Floora Ruokonen, head of services at the University of Helsinki’s Research Services, praises the cross-faculty cooperation in the preparations for PROFI2, a project to enhance the research profile of universities, funded by the Academy of Finland. The intention is for the strategic research fields to support each other.
“PROFI2 has been designed so that its thematic areas intersect. We aim to generate cross- and multi-disciplinary research around the new assistant professorships. In addition, the new assistant professors will cooperate with existing research projects and researchers.”
Digitalisation in the spotlight
Kimmo Nuotio, dean of the Faculty of Law, considers the efforts to focus the research profile have been a success at the University of Helsinki. He participated in the planning and drafting of the project application.
“The transfer of research and knowledge in the humanities into the digital realm is a major theme which is linked to changes in the world at large. The goal is to bring research expertise in technology and the humanities and social sciences together to respond to new challenges such as those surrounding data mining. A key player in this area is HELDIG, the Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities, which has already been launched with strategic funding.”
“The focus is on enhancing the University’s existing research strengths, and expanding the links of research cooperation between different fields of science and faculties in the topics and issues which are relevant right now.”
The University’s language technology expertise, the cluster of research in teaching and learning and the strategically important multidisciplinary Russian studies form a solid foundation for the themes of the PROFI2 project.
Nuotio is optimistic about research cooperation.
“First of all, we worked on the PROFI2 application together with people from different disciplines and faculties. The concept has already generated structures for cooperation. In the future, we must work to prevent the research themes from isolating themselves within their own groups, and to help researchers from different fields connect with one another and share feedback."
Academy funding to help answer challenges of digitalisation and globalisation
Nuotio believes that the impact of digitalisation on work and society will be much greater than currently anticipated. Legal scholars will have their work cut out for them, studying issues of information security, the commercialisation of information and emerging forms of the sharing economy.
“It’s important that the arts and social sciences closely follow what is happening around us and what reactions the new problems elicit. Digitalisation and globalisation will also generate counter-effects, and some people will be left behind in this development. It is our duty to provide information to support the increasingly unpredictable political decision-making and regulation.”
According to Nuotio, the enhancing of the research profile has worked exactly as intended at the University of Helsinki.
“Researchers on our multidisciplinary City Centre Campus may not have really considered what our strengths are, or tried to find thematic areas in which to invest. Without a funding instrument like the Academy of Finland’s PROFI, such considerations may not have taken place,” he says.
“We sometimes forget what a strong and diverse set of research in the arts and social sciences the University of Helsinki has. There’s a great deal of potential for linking different themes together. No other institution in Finland has such a concentration of expertise in these fields.”
"We now have a better understanding of how to best take advantage of our strengths and to create multidisciplinary units, which will also boost the quality of research," Nuotio states.
More projects to enhance the University’s research profile are being planned. In the PROFI3 application round, the University intends to apply for €18 million in funding for three focus areas: Atmospheric and Earth system science, Data science, and Sustainability science. The Academy of Finland will decide on PROFI3 funding in May-June 2017.