Finnish chemistry research scores high marks
Chemistry research in Finland is of a very high standard, with some research units placed at the international cutting edge of their respective subfields of chemistry. The research conducted by the units covers all significant aspects of chemistry and caters well to the Finnish chemical industry. These are among the findings of an international panel of experts, commissioned by the Academy of Finland to evaluate the level of Finnish research in the field of chemistry. The panel’s report was published today.
The panel evaluated 41 chemistry units in Finland as to their research quality, funding, infrastructure and international engagement. One unit belongs to a large governmental research institute while the remaining units are research groups, laboratories or departments from nine universities. The panel also looked at the social impact of the units’ research. Covering the years 2005–2009, the evaluation was also focused on the quality and performance of the different subfields of chemistry.
While chemistry research in Finland is overall at a very high level, the panel did also identify areas where there is still room for improvement. There are a number of units, the panel notes, that are of insufficient size. Many chemistry units in Finland are small, single-professor units. This can be regarded as an inefficient use of resources, especially in terms of administrative support. The future of these small units should, therefore, be planned as part of the structural development of the universities.
Another weakness identified by the panel is that some units do not actively engage in collaborations at the national or international level. Finnish chemistry research would benefit from a stronger international focus and active recruitment of personnel and students from outside Finland.
The panel finds that the research infrastructures of Finnish chemistry research are very high-quality, but that maintaining them at their current level would require a more coordinated national upgrade strategy. The overall funding of chemistry research is at a satisfactory level, but the panel is concerned that there is an imbalance between university core funding and competition-driven funding. Thanks to their success in the competition for research funding, some research units have managed to inch closer to the international top in their respective field. On the other hand, some of the units lack external funding and are not able to make sufficient investments in improving their performance.
The panel also deliberated on the relationship between scientific research and industry-driven research. There are concerns that the focus on industry-related research with too short-span projects may have a negative impact on basic chemistry research.
The international evaluation panel consisted of Professors Kenneth Ruud (chair), Claudine Buess-Herman, Jennifer Green, Helena Grennberg, Søren Rud Keiding and Torsten Linker, and Directeur de Recherche Gabriel Wild.
The panel’s report is part of the Academy of Finland’s publication series and is available as a PDF download at www.aka.fi/publications > Publication series. The report is in English.
Science Adviser Kati Lüthje, Academy of Finland, tel. +358 40 159 1395, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi
Academy of Finland
tel. +358 9 7748 8369, +358 40 828 1724