Dark clouds over Turkish and UK Academia

Visitors to Istanbul often first go to see the eighth wonder of the world, Hagia Sophia. This is also what my research group did – actually several times – in connection with joint research meetings with our Turkish partners. Hagia Sophia has a history of being a Byzantine church for over 900 years, then it was used as an Ottoman mosque for over 480 years, and in 1935 it was converted to a secular museum. For over 10 years, we have worked together with our Turkish partners to find secular solutions for the production of renewable energy carriers. During these years, we have learned to appreciate the excellent research quality and true commitment of our Turkish friends. The research exchanges can be counted in years.

The news from Turkey this summer after the failed coup trial have been very confusing and discouraging: the attacks on academic freedom and putting the education sector under a tight control. This has been demonstrated by sacking large numbers of Turkish university staff, academics from abroad have been told to return home, and bans on international travel have been set. It is very important that the European University Association, followed promptly by Universities Finland UNIFI among other organisations, have called on European universities and scholars to speak against these crude developments.

The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union has been another headline in this summer’s world news. Brexit is going to have widespread consequences – and not least for European science. Seven UK academies in their open letter to the new UK administration expressed their concern that Brexit is putting UK science at a serious risk. This warning is warranted already from the funding perspective alone. A Royal Society publication from 2015 reports that the UK contributed to the EU 7th Framework Programme by 5.4 billion euros, whilst it received 8.8 billion euros. As first aid to UK scientists, the UK government announced this weekend that Horizon research funding granted before leaving the EU will be guaranteed.

UK universities are dominating the top of the best universities in Europe as measured by various ranking systems. Times Higher Education, for example, lists the best 200 European universities, and UK universities take four out of five top positions and they also represent one quarter of the overall list. These figures alone show that the contribution of UK universities to European science and innovation must be very significant. Therefore, the risk caused by Brexit is not limited to UK science but that of the European Union – and we Finns are not outside the risk zone. Over the years, Finnish university scientists have established mutually fruitful co-operation with UK universities – typically with the help of EU funded projects.

In addition to scientific contributions, the UK’s involvement in the development of the EU’s science policy has been instrumental. At present, EU funding decisions are based on scientific criteria. This policy has been strongly influenced by the UK together with several other countries including Finland. How will this be after Brexit? Possible science policy changes after the UK’s withdrawal could also be detrimental to our opportunities and successes in sustaining future funding.

Going back to Istanbul. We have team photos from Hagia Sophia by the wishing column with a bronze-covered hole in the wall. The advice given by our friends was to put a thumb in the hole, rotate the thumb a complete 360-degree tour inside the hole and at the same time, make a wish. According to the legend, there is a tendency for the wish to come true. Applying this method is not going to be enough for clearing the present challenges around academic life in Turkey. More secular actions are needed. In addition to political statements and sympathies, practical solutions by universities and especially at research team level are needed. First, securing our Turkish visitors the continuums of conducting research in our laboratories and groups.  It is important to find ways of pursuing active research relations over the difficult times.

As for cooperation with UK partners, our researchers should take every effort to maintain and further strengthen research ties. And for politicians, actions towards sustaining the UK’s contributions to the EU’s competitiveness through science and innovation just makes sense.

Jaakko_Puhakka_TTY_100x130_3Jaakko Puhakka
Academic rector

 

 

 

 

The Decline or Rise of the Humanities?

Recent reports on Finnish universities’ plans to cut humanities degree programmes have aroused fears that the humanities as a whole are in a state of a free fall. What has been of particular concern for many is the allegedly rushed, undemocratic, and almost random manner in which decisions on these cuts are now being carried out. Or rather, are said to be carried out as, in fact, at the time of writing this blog hardly any such decisions have yet been taken by those universities that have so far been mentioned in this context, including UEF. Yet it should be evident to all who have followed the discussions on universities’ structural reforms over the last couple of years that some changes are under way in the humanities just as well as in several other fields of study. Since this topic is likely to occupy front-page headlines in both national and local news media for some time to come, it is worthwhile having a look at the reasons behind these developments.

One is the diminishing demand for labour in some areas of the humanities. Teachers of most foreign languages except English are one example. This is a reflection of the rapidly declining numbers of school-students opting for these subjects in school, not to mention those of school-students choosing them as one of the subjects for their Matriculation Exams. For example, the number of pupils taking the exam in German Language (Advanced and Short courses combined) dropped from 6,038 in the year 2007 to 2,296 in 2015, so down to about one third in less than a decade. The figures for French Language reveal a more or less similar development. What is worse, this downward trend is set to continue unless some drastic steps are taken especially in areas outside the major cities to enable and encourage school-students to pick up German or French as one of their subjects. Now almost half of the examinees in these subjects come from Helsinki and the province of Uusimaa. In the light of these statistics it is not surprising that the numbers of applicants wanting to study these subjects at university are declining. The reality is that universities now find themselves struggling to fill their student quotas in some of these subjects, which forces them to make adjustments to their study programmes.

Apart from language subjects, some other arts and humanities subjects have also witnessed a decline in numbers of applicants but so have some of the sciences as well. Yet the pressure for cuts appears to have been much greater on humanities programmes than those in other fields. This is then easily interpreted as showing that the humanities are in a “crisis”, as has been done in some recent newspaper reports on higher education. What seems to support this is the reportedly similar situation in many other countries if not worldwide even. You only need to google “humanities cutbacks” and several hits come up referring to cutbacks in humanities programmes in Norway, Germany, the UK, Israel, Japan, and the US, to list but a few. More often than not, these measures are accompanied by curtailment of funding for those programmes that have remained.

Are the humanities then doomed to be wiped out altogether? The true picture may, after all, be less negative than it seems at first glance. I recently came across an essay entitled “The Rise of the Humanities” by Peter Mandler, Professor of Cultural History at Cambridge University (available at https://aeon.co/essays/the-humanities-are-booming-only-the-professors-can-t-see-it ). In this essay he analyses the situation in the humanities especially with respect to student enrollment numbers in the UK, US, and Australia. Mandler notes, first, that the talk of a crisis in the humanities has become so customary, an “orthodoxy”, to use his expression, that few have bothered to find out if there is real evidence to back up such rhetoric. Mandler himself has conducted a longitudinal study of the enrollments in humanities in the English-speaking world for over the last half-century. His results show that there has been hardly any change in the proportion of students studying humanities within that period. Indeed, in absolute numbers and despite fluctuations over the years, there are now more humanities students in the English-speaking world than ever before. In the US, as Mandler writes, the proportion of humanities degrees has remained stable at 10-12 per cent of all degrees ever since the 1950s. The only major change occurred in the 1960s and 1970s at the time which saw a significant influx of women into higher education. In the subsequent decades the situation changed only in that women turned in increasing numbers to more “professional” fields of study such as business, journalism, communication studies, and social work, while men continued to maintain their interest in humanities at the same level as before. Mandler’s conclusion, therefore, is that there is no real basis for the talk of a crisis, and that the humanities have proved resilient enough even in the face of tough competition from other, seemingly more attractive and financially more tempting, fields of study. That in itself shows that the humanities continue to be capable of serving important cultural and societal needs in the rapidly changing world.

Turning back to the current situation in Finland, the need for changes and possible cutbacks in the universities’ offering of courses in the humanities should be assessed against their wider background, and the consequences of any drastic changes should be carefully analysed before implementing them. Needless to say, rushed decisions and measures on the part of universities and other policy-makers can be irreversible and carry the risk of destroying something that will cause permanent damage to some areas of scholarship. Even those areas that at first glance look too small to be viable may play an important role as part of a larger and meaningful field of research or study programme. As for humanists themselves, rather than surrendering to the rhetoric of “crisis”, they should find ways of renewing their disciplines, by seeking points of connection and concrete forms of collaboration with other disciplines and study programmes – something that they have already begun doing and should continue to do.

filppulaMarkku Filppula
dean, Philosophical Faculty

Lean thinking in the academic world

Originally, Lean thinking and the Lean Management Model were introduced for the purposes of automotive industry process management. The objective was to reduce unnecessary work phases and labour, make less errors, produce better quality, achieve faster flow-through times and cut down on costs. In management, the key principles of Lean in everyday activities are “Continuous Improvement” and “Respect for People”. These are good principles. Lean thinking is gaining footing also in health care and in hospitals, and the experiences have been positive.

