Criteria for funding decisions

The Academy of Finland grants funding to the best researchers and research teams and to the most promising young researchers. The funding decisions are made by the Academy’s research councils, the Strategic Research Council, the Finnish Research Infrastructure Committee or subcommittees based on a review of the scientific merits of the research plan and the applicant. The decisions on funding for strategic research also take into account the societal impact and relevance of the proposed research. Academy funding is fixed-term.

With our funding decisions, we aim to achieve as high a scientific level as possible. To guarantee this, we enlist the help of external scientific experts in the review of applications.

In selecting projects to fund, we apply seven main criteria:

  • scientific quality, innovativeness and novelty of the research plan
  • scientific impact of the research
  • competence of the applicant/the research team
  • feasibility of the research plan
  • quality and strengthening of the research environment
  • international and national research collaborations, researcher mobility
  • project’s significance for the promotion of professional research careers.

A starting point for all our funding is that the project to be funded must benefit Finnish research, Finnish society or international cooperation.

Ambitious research projects that aim at achieving new breakthroughs always carry a risk of failure. However, in the review of applications and in preparing funding decisions, this will not prevent applicants from receiving funding. Our aim is to open up opportunities for scientific breakthroughs and to enhance the renewal and regeneration of science and research.

When making funding decisions, we also pay attention to other science policy objectives. These include:

  • promoting the careers of women and young researchers
  • promoting gender equality in research
  • developing creative research environments
  • advancing multi- and interdisciplinary research
  • supporting the internationalisation of research
  • implementing more comprehensive research programmes
  • observing the special objectives of Academy Programmes and funding programmes for strategic research
  • supporting Centres of Excellence.

We also pay attention to the quality of research environments, to the positive impact the projects have on the research environments and to the principal investigators’ ability and experience in terms of project management. In addition, we consider the applicants’ previous funding received from us or other sources and take into account the way in which the PI and the research team have proved their ability to manage the funds granted.

Other aspects we take into account include good scientific practice and intellectual property rights. Where necessary, the PI must indicate in the research plan how research ethics has been taken into account in the project.

Good to know about our decisions

The greater part of the applications submitted to the Academy are reviewed by panels of experts. A panel’s task is to review the scientific quality of the applications assigned to it. Each year, we receive funding applications worth more than 1 billion euros. The funding we are able to grant amounts to about one-fifth of this sum. This of course means that not all top-rated applications can be funded.

When making decisions, we take into account the policies outlined in the documents adopted by the Academy Board and the research councils (e.g. action and financial plans, strategies, equality plans) as well as the science policy priorities of the Finnish Government.

We fund all scientific disciplines and all research fields. Each of our four research councils represents a certain set of disciplines and research fields. The research councils grant funding to a wide range of fields, bearing in mind the whole spectrum of disciplines and research fields they represent as well as a multidisciplinary perspective.

The members of each research council are appointed by the Finnish Government for a three-year term. Care is taken to ensure that the research councils represent versatile scientific expertise of a high standard. Universities, government research institutes, public authorities and corporate bodies in R&D, major scientific societies and science academies are consulted before appointing a research council.

The number of applications, the competition between applicants and the reviewers all vary from one application round to the next. A review report on an application is effectively an opinion on the matter at hand by experienced and recognised panels of mostly foreign experts in the field concerned.

We are alert to the challenges associated with scientific peer review and are committed to continuously improving our review processes.

Last modified 2 Feb 2018
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