Research at the Faculty of Medicine is primarily conducted in research groups, the leaders of which coordinate external funding, which gives them significant rights and responsibilities. Principal investigators at the Faculty of Medicine are appointed by heads of department at the proposal of the Research Council. The Research Faculty is composed of more than 500 principal investigators or group leaders.
New principal investigators are appointed according to the following criteria outlined in Rector’s Decision No 103/2009:
According to the Rector’s Decision, the principal investigator can be a person closely linked with the research activities of a faculty or independent institute, but need not be employed by the University of Helsinki. In relevant fields of research, the principal investigator can also be an independent researcher without a research group. Recognising research groups and their leaders as core research units at the Faculty is in accordance with international practices and significantly improves awareness of ongoing research activities and trends.
The Research Faculty provides a forum for principal investigators to better promote the distribution of research resources (infrastructures, positions and facilities) at the Faculty. As per the Rector's Decision, the work duties of a principal investigator employed at the University with external funding can include teaching related to the research work for five per cent of the annual workload without separate compensation. The language of operation of the Research Faculty is English.
Applications for a principal investigator position are submitted through the Research Portal:
Applications for principal investigator positions are assessed by the dean of research or, at his or her request, the Research Council.
Senior advisor Alise Hyrskyluoto, email@example.com
Principal investigators at the Faculty of Medicine actively apply for funding for their research projects, and this external funding comprises as much as 80% of the Faculty’s University funding.
Key foundations include
Some 30% of the Faculty’s external funding comes from international funding providers, the largest of which is the EU. An increasing number of Faculty researchers are part of international research projects funded through EU framework programmes. In addition, research projects funded by the European Commission's Directorate General for Health and Food Safety are currently operating at the Faculty. The Faculty has also received funding from the National Institute of Health in the US.
Key international foundations that fund researchers at the Meilahti Campus include NordForsk, which provides funding for Nordic research cooperation, the Association for International Cancer Research AICR and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation JDRF. Finally, pharmaceutical companies also provide international funding under international research agreements.
The committee issues statements on proposals for investigator-driven medical research at the Faculty, where necessary. The committee does not consider research proposals that require a statutory statement from the hospital district ethics committee or the National Committee on Medical Research Ethics.
The principal investigator must submit to the committee a research proposal of no more than six pages, a statement on the reasons for the need for an ethical preview, as well as his or her own assessment of the ethics of the research. The documents must be submitted to the committee secretary via email. The committee attempts to process the research proposals within three weeks of their submission. The processing may take longer during holiday seasons.
Research in the health sciences often involves the processing of patients’ or healthy volunteers’ personal and health-related data. Such research is guided and governed by general data protection regulations, special regulations regarding medical research (e.g., the Medical Research Act, the Act on Secondary Use of Health and Social Data, the Biobank Act and the Act on the Status and Rights of Patients) and the internal policies and guidelines of the University of Helsinki.
Researchers and their organisations are responsible for the lawfulness and ethical conduct of research. The right to privacy and the protection of personal data is one of the fundamental rights of each research subject. Legislation provides the framework and opportunities for processing a research dataset and the personal data it contains in compliance with ethical standards. By processing data ethically and legally, you will gain the confidence of the research subjects, secure their rights and freedoms, and protect data from unauthorised access.
The Faculty of Medicine engages in some research activities with the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) or other health service providers. In such research, the practices and guidelines of the partner organisation must be taken into account, and any necessary research agreements must be concluded with the cooperation partner. As HUS and the University of Helsinki are two separate legal persons, each is responsible for its own obligations.
The University of Helsinki is not a healthcare unit nor does it have patients. Patients are the responsibility of HUS, which is also the controller of the HUS patient data file. A research dataset constitutes its own research data file/dataset, and its controller must be determined separately; in other words, it is not the same as a patient data file (e.g., the HUS patient data file).
If you are conducting research on patients, you must request a statutory opinion from the relevant ethics committee of the hospital district and must obtain a research permit from the organisation in question.
The University of Helsinki does not provide patient care or conduct clinical drug trials. Consequently, the University has no insurance cover for pharmaceutical injuries. All intervention studies on patients are performed in a hospital district (e.g., HUS), and its legal counsels can also provide legal support related to such research, if necessary. In the case of commissioned research carried out at HUS (sponsored/commissioned by, for example, a pharmaceutical company), a research agreement must be concluded with Clinical Research Institute HUCH. Clinical Research Institute HUCH coordinates all commissioned HUS research as well as certain other research funding. Some research involves the collection of data or measurement results from healthy volunteers for whom separate insurance cover is provided.
Further information: HUS guidelines for researchers (in Finnish)
HUS and the University of Helsinki cooperate closely, but as they are separate legal entities, they are only responsible for their own agreements and obligations. In other words, the University of Helsinki has no patients or patient data files. In order for patient data to be processed at the University, the required permits must be obtained, and the data can only be processed within the rights granted by the permits.
Personal data are defined as all data that can be directly or indirectly linked to a person. In other words, personal data can encompass more than just names, personal identity codes and phone numbers. Samples as such do not constitute personal data, but analyses based on samples are considered personal data if they can be linked to a person. Consequently, the processing of samples for research purposes almost always means that research datasets are, by nature, sensitive personal data. Read more about data protection and research in Flamma (requires identification with university account).
All datasets containing sensitive data must be processed in accordance with certain statutory principles and obligations. The secure use of datasets is one of the requirements for receiving a favourable opinion on a research project from an ethics committee. Compliance with legislation also secures the researcher’s position if, for any reason, data fall into the wrong hands. In accordance with data protection legislation, research subjects may prohibit the use of their data and receive information on how their data are used.
Where possible, the Faculty of Medicine provides researchers with a secure environment for the storage of data.
Further information about the data storage environment: firstname.lastname@example.org
The University of Helsinki is strongly committed to the principles of open science and research and operates on the principle that research data are ‘as open as possible, as closed as necessary’. The University’s own guidelines, according to which research publications and research data produced at the University are, as a rule, made openly available, apply to all members of the University community. In addition, the University is committed to following various Finnish and international principles of open science. Read more about open science.
When making research publications and research data openly available, it is important that they do not contain any unnecessary personal data. For further information about providing open access to data that contain identifiers (requires identification with university account).
When making data openly available, particular attention must be paid to what information has been provided to the research subjects and what permits or consents you hold regarding the data. The transfer of data outside the EU is also subject to legislative restrictions. Particular care is required when transferring data that cannot be anonymised (e.g., genetic data or samples, especially those containing DNA). For example, if the relevant journal or cooperation partner requires you to upload your data to a specific database, this is not necessarily permitted by law, which is why you should discuss the matter with the journal or cooperation partner before taking any action. Often, the publication of metadata is sufficient. With regard to samples, it is recommended that data be transferred to a biobank if the research subjects have consented to this. If no such consent has been obtained, data can be transferred to a biobank by a specific public notification procedure or by retroactively gaining the research subjects’ consent. Further information can be obtained from biobanks. Secondarily, a material transfer agreement (MTA) must be concluded with the party receiving the samples.
Before commencing a health science research project at the University of Helsinki Faculty of Medicine, the following permits and documents must be in order: