Science is indispensable to people’s wellbeing and a positive future for society. I cannot name a field where science plays no role.
The declining performance of schoolchildren is a complex phenomenon the understanding of which requires research-based knowledge. Such knowledge also makes it possible to identify the most effective remedies.
Likewise, only science can explain the recent rise in mortality. Only carefully conducted research indicates if the increase in mortality is about the ageing of the population, the coronavirus pandemic, the backlog in healthcare with its related waiting periods, the shortage of nurses or regional health inequalities – or all of them.
Scholars are also needed to explain the war in Ukraine. The effects of the war and the establishment of peace require an understanding of history and the diverse cultures of nations.
Science helps prepare for future challenges
Science also helps in understanding future challenges. The Megatrends 2023 review by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra highlights major phenomena that affect societies.
Scientists have their work cut out for them when looking for the most important measures to prevent the degradation of nature’s carrying capacity, or ways in which to respond to the growing challenges of wellbeing, the intensifying struggle of democracy, the growth of digital power or the fissures appearing in the global economic foundations.
Questions are tackled both globally and locally. Here is an example from Finland: The University of Helsinki promotes a healthier world by seeking new concrete solutions for the prevention and treatment of diseases of public health importance.
One approach is to investigate how to apply genome data and artificial intelligence to prevent and diagnose diseases and to develop precision medicine. The field is infinitely fascinating, and we are only taking our first steps in it.
This field of research is also a good example of how problems are not solved in just one discipline. We need cooperation that transcends disciplinary boundaries: expertise in medicine, pharmacy, computer science, behavioural sciences, and business as well as technology.
While solving questions related to human welfare and health, we can, as a by-product, create an entirely new kind of welfare industry as an engine of growth for Finland.
Making better decisions with research-based knowledge
Megatrends also highlight the need to make research-based knowledge available in support of policy-making, so that our society’s decisions will be based increasingly on knowledge not speculation.
In times of change, research-based knowledge must be an increasingly central tool in decision-making for policy-makers. In this regard, I am pleased to say that the University of Helsinki is actively seeking to increase dialogue with decision-makers.
Knowledge based on research can be used to build peace in our world and to engender hope for a better future. To provide prospects of healing and a longer healthy life. To assure parents that their children’s education is made the best in the world on the basis of research-based knowledge.
In times of crisis, such messages are needed. This is precisely why the status of science and higher education institutions must be strengthened. Research funding must be bolstered, its related bureaucracy reduced, and legislation simplified to facilitate the conduct of research.
Let’s give researchers the opportunity to look for solutions to our pressing problems.
Sanna Aunesluoma is the managing director of Pharma Industry Finland.
Research and education are the building blocks of our wellbeing. Investing in them is crucial for our future. Read more about the societal impact of research and education and explore the University of Helsinki’s objectives for the next government programme in 2023–2027. #ResearchMatters