The Strategic Research Council (SRC) at the Academy of Finland funds high-quality research that has great societal impact. The research consortia funded by the SRC should seek to find concrete solutions to grand challenges that require multidisciplinary approaches. An important element of such research is active and ongoing collaboration between those who produce new knowledge and those who use it.
At its meeting on 9 May, the SRC selected 14 consortia to be included in its strategic research programmes. Thirteen consortia will be funded under the four new programmes Urbanising Society; Skilled Employees – Successful Labour Market; Security in a Networked World; and Health, Welfare and Lifestyles. One consortium was selected as a supplement to the 2015 SRC programme A Climate-Neutral and Resource-Scarce Finland. The SRC’s funding for these 14 consortia totals 50.2 million euros during 2016–2019.
The principal investigators of the selected consortia work at eight different research organisations. The multidisciplinary consortia involve a total of 82 projects from 33 organisations. Slightly more than half of the projects are based at universities and around 25 per cent at research institutes. The consortia also include polytechnics, research and interaction by public authorities, associations and companies as well as six foreign universities or research institutes.
Quality and impact form the basis of SRC funding decisions
The SRC’s objective is to target funding at as versatile and extensive projects as possible. The projects should be capable of producing new scientific knowledge that can contribute to solving the challenges highlighted in the programme.
“The emphasis in the SRC’s funding decisions is on projects that can forge new kinds of collaborations between science and societal interaction. SRC calls involve two key factors that influence the success of individual research teams: the project’s size and how well the different parts of the project work together. Simply gathering together actors from different fields does not guarantee success,” says Per Mickwitz, Chair of the SRC.
The SRC’s decisions were made based on an overall review that took into account the reports of the review panels as well as the goals and needs of the programmes. The selected consortia consist of projects that explore the programme themes innovatively and extensively. The reviewers thought that the projects were of a high scientific quality and that they presented concrete and plausible action plans. The interaction activities of the projects are based on stakeholders’ information needs and knowledge of decision-making processes.The projects also proposed creative methods of stakeholder collaboration that are well integrated into the research.
When it adopted the 2016 themes for strategic research in autumn 2015, the Finnish Government also decided that a common priority area for 2016 would be to take into consideration the effects of immigration on Finnish society. “The applicants did consider the effects of immigration very effectively. The 2016 programmes will provide funding to a number of consortia that will focus on immigration issues within their own programme or that will identify immigration as a key factor in their own particular research,” says Per Mickwitz.
The SRC turned down projects that failed to demonstrated sufficient multidisciplinarity and novelty in their research design or that presented insufficient theoretical frameworks, methods and materials. Projects were also rejected if they presented too narrow dimensions of interaction or if they did not support genuine and sufficiently extensive stakeholder collaboration. There were also some applications that failed to address the programmatic questions in sufficient detail. There were also cases where the distribution of work between consortium parties was unbalanced, offering no real synergy or coherence in relation to the set objectives. A common shortcoming was that the applications did not always integrate international collaboration well enough into the projects’ other activities.
New process for review and decision-making
The applications were reviewed using a new and improved process. In the first call stage, the call for letters of intent, the SRC received 152 funding applications. Based on a review of scientific quality and societal impact and interaction, the SRC selected the most promising projects to proceed to the second stage. The full applications were reviewed in two programme-specific panels: one for societal impact and interaction and the other for scientific quality. The first panel, the so-called relevance panel, included both Finnish and foreign experts in the field of societal impact. The scientific panels consisted of internationally esteemed researchers in the fields concerned.
The SRC will decide the funding amounts in June after negotiations with consortium representatives on specific objectives for research and interaction.
The SRC made the funding decisions unanimously. Due to the small number of applications submitted per programme, special attention was paid to grounds for disqualification pertaining to council members. The full applications were processed with due, programme-specific consideration to possible conflicts of interest. For a programme-specific list of council members who participated in processing the applications, please see the following link:
- Chair Per Mickwitz, Strategic Research Council, per.mickwitz(at)ymparisto.fi, tel. +358 400 148 847
- Executive Director Riitta Maijala, Academy of Finland, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi, tel. +358 295 335 114
- Urbanising Society: Science Adviser Laura Kitti, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi, tel. +358 295 335 152
- Skilled Employees – Successful Labour Market: Science Adviser Jussi Vauhkonen, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi, tel. +358 295 335 155
- Health, Welfare and Lifestyles: Science Adviser Jussi Vauhkonen, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi, tel. +358 295 335 155
- Security in a Networked World: Science Adviser Jyrki Hakapää, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi, tel. +358 295 335 020
- A Climate-Neutral and Resource-Scarce Finland: Science Adviser Laura Kitti, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi, tel. +358 295 335 152
- List of selected projects
- List of all review panel members
Academy of Finland Communications
Riitta Tirronen, Director of Communications
tel. +358 295 335 118