State of scientific research 2018
The Academy of Finland conducts periodic reviews of the state of scientific research in Finland, producing materials that support universities’ and research institutes’ development efforts and that strengthen the knowledge base of science policymaking.
The 2018 review examines the human resources and funding available for research at universities and government research institutes. The assessments of publishing, scientific impact and co-publications are based on bibliometric methods.
The review includes a separate examination regarding the national target of raising R&D investment to four per cent of GDP and regarding the factors that are expected to shape the contents of future research and the general conditions for doing research.
Top 10 index shows improvement in the performance of Finnish science.
The performance of science is assessed using the Top 10 index, that is, the proportion of publications among the 10 per cent most highly cited publications in the world. The latest data concern publications released in 2012–2015 and citations to these publications by the end of 2017. Finland’s Top 10 index has improved during the 2010s and for 2012–2015 stands at 1.12, compared to the world average of 1. In some disciplines the index has risen quite sharply. Finland produces a high per capita number of scientific publications.
International co-publications have higher scientific impact scores than domestic publications in Finland and all comparison countries.
In Finland, the Top 10 index for international co-publications is higher than the index for domestic publications in virtually all disciplines. The number of co-publications was highest with the United States, Sweden, the UK and Germany, both in the early 2000s and during the most recent period in 2012–2015. The number of co-publications with China has increased substantially in 10 years.
Research FTEs at government research institutes and universities of applied sciences and teaching and research staff FTEs at universities have decreased.
In 2012 the number of research FTEs at government research institutes reached 5,600, but fell back to 3,500 in 2017. At universities of applied sciences the figures were 2,050 and 1,800 research FTEs, respectively. In 2012 universities’ teaching and research staff contributed 16,800 FTEs, in 2017 slightly less or 16,100 FTEs.
PhDs account for an increased share of research performed at universities and government research institutes.
PhDs continue to account for a growing proportion of the total number of research FTEs at universities and universities of applied sciences: in 2012 they contributed 38 per cent of all research FTEs at universities, in 2017 the figure was 42 per cent. At universities of applied sciences PhDs accounted for 13 per cent of total research FTEs in 2012 and for 16 per cent in 2017, and at government research institutes for 25 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively.
PhDs still contribute only a small part to private-sector R&D.
PhDs have contributed a growing share of private-sector R&D in recent years. Nonetheless, they only account for 6 per cent of the total number of research FTEs in private businesses.
Just over one-quarter or 28 per cent of all employed PhDs work in the private sector. The figure varies considerably from one discipline to another. In materials science and engineering and in pharmacy, for instance, over half of all PhDs are employed in the private sector.
Proportion of permanent teaching and research staff varies widely between universities.
There are marked differences between universities in the number of semi-permanent staff at tiers III–IV of the research career as a proportion of total teaching and research staff. The contribution of semi-permanent teaching and research staff to total FTEs at universities has risen from 37 per cent in 2012 to 39 per cent in 2017. In 2017 the figure ranged from 21 per cent to 49 per cent at different universities. The proportion of staff of a permanent nature has increased in eight universities.
FTEs at tier II (+17%) and III of the research career (+9%) have increased at all universities from 2012 to 2017. By contrast FTEs at tier I ( –19%) and IV (–10%) have decreased.
Proportion of foreign-born staff has increased especially in universities’ fixed-term positions.
The number of FTEs contributed by foreign-born staff has increased especially in universities’ fixed-term positions, that is, at tiers I–II of the research career. In 2012 the proportion was 21 per cent, by 2017 it had climbed to 30 per cent. In permanent positions at tiers III–IV of the research career the figure increased from 9 to 11 per cent.
In 2017 foreign-born persons accounted for 22 per cent of universities’ teaching and research staff. All told foreign-born teaching and research staff contributed 3,600 FTEs.
Proportion of women has increased in university positions of a permanent nature.
