Phenomenon maps

A phenomenon map tells us what we know about a phenomenon. It is a method for creating general overviews and for carrying out reliable knowledge syntheses for decision-makers.

Phenomenon maps combine:

  • Systematicity: A quality outcome is ensured by careful and systematic groundwork: a systematic literature review (what research exists on the phenomenon), a quality assessment of evidence (how reliable the results are) and an identification of research gaps (what research data are we lacking).
  • Tailorability: Phenomenon maps are constructed from knowledge syntheses that examine and structure the phenomenon in different ways. They can include elements that (1) look at the phenomenon comprehensively, (2) in-depth reviews of particular aspects of the phenomenon, and (3) knowledge gap maps.
  • Communicability: The phenomenon maps are produced in close interaction with experts working on the subject, from researchers to government, organisations and businesses. This ensures that the final outcome responds to real needs. The process is facilitated by professional science brokerers.

How does a phenomenon map benefit different stakeholders?

  • Decision-makers: high quality, timely and easily usable knowledge on what is reliably known and what is not
  • Researchers: support, tools and a facilitated channel for social impact
  • Scientific community: support for meta-scientific skills and knowledge synthesis processes
  • Research organisations: knowledge on research needs and gaps; support to increase the impact of research
  • Funders: information on research and knowledge gaps; increased impact of funded research
  • Businesses: high quality, topical and easily utilisable knowledge

How is a phenomenon map created?

There are four main steps in the process of producing a phenomenon map:

  1. Phenomenon roundtables: We bring together key experts from the research community, the government, the third and fourth sectors as well as the business world. Facilitated workshops will identify matches between existing needs and available knowledge.
  2. Knowledge mapping: A carefully designed and implemented mapping of research provides the basis for synthesis work. Studies are subjected to an assessment and only the most reliable are included. The knowledge gap map makes visible the type of research that has been done on the phenomenon as well as the thematic gaps.
  3. Tailored synthesis: Producing concise overviews of varying levels of systematicity to meet the more specific information needs identified at the desktop stage. The results will be formulated in a format that is easy to communicate and receive.
  4. Impact work: Dissemination phase is carried out in close collaboration with key stakeholders leveraging their impact networks. The content is collated and communicated in various different formats, and stakeholder workshops are organised for the purposes of interpreting the results and identifying policy pathways.

Completed phenomenon maps

  • The impacts of digital media on children, young people and senior citizens, published in Finnish and in English.
  • Itla Children’s Foundation applied the phenomenon map in their research report related to differences in school performance and educational pathways and connection to family background. (Read the publication in Finnish.)

Four year Phenomenon map project started in 2022. It is funded by the Foundation of Jane and Aatos Erkko and all the Finnish Science Academies will contribute in it.

If you are interested in the topic, please contact