In top-level science, the University of Helsinki stands out from the rest

The Academy of Finland, the most significant sponsor of Finnish basic research, has evaluated the impact of centres of excellence in science

Airi Palva

As science is becoming more global, centres of excellence are regarded as increasingly important in Finland. In February, the Academy of Finland, which selects the units and finances their operations, published the first impact evaluation concerning the leading units.

Mari Hjelt, CEO of Gaia Consulting Oy, who was responsible for carrying out the impact assessment, points out that the selection criteria for centres of excellence must also, from now on, be based on the best expertise in the field in question, instead of content selections or regional criteria.

“Particularly for the University of Helsinki, which stands out from the rest, making selections that look to the future is a demanding task.”

This is due to the fact that there are just too many centres of excellence to able to carry out significant investments with the resources of the small country.

She believes that from now on, attention should also be paid to effective leadership and fostering the commitment of the staff towards the University after the programme period. It is vital that the unit does not only rely on one star professor.

“Helsinki and Jyväskylä, in particular, have addressed this matter.”

The recently submitted report examines research programmes which have already ended. The programme, which is currently underway, involves 39 units, of which 24 operate directly under the authority of the University of Helsinki or partially consist of its researchers. The impact evaluation was not about a field-specific comparison; instead, it was rather a broader review of the development of the centres of excellence.

“Above all, their impact on society and science policy. A further angle concerned the extensive cooperation of centres of excellence with other research parties and companies,” says Hjelt.

Presentations of the scientific centres of excellence of the University of Helsinki >>

Text: Kai Maksimainen
Photo: Vaikko Somerpuro, The photograph shows Airi Palva, a Professor at the University of Helsinki, who leads a centre of excellence in research on microbiological food safety.

Translation: AAC Noodi Oy

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