The Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Biosciences and Environment has decided to fund 20 new posts as Postdoctoral Researcher. The applicant success rate was 15 per cent, with the Research Council’s total funding for the posts amounting to some 5.4 million euros.
The Research Council had a total of 132 applications for Postdoctoral Researcher funding reviewed following the September 2016 call. The additional funds allocated to the Academy of Finland in the state budget for 2017 made possible a higher applicant success rate compared to previous years. The additional funds enabled the Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering to fund more high-quality applications than before under the Postdoctoral Researcher funding scheme. Women accounted for 60 per cent of the funding recipients.
The most important funding criteria were the scientific quality of the research plan and the competence of the applicant. The Research Council also considered the applicants’ opportunities to gain more independence during their project and their long-term international mobility. Other science policy objectives that influenced the decisions included supporting scientifically talented early-career researchers who are gaining independence, scientific courage, a positive risk-benefit balance and societal impact.
Examples of funded Postdoctoral Researchers
Sesilja Aranko (Aalto University) aims to produce stronger spider silk by using novel protein-peptide conjugation pairs. A major challenge in mimicking spider silk is the production of spider dragline silk proteins in bacteria, as these need to be thousands of amino acids long and highly repetitive. This project aims at solving the problem by producing shorter spider silk protein fragments, conjugating them after purification using protein-peptide conjugation pairs and pulling fibres from the long silk proteins obtained by conjugation. To do so, new conjugation pairs need to be developed.
Olli Loukola (University of Oulu) studies cognitive abilities and selective social learning in bumblebees. Recent studies suggest that bumblebees can learn tool use and other seemingly complex, non-natural tasks socially. Learning how to use tools requires some level of cognitive flexibility from the bumblebees that goes above and beyond simple operant conditioning. Research has yet to determine what level of insight or reasoning drives this ability. Loukola’s main aim is to focus on two complementary aspects: the cognitive abilities of bumblebees (causal reasoning in tool use and cooperation tasks) and their selective social learning.
Andrea Santangeli (University of Helsinki) explores novel perspectives for biodiversity conservation in farmlands. Recent changes in farming practices are threatening the persistence of many farmland species, from small passerine birds to vultures. There is scope for improving the environmental sustainability of farming practices, should evidence become available regarding what actions work and where conservation efforts should be concentrated. Santangeli aims to provide evidence that will inform policymakers and practitioners on the best practices for biodiversity conservation in farmlands. The project will identify optimal strategies for allocating resources to agri-environment scheme measures and determine areas of highest priority for the conservation of vultures.
- Science Adviser Outi Ala-Honkola, tel. +358 295 335 029, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi
- Science Adviser Laura Forsström, tel. +358 295 335 041, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi
- Senior Adviser Timo Kolu, tel. +358 295 335 044, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi
Academy of Finland Communications
Vesa Varpula, Communications Specialist
tel. +358 295 335 131
The Academy of Finland’s mission is to fund high-quality scientific research, provide expertise in science and science policy, and strengthen the position of science and research. In 2017, our funding for research amounts to 437 million euros. Part of our funds (€70.7m in 2017) come from proceeds of Finland’s national gaming company Veikkaus.