Academy of Finland Newsletter, June 2012
The Academy of Finland newsletter keeps you updated on leading-edge scientific research funded in Finland and on other news from the Finnish world of science and research. If you want us to send this to someone else in your organisation or if you do not want to receive these newsletters in the future, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scroll down/Click on the links for more on these stories
Finnish research in ecology and evolutionary biology praised
The Finnish scientific community has made fundamental contributions to many areas of research in ecology and evolutionary biology. Many researchers across the country are internationally recognised for their achievements, and this is reflected in a strong record of excellent publications in high-quality journals. This is the conclusion presented in an evaluation report on the research fields of ecology and evolutionary biology in Finland. The evaluation was carried out by an international panel and commissioned by the Academy of Finland.
The evaluation covers 14 units active in the fields of ecology and evolutionary biology and the years 2006–2010. In the evaluation, the panel looked at research quality, research environment (incl. infrastructure), funding and the training provided to young researchers. Every unit, the panel says, contains examples of high-quality research and, in some subdisciplines, Finnish scientists are truly outstanding, indeed at the top of their fields worldwide.
The panel notes that Finland has an unusually strong tradition in generating long-term datasets and recommends that researchers make good use of them. The datasets are a particularly valuable intellectual resource that should be maintained and further developed. In addition, the network of field stations, museums and botanical gardens is immensely important, and should be sustained.
The international evaluation panel was chaired by Professor Robert D. Holt. The evaluation report is part of the Academy of Finland’s publication series and is available as a PDF download at www.aka.fi/eng.
Eight new Academy Professors
The Board of the Academy of Finland has selected eight new Academy Professors for the years 2013–2017. The new Academy Professors are Professors Lauri Aaltonen, Yrjö Helariutta, Jaakko Kaprio, Antti Kupiainen, Juha Merilä and Uskali Mäki from the University of Helsinki, Adjunct Professor Elina Vuola from the University of Helsinki and Professor Kari Rissanen from the University of Jyväskylä. Their five-year term will start 1 January 2013. The new Academy Professors represent a wide range of research fields: genetic epidemiology and cancer genetics, ecology, plant biology, mathematical physics, supramolecular chemistry, philosophy of science and theology.
According to the international reviewers, the selected Academy Professors are world-class researchers in their own fields. They all have great potential to achieve major scientific breakthroughs. The Academy’s funding to Academy Professors is intended for full-time research for a fixed term. Academy Professors are in an employment relationship with the universities and research institutes where they work. At the beginning of 2012, the Academy funded 40 Academy Professors. The present and new Academy Professors are presented on our website at www.aka.fi/eng.
Twelve new Academy-funded FiDiPro Professors
The Board of the Academy of Finland has decided to fund twelve new FiDiPro (Finland Distinguished Professor) Professors to be recruited by Finnish universities. Within the Academy’s FiDiPro call, funding worth EUR 10 million has been granted for the work of foreign top-tier researchers in Finland for a period of five years on average. The new FiDiPro Professors will be based at Aalto University, the Universities of Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Oulu, Tampere and Turku and at Tampere University of Technology. They are expected to start their work in Finland in autumn 2012 at the earliest.
The professors to be funded by the Academy represent a wide range of scientific disciplines, with research topics such as the use of nanoparticle catalysis in solar cells, the Russian political system, inverse problems, kidney development, and cell trafficking in lymphatic vessels. They are internationally highly merited researchers in their own fields. The FiDiPro applications were peer-reviewed by esteemed foreign researchers.
The FiDiPro Programme is a joint funding programme of the Academy of Finland and Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. The programme is aimed at achieving long-term international research collaboration with a view to strengthening Finnish scientific and technological knowledge and know-how. Tekes also has a FiDiPro Fellow funding scheme, which is targeted at young researchers. So far, the FiDiPro programme has brought 83 FiDiPro Professors and 13 FiDiPro Fellows to Finland. More information: www.fidipro.fi.
Professor Marja Makarow appointed Vice President for Research
The Board of the Academy of Finland has appointed Marja Makarow, PhD, Vice President for Research of the Academy of Finland. Makarow is Professor of Applied Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Helsinki. In 2008–2011, she was Chief Executive of the European Science Foundation (ESF) in Strasbourg, and in 2003–2007, Vice Rector at the University of Helsinki, in charge of research affairs, research study affairs and innovation activities.
Marja Makarow has strong expertise in research, science policy and university administration. As Vice Chair of the European Research Area Board (ERAB), she has been actively involved in the preparations of the European Union’s Eight Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. At the ESF, she contributed to the development of joint research policy of European research funding agencies. She was a member of the Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Health in 1998–2003. She is Vice Chair of the Board of Aalto University and serves as a member on the strategic councils of four international universities.
