline Standard is used by the following institutions:
- FRIS research portal (https://www.researchportal.be/en)
- Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO Vlaanderen)
- Flemish Interuniversity Board (VLIR Personeelsstatistieken)
The VODS is made available via a CC-BY-NC license. If you wish to use the VODS, please send us an e-mail so we can keep the list of users up-to-date.
Request the Flemish Research Discipline Standard here.
Concordance with (inter)national classifications
Concordance schemes map the disciplines of the Flemish Research Discipline Standard to other research discipline classification schemes. The purpose of these concordance schemes is to record the mapping of the VODS, so that each user uses the same mapping and the conversion of data, for example in the context of longitudinal data analyses, is facilitated.
The concordance between two classification schemes is always mapped in two directions, i.e. 1) from the VODS to another classification scheme (backward mapping) and 2) from the other classification scheme to the VODS (forward mapping). Both mappings are located on a different tab in the concordance file. The backward mapping scheme starts from the VODS and maps each VODS discipline to at least one of the disciplines of the other classification scheme. Special attention was paid to the fact that each VODS discipline had to be mapped to at least one of the disciplines of the other classification scheme and that all disciplines of the other classification scheme had to receive the mapping of at least one VODS discipline. The forward mapping scheme was then deduced from the backward mapping table, so that each discipline from the other classification scheme was mapped to at least one VODS discipline.
The following concordance schemes are available:
- Concordance OECD Fields of Research & Development (FORD)
- Concordance Fields of education and training (ISCED)
- Concordance FRIS/IWETO scientific disciplines
- Concordance FWO disciplines
- Concordance VLIR scientific disciplines
The concordance schemes are made available via a CC-BY-NC license. If you wish to use these schemes, please send us an e-mail so we can keep the list of users up-to-date.
More information on the development of the Flemish Research Discipline Standard can be found in:
Vancauwenbergh, S., Poelmans, H. (2019).
The creation of the Flemish research discipline list, an important step forward in harmonising research information (systems).
Procedia Computer Science, 146, 265-278.
Vancauwenbergh, S., Poelmans, H. (2019).
The Flemish Research Discipline Classification Standard: A Practical Approach.
Knowledge Organization, 46(5), 354-363.