How about in the academic world? A university is not a car factory. Teaching, research, administration – all of these nevertheless involve a large number of different processes. Profitability is measured through numerical indicators such as numbers of degrees awarded, completion times, numbers of students completing 55 credits, publications, doctoral dissertations, competitive funding, etc., and also feedback.

The smoothness and swiftness of processes are important for the university’s employees, customers, students and research partners alike.

Reductions in the universities’ funding also forces them to think about how money gets used. How to achieve similar, or better, results by doing less – i.e. by eliminating unnecessary work? As organisations, the universities still have a long way to go when it comes to reforming their ways of doing things. The old position-based thinking sits tight and complex administrative processes cause things to run not-so-smoothly.

Heavy expectations are placed on digitalisation, which comes with great opportunities and in which Finland could lead the way for others. The compatibility and functionality of information systems are of utmost importance.  System providers should also feel this pressure, so that clients don’t have to pay for systems in which a slowly progressing progress bar plays the leading role.

Lean comes with the idea of finding better solutions – together. There are always things that could be done better.

Lean management in any organisation is the recognition and daily practice of the Lean principles: “Continuous Improvement” and “Respect for People.”

Hilkka Soininen (2)Hilkka Soininen
Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences

 

At the interface between universities and companies

Nordic universities were very successful in the recently published Times Higher Education European University Top 200 Rankings, as six Finnish universities made the cut, UEF among them. This is a clear indication of the high quality of Finnish education and research, as well as of the functionality of the system. By developing research, this performance can be further enhanced. When it comes to doing research, Finnish universities are getting more and more dependent on external funding every year. Another new trend is the fact that research funders increasingly push universities to collaborate with companies and different organisations in order to put research into practice without delay.

In natural sciences, health sciences and engineering sciences, university-business collaboration has long traditions, but in human sciences, this kind of cooperation has been more random. Collaboration with organisations making use of research findings is a requirement in calls of the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland and in Horizon2020 projects, not to mention in funding offered by the EU’s Structural Funds or Tekes. A key challenge for the Finnish universities – and for human sciences in particular – is to establish links to organisations and especially to companies that utilise research findings. So, how to bring together those who need research data, and those who generate it?

Before answering the question, I’ll explain how things are done at KU Leuven in Belgium, a university that has succeeded very well in research funding calls of the European Commission. Saija Miina, the Research Coordinator of our faculty, was recently introduced to the funding models of five universities in the Flanders area. There, universities are given basic public funding and a significant share of national funding for research on the basis of indicators measuring the performance of their research and innovation activities, and there is no separate competition for funding like we have through the Academy of Finland. The internal distribution of research funding at the universities is based on competition between different research groups. At KU Leuven, internal research funding decisions involve the recipient’s commitment to apply for funding from the instruments of the European Commission, or at least to collaborate with companies and other organisations. For creating networks and making research available to the “markets”, KU Leuven has hired persons with such titles as Industrial Manager and Knowledge Breaker to lower the threshold of researchers to engage in dialogue with companies. The funding model of KU Leuven puts a pressure on researchers to seek cooperation with key stakeholders. Two thirds of Leuven professors collaborate with companies or other organisations, irrespective of their discipline.

