The Research Council of Finland is committed through its strategy to promoting excellent, responsible and high-impact research across all scientific disciplines. Our aim is to ensure that society can make the best possible use of the results of the research we fund. We want to contribute to advancing the renewal, diversification and internationalisation of Finnish scientific research. High-level international peer review is our key tool for identifying the best and most promising research projects.
The Strategic Research Council (SRC) is an independent body established within the Research Council of Finland that funds solution-oriented and phenomenon-driven research. The projects to be funded must have societal relevance and impact and be of a high scientific standard. Interaction with society is of key importance throughout the projects’ funding periods. The scientific quality and societal relevance of projects are peer reviewed by both national and international experts.
To be considered and reviewed, an application sent to the Research Council must meet the eligibility criteria. The eligibility criteria are provided in the call text. Applicants may be asked to complete their applications if necessary. If the application or the applicant does not meet the eligibility criteria or other essential requirements of the call, the application will not proceed to the review and will be rejected. Learn more about the circumstances that may cause us not to process or review an application.
How applications are processed and reviewed depends on whether they are submitted in call with a one-stage or two-stage application or review process. As a rule, applications are peer-reviewed by international panels. The panels of the winter call are announced and determined in advance. After the review, members of our decision-making bodies go through the applications and the review reports on them. The funding decisions are prepared in preparatory meetings. The decision proposals are then presented to the decision-making bodies, which make the final funding decisions. The funding decisions are based on the peer review of the applications and the science policy objectives of the Research Council.
In all our research funding, we are committed to following responsible procedures with regard to disqualification, secrecy and responsible science, that is, equality and nondiscrimination, research ethics, open science, sustainable development and responsible research assessment.
Figure 1. Application review and decision-making at the Research Council of Finland; example shows a one-stage call.
The Research Council of Finland’s regulations on disqualification apply to the members of our decision-making bodies and to the entire staff of the Administration Office, but also, where applicable, to external experts. The regulations on disqualification aim to ensure the impartiality of the people involved in the processes.
Depending on the reason of their disqualification, a person can be disqualified with regard to an individual application or all the applications within one funding instrument.
Disqualification in the public sector is governed by the Finnish Administrative Procedure Act.
Disqualification of a member of a decision-making body or an official
A member of a decision-making body or an official must not use their authority to promote their private benefits or interests. Additionally, a member of a decision-making body must not use their authority to further the benefits and interests of their own research group or institution. The basis for a decision must not be any kind of subjective benefit. Authority must not be used to harm anyone or anything.
Regulations on disqualification aim to promote the impartiality of decision-making and prevent inappropriate influence in the result. Discretion must be based on objectivity and justice. A disqualified person may not be a party to or be present at any part of proceedings.
A member of a decision-making body or an official is disqualified
- if they are or their family member is a party
- if they are or their family member assist or represent a party or a person who is expected to gain particular advantage or disadvantage as the result of the proceedings
- if they are or their family member is expected to gain advantage or disadvantage as the result of the proceedings
- if they are employed or have received a commission concerning the proceedings by a party or a person who is expected to gain particular advantage or disadvantage as the result of the proceedings
- if they are or their family member is a member, an executive director or similar in a board of directors, management board or a similar institution within a community, a foundation, a state enterprise or an enterprise that is a party or that is expected to gain particular advantage or disadvantage as the result of the proceedings
- if they or their family member are a member of a steering board or similar in an agency or an institution, and the proceedings consider the steering or supervision of this agency or institution
- if trust in their impartiality is compromised in another particular reason.
A family member refers to
- a spouse and a child, grandchild, sibling, parent, grandparent and other particularly close person, as well as this person’s spouse
- parents’ siblings and their spouse, siblings’ children and ex-spouse
- spouse’s child, grandchild, sibling, parent and grandparent, as well as this person’s spouse and spouse’s siblings’ children.
The general clause applies in very different cases. A relationship between friends or enemies, or a polemic relationship is a basis for disqualification only if it compromises impartiality. This is determined by the strength of the relationship.
As differences in methodology and school of thought are a part of scientific discourse, they do not as such result in disqualification.
With regard to co-publications, there must be genuine collaboration and co-writing. A situation where both a member of a decision-making body or an official and an applicant have been published in the same publication does not result in disqualification.
Additionally, the opportunities of the members of decision-making bodies to apply or receive Research Council funding during their term has been restricted in the criteria for funding decisions. Members of our Board, scientific councils and the Strategic Research Council will not be granted Research Council of Finland funding during their terms. However, the restriction does not apply to funding instruments where the applicant is an organisation.
Academy Programmes do not grant funding to a person who has participated in the planning of the programme to an extent likely to give them a comparative advantage over other applicants. This condition also applies to members of preparation or steering groups or permanent experts for the programme concerned.
Neither is research funding granted to Research Council of Finland staff.
Disqualification of an expert
Regulations on disqualification apply, where appropriate, also to external experts.
An expert may not give a review report in the following cases:
- If accepting or rejecting the project may gain them advantage or disadvantage
- They have collaborated with the applicant
- if they have collaborated on a publication with the applicant during the last three years
- if they are part of the same research team as the applicant
- if they are the applicant’s superior, subordinate or supervisor
- They are applying for the same position as the applicant
- They are applying for Research Council funding in the same application round as the applicant and are thus competing for the same funding
- They are the applicant’s immediate family Immediate family includes
- a spouse or partner, child, grandchild, sibling, parent, grandparent or other particularly close person (e.g. fiancé or close friend) as well as their spouses and partners
- parents’ sibling or their spouse or partner, siblings’ child, ex-spouse or ex-partner
- spouse’s or partner’s child, grandchild, sibling, parent, grandparent, spouse’s or partner’s sibling’s child
- half-relative comparable to the above
An expert must disqualify themselves also if their impartiality might otherwise be compromised or if they feel that there is a conflict of interests.
Experts are informed about the regulations on disqualification in the review guidelines for research projects. In accepting their assignment they commit to adhering to the guidelines.
Public access to documents and information is governed by the Finnish Act on the Openness of Government Activities.
Based on the Act, plans of intent, research plans, abstracts, progress reports and review reports, for instance, are as a rule treated as documents subject to professional secrecy. Application documents must be handled and stored with due care, taking into account provisions on secrecy.
Professional secrecy means, for example, the prohibition to express confidential information. Professional secrecy applies both to Research Council of Finland staff and to members of the Research Council’s decision-making bodies. If the confidentiality of the document or information continues, professional secrecy applies even after the employment or body membership has ended.
Reviewers commit to professional secrecy while they act as expert reviewers. Reviewers are not allowed to disclose any information concerning application documents or review reports to outsiders, nor are they allowed to use this confidential information to their own or anyone else’s advantage or disadvantage. In addition, they may not reveal to outsiders that they are reviewing the research plan of a particular researcher.
Once the review has been completed, all application documents and any copies made of them must be destroyed. The nondisclosure obligation applies also after the review assignment has been completed.
After the funding decisions, we will publish on our website a list of the names, titles and organisations of the experts who participated in the review of applications, provided they give their consent.
Applicants will receive the review reports on their research plan after the funding decisions have been made. The report shows the names of the review panel members or the individual reviewers.
The party concerned has the right to receive information about a confidential document if it may affect or might have affected how the matter is processed, which means that the applicant, and only the applicant, has the right to receive information about the review report or review concerning themselves.
A party may not disclose to third parties confidential information obtained based on the party status that concerns persons other than the party itself.
Any inquiries concerning application documents or review reports must be submitted to our Registrar’s Office (email firstname.lastname@example.org).