‘Pandemics as a societal challenge’ among proposals for new strategic research themes

16 Jun 2020

The Strategic Research Council (SRC) established within the Academy of Finland proposes that the Finnish Government adopt three new strategic research themes for 2020. The themes focus on population ageing, which tests the structures of the welfare society, the looming loss of biodiversity and pandemics as a challenge to society.

The three themes to be proposed are:

  • Demographic change – causes, consequences and solutions
  • Biodiversity loss: linkages to environment and society
  • Pandemics as a societal challenge.

The proposed cross-cutting priority is wellbeing.

The aim of the annual strategic theme preparation is to anticipate societal challenges that are important for Finland’s future. The new proposals also complement the themes decided in previous years. Together, the strategic research themes create a diverse collection and support evidence-based policy and societal problem-solving.

The Finnish Government will discuss the theme proposals and decide the final themes. The SRC will then design research programmes and launch funding calls based on the final themes. The calls’ funding budgets will be decided by the SRC during 2021.

Emphasis on interaction

The theme proposals are prepared in close interaction with the research community and policymakers. The ideas and views collected during the process are an essential part of the preparation.

In this round, the SRC focused on strengthening the interactive nature of the process. An open online survey was organised at the beginning of the preparation process, and it attracted more than two hundred theme ideas and several hundred comments. Based on the survey results and topical foresight reports, the SRC selected a number of themes for further development and comments in stakeholder workshops. After the workshops, the SRC focused on further work on a set of key themes. At the end of May, the SRC arranged an online public consultation on the draft theme proposals.

The themes concerning demographic change and biodiversity loss emerged at the very start of the preparation in autumn 2019 and topped the list throughout the process, both in the SRC’s own work and in the stakeholder discussions. In addition to these two, the exceptional circumstances of spring 2020 highlighted a third theme, which focuses on pandemics.

Professor Kimmo Nuotio, the Chair of the SRC, said: “When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Finland, it was necessary to prepare a third theme proposal.”

Pandemics were already among the possible security threats identified for the 2016 SRC programme Security in a Networked World, but the topic was not covered by the programme’s projects. Now, under these exceptional circumstances, it seemed very appropriate to include pandemics in the theme proposals.

Nuotio added: “I’m sure it would have been a bigger surprise if we hadn’t”.

Inquiries and more information

  • SRC theme proposals (pdf)
  • Professor Kimmo Nuotio, Chair of the Strategic Research Council, tel. +358 294 122 013, firstname.lastname(at)helsinki.fi
  • Pilvi Toppinen, Science Adviser, Division of Strategic Research, Academy of Finland, tel. +358 295 335 064, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi

Academy of Finland Communications
Anna Oravakangas, Communications Coordinator
tel. +358 295 335 039

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