Programme directors appointed for strategic research programmes YOUNG and SHIELD

17 Jan 2023

The Strategic Research Council (SRC) has selected part-time programme directors for the SRC programmes Children and Young People – Healthy, Thriving and Capable Makers of the Future (YOUNG) and Security and Trust in the Age of Algorithms (SHIELD). The funding period of the new programme directors runs from 1 January 2023 to 30 September 2025.

Karoliina Snell, University Lecturer at the University of Helsinki, was appointed as programme director for the SHIELD programme, and Marjo Kurki, Senior Researcher at the Itla Children’s Foundation, was appointed as programme director for the YOUNG programme.

The selections were made focusing on the candidates’ multidisciplinary competence in the topics of the programmes, their management and coordination experience in multidisciplinary networks and their suitability for the task.

An SRC programme director works in close cooperation with the programme’s projects to build a coherent programme package and promote cooperation between SRC programmes. SRC programme directors also develop and implement cross-programme activities. They work together with other programme directors and the Division of Strategic Research within the Academy of Finland to strengthen the societal impact of strategic research. Programme directors are employed by their host organisations.

Collaboration and interaction are essential

The new programme directors expect their task to include collaboration and interaction both with the research projects and with knowledge users. Karoliina Snell said: “Being programme director offers an opportunity to get to know the projects and to work together on the significance of knowledge and research. It’s also important to consider how critical and even unwanted research data can be put to use in decision-making and for the benefit of society.”

Marjo Kurki has been programme director for the PANDEMICS programme for one year, and now she will become programme director for the YOUNG programme. “The challenges associated with the polarisation of the wellbeing of children and young people are societally significant and their impacts far-reaching. Amid these many overlapping crises, research-based solutions to reduce the unequal distribution of wellbeing and to prevent inequalities are increasingly topical. I really look forward to making use of various networks of influence and looking for common interfaces between the programmes already under way and the YOUNG programme, which together will enhance the societal impact of research,” Kurki said.

The work to be carried out in the programmes will combine the high-quality scientific research and impact of the different projects. “Both scientific activity and societal advocacy require a wide range of dialogues to address the challenges at hand. SRC programmes effectively bring together projects, people and perspectives that wouldn’t necessarily otherwise meet. The programmes can be used to create a positive and evidence-based collective force around important themes,” Snell said.

According to Kurki, working at programme level offers much broader opportunities for projects to influence society. It facilitates new initiatives, such as new research topics, new funding calls with new combinations of expertise, or new expanding networks of impact.

Programme-level work is also meaningful from the perspective of knowledge users. “It’s important to promote encounters and interaction between knowledge-users such as policymakers and researchers as it will facilitate greater mutual understanding. Research knowledge does not inform decision-making merely by providing information; it requires dialogical methods and confidential encounters. Implementing this at programme level comes quite naturally,” Kurki said.

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