The 2016 review of the state of scientific research in Finland analyses research personnel and funding, publishing, scientific impact and co-publications. The bibliometric analyses compare Finland to twelve research-intensive countries. The review includes a separate section on the impact of research beyond academia, analysed using both qualitative and quantitative methods.
- State of scientific research in Finland 2016 – Special theme: Broader impact of research in society
- State of scientific research in Finland 2016 – Bibliometric analysis
- Some data used in the review are available also in English via Vipunen, the education statistics portal run by the Finnish educational administration.
Over the last few years, the debate about the impact of research, about how to assess or monitor impact, and – ultimately – about the meaning of impact has intensified. A special theme in the State of Scientific Research in Finland 2016 review was to explore the broader impact or research in society by combining qualitative and quantitative methods. The review analysed the different types of impact arising from research and research-based knowledge as well as the pathways through which impact is realised.
Research affects a wide range of activities and developments in society. The spheres, time spans and types of those effects can vary extensively. Different research fields have different impact profiles, and the objectives and contributions of research may also vary within a research field.
The report State of Scientific Research in Finland 2016 (available in Finnish only) outlines the broader impact of research from two perspectives: the roles of science in society and the routes to impact beyond academia. One important route to impact is proficient people. In the report, this is analysed in terms of the placement of doctoral degree holders in society.
To examine the role of doctoral degree holders in society the Academy of Finland conducted a survey for doctoral degree holders in four different research fields. The target group of the survey consisted of Finnish residents who had been awarded a doctoral degree from a Finnish university between 2005 and 2014. The key results of the survey are presented in the following report.
Surveys and interviews in four research fields
The impact of research beyond academia was explored from the direction of research activities, focusing on four different research fields:
- ecology, evolutionary biology and ecophysiology
- medical engineering and health technologies
- materials science and technology.
Together, these fields provide complementary views of the diverse ways in which academic research is linked and contributes to the rest of society. A large survey and interview dataset was collected from these research fields.
- Survey on the broader impacts of research on society (PDF)
- Survey on the role of doctoral degree holders in society (PDF)
Role of science in society
The broader impact of research can be analysed, for instance, in terms of the different roles science has in society. Scientific research is expected to contribute to society, for example, in the following issues:
- Human understanding and world view: Research-based knowledge and abilities build, sustain and develop individuals’ and societies’ understanding of the surrounding world and their part in it.
- Wealth and prosperity: Research-based knowledge and abilities open material prospects for sustaining and increasing the wellbeing of people and societies.
- Basis for decision-making: Research-based knowledge and abilities underpin societal decision-making, policies and problem-solving; they can also ease individuals’ choices.
- Practice development: Research-based knowledge and abilities generate, sustain and advance competencies and professional practices.
Routes of impact
Research impact can be considered by looking at the routes by which research-based knowledge and abilities are conveyed beyond academia. The main routes of impact can be viewed as follows:
- Transfer of research results: The results, inventions, methods or other outputs of research come into use beyond academia. There may be a lot of previous research and development in the background.
- Cooperation and interaction: Researchers work alongside and discuss and exchange knowledge with stakeholders beyond academia, such as business and industry, public authorities, education, civic organisations or professional practitioners.
- Proficient people: Research-based knowledge, expertise, vision and skills are conveyed by people who move and act beyond academia.
The 2016 review recommends the following:
There is a mutually reinforcing relationship between top-level research, high-quality education and the broader impact of research. This must be taken into account in research and innovation policy.
- Science has both intrinsic value and significant societal impact.
- Universities and other research organisations must support, monitor and evaluate the broader impact of research in all its forms.
- The broader impact of research arises through multiple routes: through proficient people, cooperation and interaction, and through the transfer of research results. The various routes of impact and roles of science in society must be taken into account in the promotion of impact beyond academia.
The research-based profiling of higher education institutions must be continued.
- Finnish higher education institutions are currently reinforcing their research profiles, and there are promising examples of efficient distribution of work and collaboration as well as of new initiatives arising from the profiling areas. Progress in the increased profiling of research institutes as part of the development of research environments has also been encouraging.
- What matters is the sufficient concentration and level of expertise in a certain theme or phenomenon – not the size of the university or unit.
- Stronger profiling also supports the development of new initiatives and promotes the impact of research beyond academia.
The outcome is delivered by people: recruitment and researcher training.
- Recruiting skilled researchers, teachers and students is the most important decision universities and research institutes make.
- Instead of quantitative indicators, recruitment should focus more extensively on scientific quality, regenerative capacity and impact.
- Particular care must be taken to develop researcher training so that it provides a good foundation for demanding and wide-ranging research and specialist tasks in various sectors of society. The training should also emphasise researchers’ ability to orient themselves into new areas and generate new knowledge and know-how. Universities must actively develop the contents of researcher training also in collaboration with other employers.
- President, Professor Heikki Mannila, Academy of Finland (Chair)
- Counsellor for Science Affairs, Head of Team Erja Heikkinen, Ministry of Education, Science and Culture (Vice Chair)
- CTO, Docent Heidi Fagerholm, Kemira Oyj, Board of the Academy of Finland
- Rector, Professor Liisa Laakso, University of Tampere
- Rector, Professor Jukka Mönkkönen, University of Eastern Finland
- Rector, Professor Jouko Niinimäki, University of Oulu
- Professor Heikki Ruskoaho, University of Helsinki, Board of the Academy of Finland
- President and CEO, Professor Mari Walls, Natural Resources Institute Finland