Evaluation: Stronger support needed for future fields of physics
The quality of Finnish physics research is quite high and the research covers most major international trends. However, future funding support should especially be targeted at promoting the pursuit of emerging fields. These are some of the conclusions drawn by an international panel of experts appointed by the Academy of Finland to evaluate physics research in Finland.
In its evaluation report, covering the years 2007–2011, the panel also concludes that Finland hosts a number of very successful or even internationally leading units in the field of physics. However, physics research in Finland must also be able to regenerate to allow for the discovery of new, developing fields.
“Funding agencies should seek to identify fields with new developments and give them the possibility to grow. At the national level, Finland should avoid building and supporting almost identical activities at different institutions, as the country is too small for that,” says the panel in the report.
Further, the panel finds that the overall funding situation for physics at Finnish universities is quite good, though the proportion of competitive funding, as compared to that of core funding, is too high. Most units get their largest proportion of external funding from the Academy of Finland. In 2007, at the start of the five-year evaluation period, the proportion of core funding was on average about 50 per cent. By 2011, it had decreased to 37 per cent. In practice, this has led to a situation where many units are highly successful in obtaining competitive funding, while other units struggle to get sufficient support from their universities and from external sources. And an increase in stable core funding, the panel says, would allow for a bolder seizing of long-term opportunities in new fields of research.
According to the panel’s assessment, current doctoral training in Finland is at an excellent level. However, the imminent changes in the doctoral training system are a source of some concern. The panel appreciates Finland’s current strategy where national doctoral training programmes in specialised areas of physics pool the resources and expertise from various institutions to train graduate students in these areas.
The evaluation panel included professors Christian Enss (Chair), Angela Bracco, Jörg Büchner, Franco Cacialli, Hans-Friedrich Graf, Ulf Karlsson, Finn Ravndal and Clare Yu.
The evaluation covered 30 physics units in Finland. The panel’s assessment addressed issues such as the quality of research, the research environments and infrastructures, funding and researcher training.
The English-language evaluation report is part of the Academy of Finland publication series and is available as a PDF download at www.aka.fi/publications > Publication series.
Senior Science Adviser Pentti Pulkkinen, tel. +358 29 533 5093, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi
Academy of Finland Communications
Communications Manager Riitta Tirronen
tel. +358 29 533 5118, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi