From four research councils to three – Q&A

The Academy of Finland’s research councils will be reorganised. The idea is to have three research councils instead of four. Why is that?

To be able to identify new scientific opportunities and support multidisciplinary research as broadly as possible, we need flexibility and capability to function at the interface of different scientific disciplines. The move to reduce the number of research councils from four to three is aimed at broadening the research councils’ sphere of operations and furthering the renewal of research.

What are the three new research councils?

The three research councils as of 1 January 2019 are: the Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment, the Research Council for Culture and Society, and the Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering.

How will the members of the new research councils be selected?

The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture invites reasoned nominations for Academy research councils from Finnish universities, universities of applied sciences, research institutes, science academies, ministries, research funders and the scientific community. Qualified individual persons may also nominate themselves as a candidate.

What are the tasks of a research council member?

The research council members’ most important task are as follows:

  • development of research council’s science policy orientations, operational planning
  • decision-making on research funding and monitoring funding performance
  • foresighting developments in research fields
  • involvement in Academy working groups, Academy Programme steering groups and the FIRI Committee
  • cooperation with national and international funders and stakeholders.

Read more under Research councils.

In terms of funding, will the reduction in the number of research councils disadvantage certain disciplines?

The number of research councils does not determine the level of funding allocated annually by the Academy Board to each research council. In September 2018, the Board will decide the operating and financial plan for 2020–2023, which will outline the funding appropriations of the research councils. On 6 November, it will decide the research councils’ funding budgets for 2019.

When will the change affect applicants and Academy calls?

The three research councils will start operations as of 2019. Those applying for funding in September 2018 will address their applications to the Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment, the Research Council for Culture and Society, or the Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering. The September 2018 call text was published in early July.

How will I know which research council is the right one for my application?

When deciding on the most suitable research council, it’s best that you look at the research councils' research fields from a broad perspective. Also, it’s good to remember that you will still be able to choose five research fields for your application when you’re submitting it in the online services. Read more about the new research council model on our website.

As always, all applications will go through the best possible review. Each application will be reviewed by a panel most suited to that end in terms of the contents and research fields of the application. When making funding decisions, the research councils always consider the varying traditions and review practices of different disciplines. The Academy will also continue the established practice of organising joint panels between research councils, if necessary.

Will the application review practices change?

Last spring, we tested a model where panels, in some of our funding schemes, performed both rating and ranking. The research councils have used this information to support their decisions.

However, this new model will not reduce the powers of the research councils. As before, the research councils will make their funding decisions based on their own policies and the results of the review. The notification sent to applicants when a funding decision has been made will describe the key grounds on which the decision is based, as is the current practice.

Depending on the funding scheme, the funding decisions are made by the research councils, the Strategic Research Council (SRC), the Finnish Research Infrastructure Committee (FIRI Committee) and the subcommittees appointed by the Board.

Read more about our review and decision process.

Our Ask & Apply tour will visit universities and research institutes in August, see the session dates here.

Last modified 9 Aug 2018
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