Academy of Finland Newsletter, May 2012
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Finland gets expert group for research infrastructures
The Academy of Finland has appointed a national expert group for research infrastructures in Finland, the Finnish Research Infrastructure Committee. The committee is chaired by Professor Eero Vuorio (Biocenter Finland), with Vice President for Research Riitta Mustonen (Academy of Finland) as vice chair. The members are Director Riikka Heikinheimo (Tekes), Director Annu Jylhä-Pyykönen (Ministry of Education, Science and Culture), Director General Lea Kauppi (Finnish Environment Institute), Industrial Counsellor Petri Lehto (Ministry of Employment and the Economy), Professor Matti Manninen (University of Jyväskylä), Director General Jussi Nuorteva (National Archives), Professor Erkki Oja (Aalto University), Professor Taina Pihlajaniemi (University of Oulu), Professor Anne-Christine Ritschkoff (VTT), Professor Lea Rojola (University of Turku), Director-General Päivi Sillanaukee (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health), Director General Petteri Taalas (Finnish Meteorological Institute), Professor Tuula Teeri (Aalto University), and Professor Thomas Wilhelmsson (University of Helsinki). At the Academy of Finland, the person in charge of infrastructure issues is Senior Science Adviser Eeva Ikonen.
The committee has been charged with the task of updating Finland’s overall policy on research infrastructures (RI) and developing policies at the national level. Finland’s national RI roadmap will be updated in 2013 at the latest, and the committee will assess the urgency and priority level of projects included in the roadmap. In addition, the committee will draw up a proposal for the Budget on the funding of RI projects. Earlier in May 2012, the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture allocated EUR 4 million to the Academy for RI funding.
Academy to review communications research
The Academy of Finland has initiated an evaluation of communications research, to be carried out by an international panel in 2012 and 2013. The evaluation will be managed by a steering group appointed by the Academy’s Research Council for Culture and Society and chaired by Professor Pauline von Bonsdorff from the University of Jyväskylä.
The Academy has also launched an international evaluation of physics research in Finland. A key goal of the evaluation is to assess the international standard of Finnish research in the field. The evaluation will also look at how basic physics research has been divided into different sectors while physics in itself is increasingly utilised in new domains of application. In addition, the evaluation will focus on researcher mobility and networking, and explore the use of both national and international research infrastructures.
Evaluation panel: Finland needs more long-term research on power
The Academy of Finland’s Research Programme on Power and Society in Finland (VALTA) ran from 2007 through 2010 and had a total funding of EUR 6.5 million. In the programme’s recently published evaluation report, the evaluation panel suggests that the Academy consider incentives that would encourage researchers to view the research programmes as a step towards further research and not strictly tied to the period for which funding was awarded. The panel concludes that the programme had a distinct national profile in comparison to other Nordic power programmes. The aim to cover as much of the thematic scope of the programme as possible, the panel says, resulted in a relatively large number of projects with scarce financial resources. Owing to the diversity of project topics, spontaneous networking and collaboration took place only to a minor extent. At the same time, however, the programme did achieve its objectives very well in terms of producing broad-based research on power and its changes in Finland.
The VALTA research programme was set against a background of a number of changes that had occurred in Finnish society and its power structure over the past few decades. Finland became a member of the European Union and the European Monetary Union, Finnish companies have become increasingly international, and the Finnish economy is now thoroughly integrated into the global economy. The programme’s projects looked at how the use of power in Finland has been shaped by differences in income, work, geography, religion, gender and ethnicity. According to the evaluation panel, the research programme effectively encompassed the past, present and future of power in Finland.
Projects picked for Research Programme on the Sustainable Governance of Aquatic Resources
The Academy of Finland has selected the projects to be included in the Research Programme on the Sustainable Governance of Aquatic Resources (AKVA). Within the AKVA programme, a total of EUR 11 million is granted to twelve research projects. The call for letters of intent for the programme attracted 65 applications, of which 33 projects were invited to submit a full application at the second application stage. Among the twelve projects that were granted funding, ten are consortiums composed of several research teams. Research within the programme will be conducted at the Universities of Helsinki, Oulu, Eastern Finland, Tampere and Turku and at Aalto University. The research institutes involved in the programme are the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), MTT Agrifood Research Finland, the Government Institute for Economic Research (VATT), the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla), and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).
