The Strategic Research Council’s (SRC) programmes include the unique funding for programme directors. The SRC has decided to reform the funding for programme directors by opening the call to a larger number of applicants than before. The call for programme directors for the Just-Green-Transition-themed JUST ENERGY and JUST TRANSITION programmes opens in April. The SRC hopes for more applicants that are experts in promoting the societal impact of science and research.
The Call for Programme Directors 2023 (in Finnish)
Programme director and projects jointly build a programme package
At its meeting on 13 March 2023, the SRC decided to reform the call for programme directors by changing the application and evaluation process and the tasks of the programme director. Reforming the call for programme directors is a natural step forward in the SRC’s long-term development work to strengthen the relevance of individual projects in its funding. In recent years, the SRC has paid particular attention to developing programme activities and cross-programme activities for societal impact in which programme directors play a crucial role.
A part-time programme director employed by their own background organisation, such as a university or research institute, is funded for each SRC programme. Until now, the funding call for programme directors has been opened only after the projects to be funded have been selected. Because of this, the programme directors have begun working approximately four months after the beginning of the projects, which they have described as jumping onto a moving train.
The final evaluation of the SRC programmes completed in 2019 (2021) found that the relevance of individual projects and coordination between them could have been further enhanced by planning programme-level activities jointly from the beginning of the projects’ funding period. The overall evaluation of SRC funding published in 2022 (TIETOVA evaluation) also called for consideration to be given to whether the programme director, who builds programme-level activities, should be selected at an earlier stage. The SRC’s programme director reform is a response to the observations made in both evaluations. In the future, the programme director will be involved in building the programme package and strengthening connections between the projects from the very beginning.
Specified programme objectives support societal impact
In the SRC programme calls, specific questions and objectives are set for each programme. The actual programme consists of funded projects and do not necessarily cover the entire original programme description. According to feedback from the current programme directors, the relevance of individual projects could be strengthened by making the programme director and the funded projects define realistic objectives for the project package together. Such further specified programme objectives support the building of the programme and its societal impact as well as the reporting and evaluation of the societal impact.
As the funding periods for programme directors and projects will begin simultaneously from now on, programme directors’ proposal for a more detailed definition of the programme objectives can also be addressed. The programme director has had three main tasks for a while: to build the programme package in cooperation with the projects of the programme they manage, to be responsible for cross-programme cooperation with other programme directors and to promote the societal impact of research together with other programme directors and the Division of Strategic Research. In the reform, the programme director will also be responsible for facilitating the further specification of the programme objectives and monitoring their implementation in cooperation with the projects and the SRC. With this change, the SRC aims to strengthen the relevance of individual projects in both promoting and evaluating societal impact.
Reformed process and evaluation for the call for programme directors
In the future, the call for programme directors will be open. With an open call, the SRC hopes to reach more applicants for funding than before. When the number of applications will hopefully increase, the evaluation process must also be changed. As the funding for programme directors differs from other research funding due to the central importance of societal impact, a preparatory group supporting the SRC’s decision-making will be appointed to evaluate the applications instead of a scientific panel. The preparatory group has scientific and societal impact expertise, and it mainly consists of national experts.
The preparatory group will evaluate each application on the basis of three aspects: the compatibility of the applicant’s social networks and scientific expertise with the programme, the action plan’s quality and societal impact. The preparatory group will present the SRC with its recommendations on which applicants it recommends inviting for an interview. After this, the SRC decides on the programme director applicants that are invited for an interview.
The SRC’s decisions on funding for programme directors are based on an overall picture of the interviews and applications and on the realisation of the science policy objectives set out in the call for applications. In its decisions, the SRC also considers aspects related to the formation of the programme package.
SRC hopes for many good applications
The first reformed call for programme directors will soon open for these programmes: Energy Solutions as Part of a Just Green Transition (JUST ENERGY) and Societal Solutions in a Just Green Transition (JUST TRANSITION).
According to the preliminary timetable, the call for programme directors will be open from 5 April to 23 May 2023. The call for applications will be published on the Academy of Finland’s website at the latest when the call opens. The information event for the call will be organised as a webinar on Thursday 27 April from 10.00 to 11.30.
The SRC hopes that the renewed call for programme directors will receive many good applications from among which the Council will find the best possible programme directors to pilot the JUST TRANSITION and JUST ENERGY programmes.
- Energy Solutions as Part of a Just Green Transition (JUST ENERGY)
- Societal Solutions in a Just Green Transition (JUST TRANSITION)
- Programme activity and societal impact
- Tutkimustiedosta toimintaan ja vaikuttavuuteen: Strategisen tutkimuksen rahoitusinstrumentin arviointi (TIETOVA)
- Milja Saari, Senior Science Adviser, tel. +358 295 335 123
- Henna Luoma-Halkola, Science Adviser, tel. +358 295 335 132
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