Academy of Finland Awards presented to Emilia Korkea-aho and Tiina Sikanen

11 Feb 2020

Lobbying researcher Emilia Korkea-aho wins Award for Social Impact and drug environmental impact researcher Tiina Sikanen wins Award for Scientific Courage.

The Academy of Finland has again presented awards to two internationally distinguished researchers of the new generation. The 2019 Award for Social Impact goes to Academy Research Fellow, Associate Professor Emilia Korkea-aho (b. 1980) from the University of Eastern Finland, and the 2019 Award for Scientific Courage goes to Academy Research Fellow, University Researcher Tiina Sikanen (b. 1978) from the University of Helsinki.

Korkea-aho has carried out significant and pioneering research on the impact of lobbying from a legal perspective. Sikanen creatively combines different scientific disciplines and her advances in microchip technology have attracted significant international attention.

“Lobbying is surrounded by much prejudice and misunderstanding”

Academy Research Fellow Emilia Korkea-aho deals with democracy and the transparency of decision-making in a way that has an impact both at EU and national level. Her research has significant potential for reforming administration and decision-making research by creating a theoretical framework for examining the role of lobbyists. Korkea-aho was presented with the Academy of Finland Award for Social Impact.

For Korkea-aho, it is important that research attracts interest also outside the scientific community. Nevertheless, social impact is not an aim in itself for her, and it does not influence her choice of research topic.

“When I outlined my current project, I of course realised that it would also pique the interest of people beyond academia. Lobbying is a topic surrounded by much prejudice and misunderstanding, and public debate on it is often characterised by one-sidedness and scandalmongering,” Korkea-aho said.

She is currently interested in questions about who has the right to lobby and whose or in which sectors lobbying could be banned or restricted.

“Few of us see anything wrong with decision-makers meeting organisations that monitor children’s rights, for example. It’s up to us researchers to analyse these kinds of relations and raise discussion about them. This is particularly important when it comes to legal regulation, which should be neutral in terms of the interests represented. Can regulation be used to curb ‘undesirable’ lobbying and encourage, for instance, non-governmental organisations to lobby?”

Emilia Korkea-aho completed her Master of Laws degree in 2005 and obtained her Doctor of Laws degree in 2012 at the University of Helsinki. She is currently Associate Professor in European Law and Legislative Studies at the University of Eastern Finland and on an exchange at Yale University.

“The most interesting observations often come from the wildest ideas”

Academy Research Fellow Tiina Sikanen’s research is a combination of pharmaceutical chemistry, microfluidics, bioanalysis, drug metabolism and nanotechnology. Her innovative basic research shows a number of technological applications in the field of bioanalysis and drug analysis. Sikanen does pioneering research on, for example, the environmental impacts of pharmaceuticals. Sikanen was presented with the Academy of Finland Award for Scientific Courage.

Sikanen believes that crossing the boundaries of science is a key factor in scientific renewal:

“In my own field, the introduction of new technologies and the combination of methodological skills help in the discovery of new knowledge. Scientific courage is needed to break away from the mainstream, which is essential for the renewal of science.”

According to Sikanen, the development of new methods that are still outside standardisation is often time-consuming and requires bold, pioneering work and firm faith in your own efforts.

“In my own work, scientific courage has meant, among other things, new research initiatives to understand the multiplicity of drug environmental impacts,” she said

Courage, Sikanen said, is also about not being afraid to make mistakes:

“Not all research ideas always lead to success, but the most interesting observations often come from the wildest ideas.”

Tiina Sikanen completed master’s and doctoral degrees in pharmacy in 2003 and 2007 at the University of Helsinki and obtained a master’s degree in chemical engineering at Aalto University in 2010. She currently works as an Academy Research Fellow at the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Helsinki.

Encouragement through awards

The Academy of Finland Award for Scientific Courage is granted to a researcher who has shown exceptional scientific audacity, creativity or innovation in research. The Award can be granted for a novel or original research idea, forward-looking work that cuts across scientific boundaries, or a willingness to take risks in research.

The Academy of Finland Award for Social Impact is granted to a researcher who has significantly contributed to increasing public awareness of scientific research or the researcher’s job, inspired interest in science, actively contributed to public debate in society, or otherwise strengthened the role, application and impact of science and research in society.

The award ceremony will be held on Tuesday 11 February at the Academy of Finland in Helsinki.

This is the seventeenth time the Academy of Finland Awards have been presented. The recipients must be Academy Research Fellows or work as Academy-funded Postdoctoral Researchers. Nominations are submitted by the Academy’s research councils to the Academy Board, which makes the final award decisions. The winners are presented with a mouth-blown glass ornament, “The Moment”, designed by Miia Liesegang.


  • Emilia Korkea-aho, Academy Research Fellow, tel. +358 50 571 9980 (Finland), +1 203 535 3060 (USA), emilia.korkeaaho(at)
  • Tiina Sikanen, Academy Research Fellow, tel. +358 294 159 173, tiina.sikanen(at)
  • Anne Heinänen, Counsellor of Science , Academy of Finland, tel. +358 295 335 021, firstname.lastname(at)
  • Photos of the winners
  • See the winner presentations

Academy of Finland Communications
Riitta Tirronen
Director of Communications
tel. +358 295 335 118

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