Parliament Members and Scientists Contemplated the Future of Science and Research
The Society of Scientists and Parliament Members (Tutkas) gathered together a record number of 160 participants to its seminar, the Future of Science and Research, which was organized at the auditorium of the Finnish Parliament Annex in September.
Chairperson of Tutkas, MP Sanna Lauslahti emphasized the topicality of the theme, as the opposition had just a few hours earlier tabled an interpellation measure on the effects of the education budget cuts. Though the Prime Minister’s speech, which was to be shown that same evening, took media attention away from the interpellation measure.
Lauslahti called for solution-focused discussion on the allocation of cuts. She asked whether it would be possible to find stronger approaches to managing higher education institutions, her example being the management of corporations. However, the rector of the University of Turku and the chairperson of Unifi, Kalervo Väänänen, emphasized in his talk that we need to strengthen the autonomy of universities instead of weakening it.
Minister of Education and Culture Sanni Grahn- Laasonen called for innovative thinking and new courses of action in the face of reducing resources. According to Grahn-Laasonen, the network of higher education institutions is still fragmented.
Reports on the distribution of work between different fields of education are a good start, but now the level of ambition needs to be raised and there needs to be action. She expects that in the outcome evaluations next spring, universities will make bold proposals about profiling and the redistribution of work. In her talk, the Minister emphasized the importance of impact and actions.
Jukka Westermarck, Professor of the Turku Centre for Biotechnology, gave a refreshing talk about the importance of funding for a researcher. His cancer research group has made breakthroughs in basic research that have moved into medicine development.
Westermarck called for shifting the point of view from the funding of universities to the funding of researchers and research groups. Research groups need to have resources because they are the ones doing the research, not university organizations.
According to Westermarck, at the moment there is too little project funding available for researchers, which hinders the creation of top-level publications. The lack of top-level publications, in its turn, hinders getting external funding from abroad. Westermarck emphasized that the standard of science depends on the conditions of research groups. The best researchers can be attracted to Finland through research groups. We should move from brain drain to brain import.
Marja Makarow, Vice President for Research of the Academy of Finland, presented the new funding instruments of the Academy.
There were 13 applications for the funding for strengthening university profiling. Three universities received the full amount of funding they applied for, seven universities got a part of the amount they applied for and three universities were not granted funding. Makarow said that also the projects of the first strategic research programmes have been selected.
Väänänen, chairperson of Unifi, said that cutting down on Master’s level education is a major flaw in the government programme. He also said that his wish was that Finland would implement the Bologna model better and abandon the dual model. Tuomo Puumala, chairperson of the Education and Culture Committee, gave the “pale green” light to the Tampere3 project, and asked for a Minister of Science. Tapio Kosunen, Director General of the Ministry of Education and Culture, said that the Tampere3 project still requires further planning.
Väänänen said that his personal wish was for the state government to leave universities in peace to get on with their work, as guaranteed by the Universities Act. The cycles for developing universities are long, and it is not possible to change the direction on every government term.
text Raija Pyykkö, Head of Union Affairs The Finnish Union of University Professors