The Academy of Finland has reviewed the research- andscience-policy measures carried out in the 2000s by five countries(Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland)comparable with Finland. The
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The report “Research Policy: Tools and Practices: A Five-CountryComparison” explores the basic question: What have thesefive countries done better than Finland, or what key measures withpositive impacts on scientific performance has Finland neglected orfailed to implement?
The national and international evaluations conducted in the pastfew years indicate that the relative quality of Finnish scientificresearch has not improved in the 2000s as expected. Several smallEuropean countries – such as Denmark, Ireland and Norway – haveoutstripped Finland and certain leading-edge countries in science -e.g. the Netherlands and Switzerland – have further increased theirlead over Finland.
A major reason for this is that Finland has not updated itsscience policy since the early 2000s, when Finnish science maderapid progress and approached the international forefront. Thereport also shows that the countries seem to carry out – or atleast try out – measures adopted by a forerunner country, even ifthere is no strong evidence of their impacts.
According to Paavo Löppönen, Director of Evaluation andDevelopment at the Academy of Finland, Switzerland differs from theother reviewed countries in an interesting way. Switzerlandcontinues to further approach the US top in research and will mostlikely outstrip it in the near future. In its research efforts,Switzerland has relied on traditional methods, primarily such asstrong, internationally competitive universities, substantialfunding for basic research, extensive and versatile internationalcooperation, and researcher mobility.
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Löppönen points out that it is not possible to identify onesingle factor that would explain the success of the referencecountries compared to Finland. The following five major differencescan, however, be listed:
• Degree of internationalisation of science: This is aparticular strength for Switzerland and Finland’s most apparentweakness. When we compare the percentage of foreign researchers andstudents involved in the research system of these countries,Finland clearly lags behind that of the reference countries.
• Research funding structure within the higher education sector:In Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland, the publicsector accounts for more than 60 per cent of the core funding forresearch at universities and higher education institutions: in theNetherlands the percentage is 75 per cent, whereas in Finland 45per cent and in Ireland 35 per cent.
• Thematically targeted versus researcher-driven funding: Therelative significance of thematically targeted funding schemesseems to be greater in Finland than in most of the referencecountries.
• Research infrastructures: A common feature shared by all thecountries reviewed for this study is that they are actively engagedin the development and use of international researchinfrastructures. The reference countries have, however, investedmore in developing national research infrastructures than Finland,for example with concrete investment programmes for severalyears.
• Researcher salaries: The fierce competition for the highlyskilled has also affected science policy. As a result, a number ofdifferent incentives, such as research career paths, have beencreated to attract new talent. The present study reveals that aparticular challenge for Finland in its efforts to attract foreigntalent relates to researcher salaries, which significantly lagbehind those of the reference countries. This refers both to thepublic sector, universities and the private sector.
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