As we are competing for the same funds of the European Commission, we need to observe our competitors, adopt best practices and brainstorm for new ways of doing things. At UEF, university-business cooperation has been systematically strengthened since late 2014, following the appointment of Anssi Lehikoinen to a Professor of Practice position. We’ve already seen visible results, and creating increasingly extensive cooperation is the aim of the Commercialisation Solutions project launched late last year, which seeks to create a new model and an incentive system for the commercialisation of research. With an open and broad mind, the interface between universities and companies is fertile ground for creating new ideas on how to develop research and how to apply research findings.

harri_siiskonen
Harri Siiskonen
Dean

Making brave recruitments

There is an old wisdom that the only wise decisions universities need to make are those related to recruitment – of staff and students alike.  Success in these is likely to translate into success in general.

Last week, staff recruitment was extensively discussed between heads of faculties, departments and independent institutes in a seminar aimed at the UEF leadership. According to my understanding, there was a wide consensus on moving from recruitments that are based on curricula and academic subjects to those that are based on the university’s strategy and its thematic entities. If the strategy doesn’t guide our recruitments, then there is no need for it.

Heads of faculties, departments and units need to have access to the big picture about staff and funding in order to do real strategic HR planning. A mere review of annual vacancies is not enough.

Furthermore, our recruitment processes need to become increasingly flexible and faster. It is not likely that we are able to attract top players if it takes months or even years to make the recruitment decision. However, this is something that we can change by streamlining our own instructions and practices, and this is also something the Finnish legal framework allows us to do.

With a clear idea of the kind of expertise, orientation, social skills, etc., expected of the candidate, we are more likely to succeed in our recruitments compared to just publishing a public notice of vacancy and seeing what kinds of applicants it attracts. This calls for active recruitment: following the doings of potential candidates in several channels and over a longer period of time – and our own networks also come in handy. Furthermore, experts from outside Finland are not likely to venture to a new country and new university without any prior knowledge of the destination and people there, so communicating actively on both sides before the recruitment is essential.

Whether to invest in recruiting people from outside or from within the organisation is a topic of much discussion when it comes to recruitment. The fact remains that Finnish universities tend to recruit too much from within, and there is too little national and international mobility – which are essentially important. However, quality should be the decisive factor also here. No matter where the candidate comes from, we need to make sure that we hire the best and most committed individual.

Thanks to profiling funding obtained from the Academy of Finland and our own strategic funding, we are in a position to make a significant number of new recruitments in the near future. Succeeding in these will affect our success in the long run, so what we need now is an active, flexible and quality driven approach.

Jukka_Monkkonen_100X130Jukka Mönkkönen
Rector

 

Excellence – something to strive for

In Finland, we tend to see excellence in our activities. A good example is our education system, the best in the world in our minds. In many cases, although certainly not in all, this is also true in the light of international comparisons. In industry, we respect innovation and manufacturing of high-quality products, instead of bulk products that make financial profit only when sold in high quantities. Finnish design is a trademark of high quality, too.

In universities, we must also strive for excellence, both in education and research. Carrying out our academic activities at a level comparable to the highest international standards is also a way to financial success.  In the UEF strategy, the development of learning environments and international-level research areas is also pointing in the right direction. The funding system of universities in Finland relies on indicators that measure, directly or indirectly, the quality of our actions.  Success in these indicators determines our future success, not only financially but also in terms of our international reputation. Indeed, Academy of Finland professors, FiDiPro professors, ERC grants and centres of excellence (CoEs) in UEF are indicators of excellence in research. They are the flagships that can make the university famous for research.

A centre of excellence (CoE) is a team, a shared facility or an entity that provides leadership, best practices, research, support and/or training for a focus area (Wikipedia).  The Academy of Finland’s CoEs represent the very cutting edge of science in their fields, developing creative research environments and training new talented researchers for the Finnish research system and Finnish business and industry (http://www.aka.fi/en/research-and-science-policy/centres-of-excellence/). The call for letters of intent for the new CoE programme will open in April 2016. According to the Academy of Finland, the new CoE programme enables the renewal of science, with improved support to utilise research findings in society. The CoE programme 2018-2025 is expected to include new research groups, new research themes and new openings embracing a high gain-high risk approach. What does this mean? Does this offer new possibilities for UEF researchers? We will learn more during this spring. Let’s actively collect all the information available to find out what we can expect from this round and prepare ourselves for tough competition.