The proportion of women among teaching and research staff at tiers III–IV has increased. In 2012 women accounted for 38 per cent of total FTEs and in 2017 for 41 per cent. The figures have increased in almost all disciplines. At career tiers I–II women accounted for 47 per cent of total FTEs in 2012 and for 48 per cent in 2017.
Finnish R&D investment as a proportion of GDP has declined.
Public-sector and private-sector funding for R&D differ in different countries, but as in Finland the public sector typically contributes around one-third of the total. In Finland there are marked differences between branches in the development of private sector R&D expenditure. R&D as a proportion of GDP has declined since the peak year of 2009, mainly because of cutbacks in the private sector and the electronics industry in particular.
Development increasingly shaped by multidisciplinary and phenomenon-based research and research and knowledge centres; database for review needs expanding.
The phenomenon-based approach is one the major factors currently driving change in science and research. Phenomenon-based research centres also occupy a prominent place in universities’ strategies and operation. In addition to discipline-based bibliometric analyses, there is need for more in-depth data about phenomenon-based and multidisciplinary research.
Digitalisation and open science are significantly changing science.
Digitalisation, understood in a broad sense, is not only opening up new research opportunities but also affecting ways of doing science. In the future development of open science, increasing focus will be given to materials and methods transparency, which again will have a major impact on ways of doing research.
Science is made by people: it is important to have attractive environments and good recruitment practices to draw in the best researchers and students.
- Staff and student recruitments are the most important decisions that universities and research institutes make.
- National, international and intersectoral mobility enhances the quality, impact and renewal of science and research: mobility must be supported through career systems, recruitment practices and funding procedures.
- Multidisciplinary and phenomenon-based research is set to gain increasing importance; this must be reflected in recruitments.
- The importance of quality within individual disciplines will remain undiminished, however.
- Instead of quantitative indicators, recruitments must be based on broad assessments of scientific quality, impact and capacity for self-renewal.
- Research training must provide a strong and broad set of skills and competencies that are relevant to demanding and diverse research and advisory positions in different sectors of society.
High-quality, high-impact and attractive research and knowledge clusters are imperative for national development. These clusters will require profiling and collaboration among different actors. The building and development of the clusters will in turn require a strong funding commitment.
- Successful research and knowledge clusters are nowadays often built around a phenomenon-based approach.
- These clusters are crucial to the achievement of a 4 per cent R&D intensity.
- The development of research and knowledge clusters will require strong profiling, division of labour and collaboration among research organisations.
- The building and development of these clusters should be significantly supported through a strong funding commitment.
The opportunities offered by digitalisation and open science for the development of research and teaching provision must be seized with vigour.
- Digitalisation is profoundly and rapidly changing both research and teaching provision.
- Open science, which includes open publishing, data and open methods, improves the quality of research and contributes to expand the use of research knowledge in society. Every support must be given to new practices.
Major data sources and classifications of disciplines used in the review:
Vipunen – Education Statistics Finland (in Finnish)
- Teaching and research staff at universities
- University funding
- R&D at government research institutes by organisation
- Web of Science based bibliometric analyses
- Employment and placement of PhDs
Statistics Finland statistics
OECD R&D statistics
- President, Professor Heikki Mannila, Academy of Finland (Chair)
- Counsellor of Science, Head of Team Erja Heikkinen, Ministry of Education, Science and Culture (Vice Chair)
- Director General, Docent Anni Huhtala, VATT Institute for Economic Research
- Rector, Professor Keijo Hämäläinen, University of Jyväskylä
- Director General, Docent Lea Kauppi, Finnish Environment Institute
- Rector, Professor Jukka Mönkkönen, University of Eastern Finland
- Rector, Professor Ilkka Niemelä, Aalto University
- CTO, Docent Marita Niemelä, Neste Jacobs Oy and Board of the Academy of Finland
- Professor Heikki Ruskoaho, University of Helsinki and Board of the Academy of Finland