On Thursday 28 May at 13.00–15.00, the Strategic Research Council (SRC) will present three draft theme proposals at a public consultation to be held complete online (see more details and the sign-up link below). The three theme proposals are (pdf):
• Demographic change – causes, consequences and solutions
• Biodiversity loss: Linkages to environment and society
• Pandemics as a societal challenge
• Cross-cutting priority: Wellbeing
The SRC funds high-quality scientific research that has high societal impact and that seeks solutions to major societal challenges that require multidisciplinary research approaches. SRC funding programmes are based on changing themes. Proposals on new themes are formulated annually through an interactive theme process. At the end of the process, the SRC submits a proposals to the Finnish Government on the next themes and priorities of strategic research. Through its decision on the themes, the Government steers high-quality and long-term research into solving major societal challenges.
Stakeholders have their say at different stages of the process
Professor Christina Salmivalli Vice Chair of the SRC, said: “The most important criterion for the themes proposed to the Government is to identify topical societal challenges to which solutions are sought through multidisciplinary research and interaction. Another key criterion is that the scientific community and stakeholders feel that the theme proposals are relevant, and this is why these groups are needed in shaping the themes. Thirdly, high-quality research related to a proposed theme must be found in Finland to the extent that we can receive a sufficient number of applications. If the first two criteria are met, then usually so will the third one.”
The preparation of themes begins with a foresight exercise aimed at identifying significant change phenomena in society. As part of the foresight exercise and the survey of stakeholder views, the SRC has long carried out an open online survey in October–November. More than 750 users signed up to the survey last year and the SRC received more than 200 proposals for new themes. The platform used allowed users to comment on the proposals, and the proposals received more than 500 comments in total.
In addition to the theme survey, the preparation process makes use of relevant reviews of anticipated future changes in the operating environment. In this preparation round, these included Opportunities for Finland, the joint outlook of the permanent secretaries of the ministries on the key questions for the upcoming government term, the UN Global Sustainable Development Report and the updated megatrends survey of Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund.
The stakeholder workshops held in February 2020 for representatives of universities, research institutes and ministries, among others, deepened the understanding of the dimensions of societal challenges that could be suitable as themes.
Public consultation provides opportunity to comment on proposals
Based on the workshops, survey and foresight exercise, the SRC has drawn up three draft theme proposals (pdf), which will discussed at a public consultation on 28 May at 13.00–15.00. The event will provide the research community and users of research results with an opportunity to discuss the proposed themes with representatives of the SRC. This year, the consultation will be held as an online event. More details on the event and the instructions for participation will be published on the SRC website before the event and sent to registered participants.
Professor Salmivalli added: “At this stage, the theme proposals are already quite well thought out, but not yet finalised. Based on the discussion at the consultation, the proposals may be further refined or receive new priorities that they did not previously have. The consultation will put the proposals to the test and, if necessary, fine-tune them to their final form.”
After the consultation, the SRC will examine the drafts and submit the finalised proposals to the Government. Traditionally, the proposals have been handed in in June, and the Government has made its decision during the autumn. After the Government’s decision, the SRC will start formulating research programmes and open funding calls based on the themes. At the same time, the next theme process will be launched.
Salmivalli added further: It’s essential and excellent that stakeholders are actively involved in the process at its various stages. All stages have a role to play in the selection of the societal challenges that will be used to develop themes and in the final formulation of the themes.”
- 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
- Questions about registration for the public consultation: strateginentutkimus(at)aka.fi.
Academy of Finland Communications
Tiina Salo, Communications Coordinator
tel. +358 295 335 084