Academy of Finland grants €29m for research projects in social sciences and humanities

28 May 2020

The Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Culture and Society today granted funding for 58 Academy Projects. Fourteen of these were consortium projects; the total number of subprojects is 74. The Research Council also funded 14 Academy Projects with a special budget authority reserved for early-career researchers.

Academy Project Funding is the most important funding instrument of the Research Council for Culture and Society for promoting the impact and renewal of research. In addition to high scientific quality of the research plan, the Research Council paid special attention to projects that combine high quality with strong academic and societal impact and/or science renewal. The Research Council considers it important that Academy Projects include researchers who are at different stages of the research career, but the focus is on promoting postdoctoral careers.

Professor Sami Pihlström, the chair of the Research Council, said: “We paid attention to our three key criteria: quality, impact and renewal. This year we used 6.7 million euros of earmarked funds to support early-career researchers. Early-career researchers succeeded well in the call overall, as almost half of the funded projects are projects led by early-career researchers. The funded projects include both new initiatives and projects based on research clusters already known to be strong.”

Examples of funded projects

Suvi Salmenniemi from the University of Turku studies the current political transformation, which is characterised partly by a concern for the crisis of democracy and death of political imagination, and partly by a need for alternative social formations and social change towards sustainable futures. Salmenniemi’s project will map spaces and practices of political imagination and seek to revitalise both public political imagination and the conceptual and methodological imagination of sociology. The project combines sociology and artistic research and charts the political imagination of diverse groups and individuals in the fields of art, activism, social media and education in Finland.

Lauri Thurén from the University of Eastern Finland aims to develop a transparent way of analysing and interpreting the parables of Jesus with a view to understanding how they were supposed to function in their earliest literary context. The parables of Jesus belong to the most influential narratives, as they are used in several different contexts and affect different levels of society, art and religion. Thuréns project applies modern argumentation analysis, narratology and data mining to comprehend the function of the parables. The results are expected to offer a better basis for using the parables as historical material and as a source for theological reasoning. In addition, their use in social debate can be assessed more critically than before.

Pekka Mäkelä from the University of Helsinki explores the responsible use of artificial intelligence. His team conducts research into the ethical risks and responsibility of robotics and AI. The aim of their project is to shift the focus to concrete issues with current and near future practices and technologies. The research will focus on the present needs for caution in using AI, especially in a healthcare context, and on which goals should be set for developing AI.

Pauliina Rautio from the University of Oulu heads a project called CitiRats, which combines natural sciences and education in collaboration with young people. The goal of the project is to study and to develop attentiveness towards multispecies communities and ability to imagine multispecies futures. CitiRats uses a three-tier approach where researchers, young people aged 13–15 and selected experts go through three progressive research stages using methods from natural sciences, human sciences and the arts. The project is expected to produce new knowledge of urban communities as shared between multiple species, as well as knowledge about how young people best come to learn about sustainable co-living.

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