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Broader role proposed for successful Academy of Finland

Ministry of Education and Culture
Publication date 3.9.2013 10.30
Press release -

An international evaluation of the Academy of Finland commissioned by the Ministry of Education and Culture has been completed. The evaluation considers the Academy successful in its mission to finance high-quality scientific research and that the portfolio of funding instruments meets the expressed needs of the Finnish research community. The evaluation panel recommends a more active role for the Academy in science policy.

The evaluation shows that researchers who have received funding from the Academy of Finland feel that the Academy operates competently and the evaluation panel believes the Academy has the trust of the research community. It intelligently explores ways to improve its processes and is praised for the fact that it imposes only a low level of administrative burden on researchers.

The evaluation recommends that the Academy?s role should be extended into strategic research funding and it should play a more active role in science policy in Finland. The Academy should be more explicit about what is believes groundbreaking research is, why it should be funded and what specific processes and allocations will be used for that purpose. The Academy and the Ministry of Education and Culture should also jointly explore whether they have sufficient capacity in place to taken on the coordination of Finland?s international, especially European, research andinnovation policy.

- All funders struggle to keep research dynamic. Although the Academy seems quite good at handling interdisciplinary research which is often where new fields start, there is still scope to have more specific procedures for interdisciplinary and high-risk research. Internationally, research funders are increasingly organising their work not only around the need for fundamental research on the one hand and industrially-orientated research on the other, but also in order to respond to big societal challenges, underlines professor Erik Arnold.

To boost the effectiveness of the Academy?s funding, the evaluation says that the Academy?s Board should be strengthened and the Research Council heads should become observers with speaking but not voting rights.

The evaluation recommends two clear strategies for the Academy: the first would specify clear objectives it intends to reach in research and society, and the second would be an internationalisation strategy that would be developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology Innovation (Tekes), and with other sector ministries and institutions where necessary. It would be used by national science policymakers in negotiations at the European level and with other EU Member States.

The evaluation says that the Academy itself should play a bigger role in providing advice on science policy. However, there are other functions such as lobbying for science and science communications, which are not best performed by a funding body. It recommends that the Ministry of Education and Culture should strengthen its efforts to foster an independent ?science academy? to enhance the role of science in decision-making processes. The Ministry of Education and Culture is also encouraged to consider transferring budget funds from university core funding to the Academy in order to boost the volume of research funded by means of competitive bidding.

- The recommendations of the evaluation give us a rich supply of tools for fully exploiting the reserve of competence in the Academy of Finland for executing existing and potential new functions in today?s rapidly changing operating environment as part of Finland?s overall research and innovations system, says Permanent Secretary Anita Lehikoinen at the Ministry of Education and Culture.

The Ministry of Education and Culture will be organising events in autumn 2013 and spring 2014 to examine further steps to be taken based on the results of the evaluation. The main focus will be on developing the role of the Academy of Finland in research, development and innovation activities, on fostering the internationalisation of science and on enhancing decision-making in science in Finland.

The Academy of Finland is the main funding body for scientific research in Finland. In 2012 it made funding decisions for a value of around EUR 327 million. The current evaluation started in 2010, when the Research and Innovation Council recommended that the Academy of Finland should be evaluated. Technopolis Group Ltd and ETLA, winners of the competitive tendering, undertook the evaluation. Professor Erik Arnold led the evaluation panel which was additionally advised by a panel of leading international scientists. The Academy of Finland was last evaluated in 2004.

Evaluation of the Academy of Finland -report

The report on the evaluation of the Academy of Finland will be published on Tuesday 3 September 2013 at 13.00 – 15.30. The event can be viewed live at

Anita Lehikoinen, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Culture, tel. +358 295 3 30293
Erik Arnold, Evaluation Panel Chair, Technopolis Group Ltd, tel. +44 1273 204320
Erja Heikkinen, Counsellor of Education, Ministry of Education and Culture, tel. +358 295 3 30101
Riitta Maijala, Director, Ministry of Education and Culture, tel. +358 295 3 30300