EUR 10 million to research on programmable materials
The Academy of Finland has selected the projects to be included in the Programmable Materials Research Programme. Funding is allocated to eleven research consortia and, additionally, to six international joint projects. The programme funding amounts to EUR 10 million for 2013–2017. The grantees work at Aalto University, the Universities of Helsinki, Eastern Finland, Jyväskylä, Oulu and Tampere and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.
According to the Academy, programmable materials represents a new, emerging field of research in which Finland can play a pioneering role. Programmable materials are composed of components that respond in a specific, programmed way to environmental stimuli and signals. Fields where programmable materials are expected to have practical applications include medicine, information technology, biotechnology, and energy technology. The programmable properties of different materials will develop with advances in fields such as nano- and biotechnology.
Through its research programmes, the Academy directs research and allocates research funding to fields that are considered of key importance in terms of science and society. Research programmes are designed to advance a certain field of research, raise its scientific standards and create new scientific knowledge and know-how. A major emphasis in the Academy’s research programmes is on multi- and transdisciplinarity as well as international cooperation.
Twelve projects funded within the AKVA research programme
The Academy of Finland has selected the projects to be included in the Research Programme on the Sustainable Governance of Aquatic Resources (AKVA). Within the programme, a total of EUR 11 million is granted to twelve research projects. The programme is highly multidisciplinary and focuses on researching aquatic resources and their use from various perspectives, including environmental research, law and culture research.
Of the twelve funded projects, ten are consortia composed of several research teams. Research within the programme will be conducted at the Universities of Helsinki, Oulu, Eastern Finland, Tampere and Turku and at Aalto University. The research institutes involved in the programme are the Finnish Environment Institute, MTT Agrifood Research Finland, the Government Institute for Economic Research, the Finnish Forest Research Institute, and the National Institute for Health and Welfare.
The scientific quality of Finnish water research was assessed by an international panel of experts in 2007. In its report, the panel noted that the scientific quality of Finnish research in the field was of a high standard. However, the panel also emphasised that basic research in field be further strengthened. The programme will respond both to development needs and societal research needs that are associated, on the one hand, with the Finnish Government Resolution (Water Protection: Policy Orientation through to 2015) and, on the other hand, with research needs emerging from international water policy. The programme is expected to contribute to raising the scientific quality of Finnish water research and increasing its societal impact.
EUR 35 million to research in natural sciences and engineering
The Academy of Finland has allocated some EUR 35 million to research projects in natural sciences and engineering. The average amount of funding is some EUR 500,000 per project. The funding will facilitate the renewal of scientific disciplines and the diversity of research. In its decision, the Academy took into account national and international research collaboration, large-scale international joint projects and big-science projects such as CERN, ESA, ESO, ESRF, IODP, ICDP, ITER and MaxLab. The Academy’s funding decision includes EUR 6.5 million for projects that will benefit international research infrastructures.
Overall, the Academy funds research in the fields of natural sciences and engineering with a total of some EUR 112 million a year.
Extensive programme to inspire young people’s interest in natural sciences and mathematics
Technology Academy Finland (TAF) and Aalto University have signed an agreement on wide-ranging cooperation with a view to boosting interest in natural sciences, mathematics and technology among children and young people and increasing awareness of technology right from an early learning stage. Today, Finland is still getting plenty of students for technical subjects, but that is not the case in many countries in Western Europe. This partnership aims to encourage young people not to reject any career options at too early a stage in their lives.
In practice, the cooperation will take place through a societal programme that has been drawn up together by the two organisations and will be implemented over a period of ten years (2012–2022). The programme consists of projects currently being run separately by the organisations and of new joint projects. Suitable elements for inclusion in the programme currently in the activities of TAF include the Millennium Technology Prize, the international science event Millennium Youth Camp, the Millennium Youth Forum for Finnish teenagers, and the Technology Days for the general public. At Aalto University, suitable projects include the activities of the LUMA Resource Centre, supporting and advancing studies in natural sciences, mathematics and technology, and various courses and clubs for schoolchildren.
Forum for Finnish scientific institutes abroad established
The directors of Finland’s scientific institutes in Athens, Tokyo, Rome and Damascus and Finland’s cultural institutes in London, Madrid and Berlin carrying out and promoting research have established a forum to advance the institutes’ activities, increase their visibility and further strengthen their mutual collaboration. The new forum will also launch joint research projects, encourage social-policy debate and support internationally significant Finnish science and research.
Finland has a total of 17 cultural and scientific institutes abroad, located in different parts of the world. They are funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture.
