One of the key objectives of the Finnish universities is to reach a high international level in rankings. Several indicators for achieving this status have been determined, but clearly the main door is opened with the help of impactful and scientifically relevant collaboration. This sounds like an easy problem to be solved. Academics travel to conferences and meet colleagues, and they have good access to virtual communication. They have plenty of opportunities to join international research groups. However, all researchers are not on the top in this sense. We may need to work more and especially work more with our international collaborators. Again, an easy task! Let’s go abroad!
Currently, several associations provide a variety of possibilities to apply for research scholarships for longer and shorter periods, but faculties nevertheless suffer from low staff mobility rates. I do not know the reasons behind this accurately, but I would like to shortly review the advantages and to encourage all academics to get on the move!
Colleagues often claim that there is an increasing number of digital tools to keep in touch with fellows abroad, and to work with shared documents across the world. This is correct and evidently makes our work easier. However, alongside the vital research needs, to become an international researcher, we need a wide and strong network of contacts having a good understanding of cultural and local priorities. By obtaining a good understanding of the academic and everyday life of our collaborators, we may strengthen our status as persons to be taken seriously. In addition, as important as how many fellows we know in different countries, is how well we are known within academic communities. Becoming actively visible in several ways is a significant part of our international growth, for every one of us!
When looking for research collaborators through publications, seminars or committees, we naturally aim to talk with colleagues dealing with similar research issues or interests as we do. This approach rarely creates incidental contacts resulting in continued research cooperation. Research meetings are strictly aimed at a narrow sample of researchers and there rarely is a chance for interdisciplinary debate. Living in foreign communities creates new, unpredictable connections and unforeseen possibilities, which we would never have perceived without spending time in a particular community. Innovative research needs, new perspectives and new ways to perceive issues in research will be fostered in several formal and informal events, where academics meet each other. Researcher exchange offers several chances for these kinds of occasions and inspires us to see our research field in a new way.
Spreading awareness of Finnish society and the Finnish universities is part of the internalization process. Often, when scholars on exchange give lessons, seminars or just chat with the faculty, they endorse the society and academics of their country. High ratings are not achieved through publications only, but also through highly acknowledged face-to-face contacts in research groups. It is always human beings working together and creating foundations for further collaboration. Surely, there are similar impacts vice versa.
Some researchers may consider their personal needs rather than the requirements of the university. Research scholarships often secure space and time for writing publications. In addition, host universities rarely impose too many administrative duties, but rather provide an office with computer and access to databases. Exchange periods offer an opportunity for nearly full-time focus on writing, reading and thinking without student appointments or meetings required by directors. The period offers a possibility to update our publication records or concentrate on opening a new branch in the research area through data collection.
Active interaction with the host institution and a curious attitude towards learning new aspects of life in general increase the benefits obtained from getting on the move. Cultural traditions and local celebrations are part of the academic life in many countries and cannot by experienced through the internet or databases. Furthermore, living in and acting within several frameworks makes us meet a variety of people and find new good friends. Some of them stay on our side for the rest of our lives, while others create good memories.
soveltavan kasvatustieteen ja opettajankoulutuksen osasto, filosofinen tiedekunta