Indeed, it is time to establish consortiums that will be competitive in the coming application round.  Most importantly, competitive consortiums must include not only a high quality director, research groups and members, but also fresh research ideas with potential for new scientific openings and breakthroughs. Obviously, UEF researchers have to collaborate with top scientists in other national and international research organisations. Even the weakest partner in a consortium must be strong enough. Typically, only the maximum grades in the review process are good enough for success. Also typically, the director of a CoE is a prominent, experienced researcher of the highest international level. It is interesting to see if younger candidates will be considered more seriously as directors for the next long programme term (2018-2025). A young director cannot have hundreds of scientific papers, as is characteristic of directors of the present CoE programmes.  Let’s hope that also young talents have chances for success.

Jukka JurvelinJukka Jurvelin
dean, Faculty of Science and Forestry

Tuition fees are coming, will students follow?

Ossi Lindqvist, Emeritus Rector of the University of Kuopio, which was a predecessor of UEF, actively follows international higher education policy and kindly sends us current Rectors topical articles with an endnote saying “just so you know, Ossi L.”. A couple of weeks ago, he mailed us Manolo Abella’s article Global Competition for Brains and Talent (Journal of International Affairs 2015), which  looks into the development of the international higher education market. According to the article, there were a total of 5.2 million international students in the world in 2014, which is close to that of Finland’s entire population. By 2025, the number of international students is estimated to grow to 8 million globally. In other words, the international higher education market is big and growing fast. The attitudes towards international students are positive in most OECD countries, as manifested by student-friendly immigration and post-graduation work permit policies.  A driving force behind this is the countries’ desire to attract young, talented and skilled workforce to promote welfare and to take care of the ageing population, among other things.

So, how are the Finnish universities doing in the international higher education market? According to the statistics of University Admissions Finland, 20,000 foreign students are enrolled in the universities’ international Master’s degree programmes. This means that Finland’s share of the international degree-seeking student population is less than 0.4%.

Moreover, it’s good to note that the largest group applying for admission to Master’s degree programmes taught in English here in Finland are Finns. The next largest groups are Pakistani, Nigerian, Chinese and Ghanaian students. The number of international students is quite modest, but even more modest is our ability to offer opportunities for employment after graduation.

But what’s the situation with international student numbers here at UEF? Currently, we offer 32 Master’s degree programmes taught in English with approximately 1,150 international students enrolled in them. Around 130 of these students are Russian and 76 come from China. When looking at the EU countries, the majority of students hail from Germany. To sum up: UEF’s share of international degree students is less than 6% and, considering our size, we are below the average among Finnish universities.

In many countries, international students constitute an established and significant source of income for universities. Paying tuition fees is something I, too, am familiar with, as my own daughters ended up studying abroad – one in Australia and the other in the UK. Admittedly, this was felt in the wallet, but the fact that Anna and Noora were pleased with their universities considerably eased my pain.

So far, studying in Finland has been free of charge for everyone.  In the near future, however, tuition fees will be imposed on non-EU and non-EEA students, and this has sparked a lively debate with arguments for and against. Most of the comparisons have focused on experiences from the other Nordic Countries – and for a good reason, as tuition fees were adopted in the other Nordic Countries a couple of years ago, and this makes for example Sweden a good point of comparison.

Sweden imposed tuition fees on non-EU and non-EEA students in 2011. There, too, the decision to adopt tuition fees is linked to cuts in the universities’ basic funding from the government. According to University World News, Sweden experienced a drop of 80% in student numbers, and this is something that is often brought up here in Finland as well. In the academic year 2014-2015, however, the student numbers took a significant turn for the better. When looking at the situation in Sweden, it’s good to note that half of students who pay tuition fees study in four universities (Lund, KTH, Chalmers and Uppsala), and the other half in the remaining 25 universities and other tertiary institutions.  The range of tuition fees in Sweden is between 8,000 and 15,000 euros per year. Maintaining the diversity of the student body is seen as one of the biggest challenges, as studying will no longer be financially possible for everyone.

