Nordic sport sciences research gets excellent review, should focus on innovation


The overall quality of Nordic sport and exercise sciences research is excellent, but there are major differences between individual research units, countries and domains. This is the conclusion of a panel of experts that has evaluated sport sciences in the Nordic countries. Each country, the panel says, has its own strong fields, medical and health sciences being the strongest at the Nordic level when estimated by publication volume.

The panel’s report presents the results of an international evaluation of altogether 97 units, departments or research groups performing sport sciences research at universities, hospitals or research institutes in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden). For evaluation purposes, the sport sciences field was divided into three main domains: basic and applied sciences; medical and health sciences; and social and behavioural sciences.

According to the panel, the innovativeness and groundbreaking nature of Nordic sport sciences research has decreased from its traditionally high level. Although the impact of research was not evaluated as such, it can be recognised especially in the support systems for elite athletes.

The focus of Finnish sport sciences research has been driven towards health-related aspects rather than towards elite sport performance, the panel says. One of the key strengths of Finnish research in the field is the close link between the basic and applied sciences. In particular, Finland has conducted excellent research on the role of physical activity or inactivity in chronic disease prevention and has invested in researcher training in this area. In addition, Finland has a long and successful history in sports pedagogy and sociology.

The report lists several recommendations that should be implemented to improve the competitiveness of Nordic sport sciences research. These include continuing and strengthening Nordic research cooperation, supporting collaboration of multidisciplinary research projects, focusing on the decrease in physical activity, aiming at publishing in higher-impact journals, maintaining high-quality research on elite athletes, and re-establishing Nordic postgraduate training programmes. In addition, the panel sees that Nordic sport sciences researchers have good possibilities to establish a Nordic centre of excellence in the field.

The evaluation panel was chaired by Professor William Haskell from Stanford University. Its members were Professor Karyn Esser from the University of Kentucky, Professor Peter Bärtsch from Heidelberg University, Professor Stuart Biddle from Loughborough University, Professor Jennifer Hargreaves, Professor Ron Maughan from Loughborough University, and Professor Bart Vanreusel from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

The evaluation was managed by a steering group chaired by Professor Michael Kjær from Denmark. The project group, which was charge with the practical implementation, was chaired by Professor Mikael Fogelholm from Finland.

The evaluation was commissioned by the NORIA-net project “Nordic Evaluation of Sport Sciences” with funding from NordForsk. For more information, please contact coordinator Riikka Pellinen at, tel. +358 40 1580 730 or +358 40 355 2453.

The evaluation report is part of the Academy of Finland publication series and is available as a PDF download at > Publication series.

Academy of Finland Communications
Communications Specialist Leena Vähäkylä
tel. +358 9 7748 8327

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