The programme is highly multidisciplinary and focuses on researching aquatic resources and their use from various perspectives, including environmental research, law and culture research. For example, THL’s project within the programme will look into how to improve the sustainable use of aquatic resources and secure the supplies. The project’s researchers will also analyse the sources, behaviour and transfer of microbes and chemicals in water systems.
New Centre of Excellence Programme attracts many CoE hopefuls
The first call stage of the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence Programme 2014–2019 attracted a total of 128 letters of intent. This shows that there is active interest in the opportunities provided by Centre of Excellence status. The letters of intent covered a wide variety of research fields and were submitted by both universities and research institutes from across Finland.
Next, the letters of intent will be reviewed by international experts in the fields concerned. The Academy Board will decide in November which candidates will make it to the second round of application. The Academy has funded Centres of Excellence since 1995. The fifth CoE Programme is scheduled to run from 2012 to 2017, and it involves 15 Centres.
Finland interested in Brazil’s Science without Borders programme
Finland is negotiating with Brazil on joining the Science without Borders programme. The Brazilian government’s programme will provide scholarships for undergraduate students, doctoral candidates and young researchers from Brazil to study abroad. In all, the Brazilian government intends to fund 75,000 scholarship students from its top 120 institutes of higher education, with an additional 25,000 expected to be funded by the private sector.
In return, Brazil will be offering exchange and visiting researcher programmes to foreign scholars. In connection with the Science without Borders programme, Professor Manoel Barral-Netto, Director of Institutional Collaboration at CNPq (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development), visited Finland in May and met representatives from the Academy of Finland, the Centre for International Mobility (CIMO) and universities.
Academy of Finland and NRF of Korea: joint call in nanoscience and ICT
The Academy of Finland and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) have opened a joint call with the aim of supporting high-standard, long-term and systematic Finnish-Korean research collaboration and promoting the creation and strengthening of research networks between the two countries. Applications are invited in the fields of nanoscience and ICT.
The funding decisions will be made jointly by the Academy and the NRF. The funding is granted towards the salaries of the researchers, indirect employee costs, researcher mobility, acquisition of consumables and research equipment, other costs and overheads. In the call, funding is granted to no more than four joint projects. The Academy can grant a Finnish research team a maximum of EUR 125,000/project/year.
Stories about Science showcases the impact of Academy funding
The impacts of the Academy of Finland’s long-term funding of leading-edge scientific research can be seen in the research careers of successful Finnish researchers and in the results of their research projects. Some of these success stories have now been compiled into a book published by the Academy, Stories about Science. This book of interviews with Finnish scientists tells the story of how research funded by the Academy makes an impact in different sectors of society.
Stories about Science is a compilation of interviews with both early-career and more senior researchers, and is intended to introduce the very best of Finnish science and research and some of the most memorable moments and achievements of Finnish scientists working in different disciplines. As the interviews show, research can indeed contribute to improving health, technology, nature conservation and culture on a broad scale. The book is available in English and Finnish. To order a copy, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the showcased scientists is Academy Professor Ilkka Hanski, who explains the impacts of the research done at his Centre of Excellence in Metapopulation Research as follows: “The loss of biodiversity is not just a problem in and of itself, but it’s also a reliable indicator of other major changes, such as the consequences of continuing human population growth and the escalating exploitation of natural resources.” Seppo Hentilä, Professor of Political History, in turn describes the modern role of researchers in popularising science: “Researchers are duty-bound to present their results in a way that can compete for the general public’s attention.”
Academy of Finland at a glance
The Academy’s objective is to promote scientific research of a high standard through long-term quality-based research funding, research and science-policy expertise, and efforts to strengthen the position of science and scientific research. In 2012, the Academy will make decisions on research funding worth EUR 327 million. For more information, go to www.aka.fi/eng or send a message to email@example.com.