UEF’s vision of the future is to be an internationally attractive university. Keeping this in mind, we need to step up in attracting international experts, including international students. However, increasing the number of international students while adopting tuition fees is challenging, and wise decisions are needed.

The point of departure is that all Master’s degree programmes taught in English are of a high standard and provide students with specific skills needed in working life. This brings back a lively memory from when I was teaching in the US. There, lectures used to continue with a discussion that went on for as long as it took for things to be understood. Usually the initiative came from students, but it was equally inspiring for the teacher as well. Their reasoning was: “I need this knowledge in exchange for my tuition fee.”

UEF’s international Master’s degree programmes are currently under review. The objective is to ensure that they are sufficiently large and unique.  In Finland, there is no point in creating programmes that compete with one another. In addition, our programmes need to support our strategy. I have a feeling that UEF will have 15-20 strong programmes that are appealing to international students. In today’s economic reality, there is no point in thinking about these programmes as separate entities; instead they should rather be seen as a supplementary intake to the university’s Master’s level education. This is how programmes at our Faculty of Science and Forestry, for example, are working already.

And finally, I get to the issue that sparks many emotions: tuition fees. In fact, I’m returning to what I started this post with. First of all, the global market for international students is growing rapidly. Second, we need young and talented people here in Finland to ensure our competitiveness and support our ageing population. Third, Finnish academic education is of a high level and internationally competitive. These are the points that should be taken into consideration when thinking about tuition fees to be imposed on non-EU/EEA students – a profitability aspect. A scholarship scheme may be in place in specific cases, and the logic will be the same as for Finnish students: After graduation, the skills obtained are put to use for the benefit of the country and society. In the name of safeguarding equal opportunities for studying, could for example development cooperation funds be used to financially support students selected from developing countries?  When it comes to development cooperation that is rooted in education, Finland has been a source of many success stories ever since the 1980s.

Jaakko_Puhakka_TTY_100x130_3Jaakko Puhakka
Academic rector

Waging war on science publishers

While universities and scientists in Finland and many other countries are struggling with increased cutbacks in their funding, they are faced with similar challenges in making the results of their research known to the academic community and the wider public. Electronic publishing was at one time expected to gradually work towards lower subscription prices for scientific journals, but nothing of the kind has happened. On the contrary, most publishers have put up their prices both for printed books or journals and electronic publications at levels that have forced university libraries to reduce the number of journals they can afford to subscribe to. Neither has this development helped individual scholars who cannot possibly keep up with the recent rise in subscription fees or book prices.

Just over a year ago, I wrote a blog about the open access movement that had been formed by some language scientists at the Freie Universität, Berlin and at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig. By now, this movement has grown world-wide, with over 550 linguists around the world signing to the so-called Berlin Declaration, which calls for an alternative low-cost and open-access publication forum, independent from commercial publishers. Similar open-access channels have been set up by scientists in several other disciplines, including natural and health sciences, where the publishing houses have their biggest markets.

A recent issue of The University World News (15 Nov) reports on a ‘mass exodus’ of the whole team of editors and the editorial board of the prestigious journal Lingua, which was founded in 1947 by North Holland but was in the 1990s taken over by Elsevier. The journal’s editors sent to Elsevier a ‘re-negotiation letter’ in which they demanded that all articles published in Lingua be made open access. Also, the publication fees should be lowered to around US$430, and the authors should be allowed to retain copyright on their articles. Apparently, the negotiations between the resigned editorial team and Elsevier have failed, and the editors are now said to be setting up a new journal, which would be based on the principle of open access.

In Finnish academia, too, scholars have become increasingly concerned about the rising cost of publishing and the whole commercial culture surrounding it. In his column in Helsingin Sanomat (9 Nov), Dr Janne Saarikivi called on Finnish universities to distance themselves from commercial publishers rather than encourage their scientists to place their research articles in ‘top publications’, many of which have been in the forefront of making money with science publishing. Future publishing, according to Saarikivi, takes largely place in completely different forums such as Facebook or even Wikipedia.

Changes are clearly under way in the field of publishing these days, and it remains to be seen how and to what extent commercial publishers will react to the type of protests on the part of the academic community I have described above. Should academic institutions such as universities and their international organisations join the movement for low-cost open access publication, prospects of change would be greatly improved. In the meantime, we just have to keep up the fight as best we can and try to cope with the rising cost of publishing.

Markku Filppula
dean, Philosophical Faculty

Multidisciplinarity – interdisciplinarity in tackling global challenges

A special issue of Nature, September 17, 2015 published articles on interdisciplinarity in science. The article by Robert Van Noorden shows some interesting figures and numbers on this topic. The popularity of interdisciplinary has been varying over time, but currently it seems to be on the rise and is the most popular ever now in the twenty-first century.

Is interdisciplinarity needed? Scientists, policymakers and also funders consider it important in solving complicated questions. Horizon2020 programmes, for example, strongly emphasise interdisciplinary approaches and also require an evaluation of impact of the proposed research from different points of view.

Does interdisciplinarity have impact? It depends on how you measure it and what is the timeframe. In terms of citations, papers with less interdisciplinarity gained more citations compared to those with more interdisciplinarity over a 3-year period. However, in a longer period up to 13 years citations of the more interdisciplinary papers overcame those with a less diverse scope. Of course, impact is not only counting citations but considering other impact such as societal, health, technological and economic impact as well.

Is interdisciplinary research easy to do? Nowadays, research often needs expertise of different fields of science. “Low hanging fruit” in science are not easy to catch any more. It may take time to find the common language between experts from different disciplines. It takes time to deliver, but it can be rewarding.

Is it related to the field of science? It is notable that e.g. clinical medicine papers rarely cite papers from other disciplines of science. On the other hand “health science” in a broader sense and social studies of medicine in particular seem be very interdisciplinary.

Does it work in Finland? There are still too many barriers between universities, faculties, departments, professions, and research groups. The strategic research funding (STN) funding instrument is one way to facilitate interdisciplinarity – however, top down. I think that it is better to promote science across borders and spontaneous interaction between research groups with different expertise – bottom up.

It is not easy but it may be rewarding and productive. I recommend it!

Hilkka Soininen (2)Hilkka Soininen
Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences

Do you know your ethical responsibility?

Europe is currently dealing with refugee numbers unseen since World War II. At the same time, the media gets bombarded with anti-refugee hate speech. To me, this reaction is incomprehensible, as it is obvious that people are in real danger. You can test yourself by asking whether you would voluntarily leave your home, take your near and dear ones with you and venture out to sea on a rubber boat merely in the hope of better social benefits? The fact is that refugees are driven by something completely different, that is, a real danger threatening their lives.

During World War II, Finland sent 70,000 children to Sweden, out of war’s way and into safety. The first larger influx of refugees to Finland was experienced in the 1970s from Chile, and later in the 1990s from Somalia. For many of us Finns, Somali refugees were the first ones to cause a culture shock due to their different colour of skin and their different religion. Over the years, however, they have become integrated into Finnish society, they are a natural part of Finnish society, and they are as Finnish as the next fellow.

Irrespective of today’s economic situation, Finland nevertheless remains an affluent western nation and we can afford to do our part in this problem facing the whole of Europe. This is something anyone with a moral compass will think. Large refugee numbers will of course also cause pressure to Finnish society when it comes to integration training, social services, health care and education, but these can be managed after the acute situation has been dealt with, hopefully sooner than later. It’s also good to keep in mind that refugees constitute an immense source of new capacity for Finland. Multiculturalism is a richness and, when managed properly, a key to success. I think this is proven, for example, by the existence of the USA and by the country’s strength, which is rooted in it being a melting pot of different cultures.

meriläinen tuomo-100x130Tuomo Meriläinen
Director of Administration