HELSUS invites all faculties to participate in its new operations

With its new operating structure, the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science will continue operating as a network, emphasising close cooperation between all faculties and disciplines. The rector has pledged support for HELSUS coordination until 2030.

In April, the Board of the University of Helsinki decided that, as of 1 August 2024, the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS will continue operating as a network instead of a unit jointly operated by faculties. In accordance with the decision, the Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies (Urbaria) will leave HELSUS to operate as a separate network.

HELSUS currently brings together research and education in sustainability science from nine faculties and three campuses. Previously, the funding received from the faculties has been allocated to internal application rounds, such as postdoctoral funding and seed funding, open to members of HELSUS. Following the reform, the faculties will no longer fund HELSUS operations from their budgets. Moreover, HELSUS will be open to all faculties. The goal of the reform is to make HELSUS operations increasingly inclusive and network-oriented, emphasising closer collaboration between faculties and the active role of the network in transdisciplinary cooperation. 

“The goal is to develop HELSUS as an active network, with researchers at its heart. The new financial structure will inevitably alter previous practices, and discussions and plans for implementing the reform have been rapidly initiated,” says Minna Autio, chair of the HELSUS steering group. 

The decision was made following discussions between the rector and the deans of the faculties operating HELSUS, in which it became apparent that the decision-making structure based on HELSUS’s founding decision must be changed.

Strong support for reform from University leadership

Established in 2018, the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS promotes the sustainability transition of societies through interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research and education. Its strategic goal is to be an international network of sustainability research and teaching.

The University leadership is committed to promoting sustainability research and education as a key goal of the University. The rector has pledged support for HELSUS coordination until 2030. The shared will of the faculties and deans is to develop HELSUS in an increasingly open and networked direction.

“The reform has strong support from the University’s leadership. HELSUS has been a significant resource for driving our University’s sustainability efforts. Today, research and teaching related to sustainability are well established and strongly integrated into the operations of faculties. Going forward, clearly network-based activities will support the University’s strategy for multi- and transdisciplinary research, also in terms of sustainability. The role of HELSUS in the University’s sustainability efforts will remain valuable,” says Vice-Rector Anne Portaankorva, who oversees sustainability and responsibility at the University.

Boundary-crossing collaboration

Involving non-academic parties is an important part of HELSUS operations. Boundary-crossing collaboration is key to achieving a good life within planetary limits.

“The development of HELSUS operations is based on the results of the HELSUS assessment. We are happy to contribute to establishing new research profiles, a task in which our coordination team is active,” says Director Susanna Lehvävirta of HELSUS.

An example of extensive cooperation is the Sustainability Science Days (SSD) conference held in June, which in 2024 will be held in conjunction with the Sustainability Research and Innovation Congress (SRI), the world's largest conference in the field. The conference brings together more than 2,000 experts in sustainability science and related activities.

“Thank you to everyone for their efforts for the event so far,” Lehvävirta adds.

HELSUS also actively contributes to the University of Helsinki’s profile-building projects funded by the Research Council of Finland. Resilient and Just Systems (RESET), a profile-building area based on strong interdisciplinary activities under the Profi 7 funding scheme, creates a transdisciplinary research environment that integrates the life sciences and social sciences, offering resilient and just solutions for strengthening systemic recovery. The goal is to find solutions to the major challenges of our time, which include accelerating climate change, biodiversity loss, and related effects on health and wellbeing, as well as unequally distributed and utilised resources, such as food and water.