Report: Finnish universities face strategic choices, should focus on their strengths and seize new initiatives
In an international comparison of scientific impact, Finland ranks just above mid-table. The gap to the top performers, however, seems to be growing. According to the 2014 report on the state of scientific research in Finland, Finnish science is in danger of falling further behind the other observed countries. The report goes on to note that Finnish universities and research organisations will have to make an increasing number of strategic choices, focus on their strengths and step up collaboration, and invest in the new initiatives that might emerge therefrom.
Finland’s position in the scientific world community has remained fairly stable throughout the 2000s. At the same time, however, many other countries have picked up speed and are now making strides.
The disciplines hosted by Finnish universities are often quite small, and the same disciplines may be represented at several universities at the same time. “The universities must now strengthen their profiling, improve their distribution of work and strive for more collaboration. And funding agencies must encourage this strategic profiling through major funding solutions,” says Professor Heikki Mannila, President of the Academy of Finland and chair of the report’s steering group. There is also further work to be done in terms of the cooperation and distribution of work between universities and research institutes.
The report mentions the recruitment of professors as a concrete form of strategic decision-making. Finnish universities must look to enhance their recruiting processes. As a rule, professorships should be advertised broadly and internationally. The universities should also tap into the opportunities offered by tenure-track systems.
Research infrastructures are also a very important issue in Finnish science and research. Improving the research infrastructure environment will also require a number of strategic decisions.
The report includes the observation that international co-publications have far greater scientific impact than publications written by researchers working in Finland alone. This indicates that research organisations, researchers and funding agencies in Finland will still need to systematically reinforce the international dimension of Finnish science and research.
The Academy of Finland has reviewed the state of scientific research in Finland regularly since the 1990s. The 2014 report scrutinises Finnish universities and research institutes for their teaching and research staff, research funding and scientific impact, measured with bibliometric methods. The report also includes evaluations of individual disciplines across the whole country and, for the first time ever, across individual universities and research institutes. Special themes for the 2014 report are research infrastructures and the recruitment of professors in 2010–2013.
In unprecedented scope and detail, the 2014 report on the state of scientific research in Finland provides a wealth of statistical information for research organisations and policy-makers. More information is available at www.aka.fi/fi/tiedepoliittinen-toiminta/tieteen-tila/ (currently only in Finnish). The Finnish-language summary is edited by Anu Nuutinen and Annamaija Lehvo from the Academy of Finland.