Follow-up on plant science evaluation: The recommendations must be implemented more effectively

12 Feb 2014

The recommendations set forth in the evaluation of Finnish plant science, published in 2011, have not been implemented as widely or successfully as expected. While some research units have addressed the recommendations thoroughly and used them for reorganisation and resource allocation, other units have failed to implement them to a sufficient degree in strategic research planning. These are among the findings of a follow-up report commissioned by the Academy of Finland.

In 2011, the Academy of Finland published an evaluation report on Finnish plant science in which an international panel reviewed plant science research in twelve research units at universities and research institutes in Finland. The panel reviewed the quality of research, the funding, the state of the research environments and the level of researcher training. Special attention was paid to the activity of the research teams in the dissemination of research results. The evaluation covered the years 2005‒2009.

In the autumn of 2013, the Academy commissioned a pilot follow-up report to examine the extent to which the recommendations of the 2011 report have been implemented. The follow-up report examines how the recommendations have been addressed at different levels of research organisations, universities and research institutes. The follow-up covers all of the previously evaluated research units. The evaluation panel included five of the original seven panellists.

Although plant science research in Finland is of a high quality, there is a clear need for more collaboration between the management of research organisations and the research units, especially with regard to strategic planning. The panel also encourages organisations to monitor the success rates of their research units in securing funding.

The panel further thinks that it should be possible for PhD students to complete their studies within four years and that funding should be made available for these four years. Furthermore, the panel says, the goal should be to publish in high-quality journals rather than to produce a high number of low-impact papers. This would be a means to strengthen the international visibility and quality of Finnish plant science. The panel also notes that further steps are needed to increase both national and international researcher mobility.

Tenure-track systems should be introduced more widely

The 2011 evaluation recommended that tenure-track systems be implemented at university level. The follow-up report reveals that this recommendation has not yet been widely implemented. “The possibility of employing young expert personnel through the tenure-track system should be much more widely utilised and should become general practice for professor-level appointments,” the panel says in the report.

The previous evaluation also recommended that infrastructures and training for bioinformatics and modelling be strengthened. Here, too, the panel’s recommendation has not been implemented as widely as expected. The panel therefore strongly recommends that plans be made to develop a solid bioinformatics infrastructure.

The follow-up report acknowledges the fact that Finnish research in plant science is quite fragmented, not only between but also within organisations. There is a definite need for greater coordination and more effective communication, the panel says.

The panel concludes that the Academy of Finland should specify the strategy for discipline evaluations and follow-ups in order to strengthen the overall impact that such measures have on Finnish science policy and science in general.

The international evaluation panel was chaired by Professor Dorothea Bartels and the other members were Professors Neil Baker, Maarten Koornneef, Julio Salinas and Alison Smith.

The follow-up report (in English) is available as a PDF download on the Academy of Finland’s website, as is the original evaluation report.

More information:

Academy of Finland Communications
Communications Specialist Risto Alatarvas
tel. +358 295 335 007

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