When I visited the Design Museum in December, I received a sticker that said: “Industrial art needs free art by its side to stay vibrant.” It is something textile designer Maija Isola said in 1977. One of Isola’s designs is the famous Unikko print from Marimekko. The quote made me think what it would mean for strategic research. Inspired by Isola, I thought about thread and the two or three strands that usually make up a thread.
The thread of strategic research can easily be separated into three strands. The core strand is free science; without high-quality research the other strands unravel. Free science means the freedom to choose the subject and manner of research. This also applies to strategic research; although the strategic research programmes search for answers to specific questions, researchers choose what and how they study, and how they answer the posed questions.
The second strand is public discussion, which includes establishing a dialogue, opening doors and challenging the established views. It is also one of the cornerstones of democracy. As strategic research produces results that are utilized in decision-making, it inevitably requires public discussion by its side. This can be implemented in different ways. In the Culture in an Increasingly Technologically Driven Society (CULT) programme we have, among other things, regularly written in the magazine Tekniikka & Talous about technological breakthroughs. The Intimacy in Data-Driven Culture (IDA) project recently had an exhibition in the Design Museum called Intimacy, which studied the politization of fashion and highlighted the impact of digitalization.
Collaboration between different parties is at the core of establishing dialogue. Collaboration is the third strand that offers solutions and perspectives to support decision-making. In practice, this means participating in the different phases of decision-making, discussing with different parties, and providing research-based information even when no-one has thought of asking for it. This is why we have arranged discussions (called Euro Junctures) with members of the European Parliament. Similar dialogues have been arranged with Finnish parliamentary groups and members of the Parliament. During the year, we will offer the dialogues for parliamentary parties that are preparing for the coming elections. We are currently also finding new ways of opening dialogue with trade and industry.
Solutions from science, providing research-based information for different actors in society, is at the heart of strategic research. Paraphrasing Isola: strategic research cannot be vibrant without free science and public discussion.