Laura Taajamaa

Research has wide-spread impact in society

6 Feb 2023

The Academy of Finland has published a statistical report on the wider impact research has in society. The report examines the final reports of research projects submitted to the Academy in 2017–2021. The research funding decisions for these projects were made mainly between 2012 and 2016. The report shows that research funded by the Academy has potential to have widespread impact in society.

The Academy of Finland examines the societal impact of research from five perspectives:

  • public services and societal functions
  • world views, culture and human understanding
  • economy and commerce
  • health and wellbeing
  • the environment and natural resources.

The perspectives have been chosen to cover different facets of societal impact as well as possible. The Academy does not steer research into a certain direction or rank different types of societal impact.

In the final report, the PI of the project will assess its recognised impact and yet unrealised potential impact at the end of the project. The fact that it may take time for research to have an impact must be taken into consideration. The PI assesses the impact and potential impact through the aforementioned perspectives in a manner of their choosing.

More than half (55%) of the projects with researcher-driven funding mentioned some wider impact in society or identified potential impact in the long term. For projects with thematic funding, the proportion was 66% on average.

When we look at the societal impact of research based on the main discipline, the following impacts and potential impacts were reported:

Perspective to societal impact Main scientific discipline with relatively highest reported impact
Health and wellbeing Medicine, health sciences and biosciences
World views, culture and human understanding Social sciences and humanities
Economy and commerce Natural sciences and engineering
Public services and societal functions Social sciences and humanities
The environment and natural resources Environmental, forest and agricultural sciences

The impact of research presents itself in different ways

The requirement for impact is that research knowledge, technology or skills are conveyed to people outside the scientific community. There are different ways we can examine how the impact of research is conveyed: through the transfer of research results, through interaction, and through skilled people.

The statistical report shows that on average

  • approximately 70% of research projects’ results, data and material are open access
  • patents have been applied for in 5% and granted in 2% of the projects (within a year after the project has ended)
  • for every 1,000 euros the Academy grants, 400 euros of other funding is leveraged. The most important sources of other funding are the project’s home organisation, EU research funding (e.g. the Horizon 2020 framework programme, including ERC), and Finnish foundations and funds.
  • around nine doctoral degrees and nine master’s degrees are completed per ten projects
  • projects are involved with a wide range of stakeholders
  • more than half of the research visits from Finland are made to Europe and one third to North America. Of the visits to Finland around 43% are from Europe and 40% from Asia.

The report is a part of the Academy of Finland’s State of Scientific Research in Finland review, which aims to produce material that supports development in higher education institutes and research institutes and to serve informed science policy.

Read the report:

Read more about the State of Scientific Research in Finland review:

More information:

  • Laura Taajamaa, Senior Science Adviser, tel. +358 295 335 027

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