"What should Europeans eat?" at ESOF 2012 in Dublin
The Academy of Finland will organise a scientific session at the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) 2012 in Dublin on Saturday, 14 July 2012. The Academy's session, with a discussion on nutrition, includes researchers Toni Steer from the UK, Iris Erlund and Mikael Fogelholm from Finland, and Demosthenes B. Panagiotakos from Greece.
The international assessment panel chose some 100 sessions to the final ESOF programme. ESOF 2012 specifically addresses the great challenges of humankind, for example energy, climate change, nutrition and health. For more information about the programme and the Academy’s programme, please visit http://esof2012.org/.
Academy Professor Markku Kulmala receives Bayer Climate Award 2012
German company Bayer AG has awarded Academy Professor Markku Kulmala (University of Helsinki) the Bayer Climate Award 2012 for his pioneering work in aerosol research. The award, worth EUR 500,000, will be presented to Kulmala in Berlin in September. Kulmala is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading geoscientists. His research has greatly contributed to a better understanding of the impacts of aerosol particles on climate change.
Kulmala was Academy Professor in 2004–2009 and was re-appointed for another term from 2011 onwards. He is Director of the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Meteorology of Atmospheric Composition and Climate Change (2008–2013) and chair of the national climate panel of the Finnish Government.
Kulmala was voted Professor of the Year by the Finnish Union of University Rectors in 2012. He was awarded the Finnish Science Prize in 2003, the Bjerknes Medal of the European Geosciences Union in 2007, and the Fuchs Memorial Award in the field of aerosol research in 2010.
Professor Juha Sihvola in memoriam
Juha Sihvola, Professor of General History at the Department of History and Ethnology, University of Jyväskylä, died in Helsinki on June 14, 2012, after having suffered from a severe illness. Sihvola was Director of the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in 2004–2009 and Deputy Director of the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence on Philosophical Psychology, Morality, and Politics (as well as its predecessor unit, the Centre of Excellence on the History of Mind), and held since 1993 the title of Docent of History and the History of Philosophy at the University of Helsinki. In 2011, he received a prestigious appointment to a research professorship of the Academy of Finland (Academy Professor), which he was unable to accept because of the advanced state of his illness.
Juha Sihvola was a leading scholar of the history of philosophy, ancient philosophy and Aristotle in particular, as well as a widely known and highly respected contributor to public discussion in Finland. His wide research interests included not only his special field of expertise but the developments of Western philosophical, political, and religious thought much more generally. In his many books, articles, and lectures he explored fundamental issues focusing on but not restricted to social justice, human rights, international relations, and religious tolerance, always with profound historical learning as well as sharp and sensitive insight into issues of contemporary societies.
Sihvola's main academic works include Decay, Progress, the Good Life (Ph.D. dissertation, 1989), Hyvän elämän politiikka [The Politics of the Good Life] (1994), Antiikin filosofia ja aatemaailma [Ancient Philosophy and World of Thought] (with Holger Thesleff, 1994), The Emotions in Hellenistic Philosophy (ed. with Troels Engberg-Pedersen,1998), Ancient Scepticism and the Sceptical Tradition (ed., 2000), The Sleep of Reason (ed. with Martha Nussbaum, 2002), and Ancient Philosophy of the Self (ed. with Pauliina Remes, 2008). His influence as a teacher of an entire generation of younger Finnish historians of philosophy – scholars of ancient thought in particular – was very significant. Together with Nussbaum, Simo Knuuttila, and other senior figures, he not only produced original contributions to scholarship but quite literally showed the way for Finnish (and many other) scholars in this field.
In addition to his top-level international research, Sihvola authored and edited a number of more accessible books many of which received major awards. For example, his last book, Maailmankansalaisen uskonto [The Cosmopolitan Person's Religion] (2011), was chosen as the Christian book of the year in Finland in 2011, and already his previous works Toivon vuosituhat [The Century of Hope] (1998) and Maailmankansalaisen etiikka [The Cosmopolitan Person's Ethics] (2004) were widely read and multiply awarded. Sihvola also co-authored several textbooks on history and philosophy for high-school students and co-edited with Ilkka Niiniluoto volumes on contemporary ethics and the "spiritual state of the nation" (Nykyajan etiikka, 2005; Tarkemmin ajatellen: Kansakunnan henkinen tila, 2008).
Academy of Finland at a glance
The Academy’s objective is to promote scientific research of a high standard through long-term quality-based research funding, research and science-policy expertise, and efforts to strengthen the position of science and scientific research. In 2012, the Academy will make decisions on research funding worth EUR 327 million. For more information, go to www.aka.fi/eng or send a message to email@example.com