There are hundreds of grant-funded researchers active at the University of Helsinki who are working on their doctoral theses or postdoctoral research with personal grants. Personal grants awarded by Finnish and international foundations are an important funding option, and success in the application process is always an academic merit as well.
The status of grant-funded researchers and its improvement have for a long time been a hot topic in the discussion pertaining to universities. For a year, the University of Helsinki has collaborated with representatives of grant-funded researchers, research-funding foundations and the Association of Finnish Foundations, drafting a template agreement for grant-funded researchers. The agreement offers several concrete improvements to the everyday lives of grant-funded researchers.
“We urge all grant recipients to conclude a grant-funded researcher agreement with the University,” says Paula Eerola, vice-rector in charge of research.
One of the key changes is that, in the future, researchers who have concluded such an agreement are no longer charged a fee for using an office at the University. At the moment, roughly 420 grant-funded researchers have an office at the University.
“The future of science and research lies in novice researchers. It’s important for the University to support and integrate into the University community grant-funded researchers too,” says Eerola.
Making grant-funded researchers an increasingly integral element of the University community
Researchers who have concluded the grant-funded researcher agreement will have access to the Research Portal website even after graduation or the expiry of their right to study at the University. Parties to the agreement are also included in the expert finder feature of the University of Helsinki website and University mailing lists, in addition to which they have access rights to electronic workgroup areas. They can attend University staff training, and they have the right to vote in the University’s administrative elections. Postdoctoral researchers who have concluded the grant-funded researcher agreement can submit their scholarly articles for language revision at Language Services free of charge.
Moreover, questions relating specifically to grant-funded researchers will be taken into consideration in the orientation of new supervisors, ensuring their awareness of the issues. In addition, communication targeted at grant-funded researchers will be further developed.
“All in all, the goal of the grant-funded researcher agreement is to make people who carry out research with grants an increasingly integral element of the University community,” Eerola sums up.
Foundations support grant-funded researchers in many ways
A goal shared by Finnish universities and foundations is to support researchers’ work and the progress of science and research. In this, the grant-funded researcher agreement is an excellent tool.
“Together with a number of universities, foundations have sought the best ways to support researchers in their different career and life stages,” says Liisa Suvikumpu, managing director of the Association of Finnish Foundations.
Foundations are interested in the wellbeing of the researchers they are funding, and sustainability is associated with social responsibility. Good working conditions boost the impact of foundation funding. In fact, many foundations offer their grant recipients not only funding, but also other forms of support ranging from peer events to office space. Practical advice for grant applicants, such as insurance and taxation, is important too.
“What people are looking for the most from foundations are free-of-charge meeting facilities, visibility, healthcare and networks,” says Kalle Korhonen, director of research funding at the Kone Foundation.
Supporting grant recipients is at the core of foundations’ work, and the efforts to improve the status and working conditions of grant recipients continue.