Lasse Lehtonen, a professor of health law at the University of Helsinki and administrative chief physician at the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS), has voiced his concern about the quality of research in Finland.
Finland, he warns, is about to be lost its status as a top-tier research country due to the cuts in education spending made by the government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre).
“Our most talented researchers are already forced to apply for positions at foreign research institutions in order not to fall behind the competition, while our domestic research institutions are unable to recruit top researchers from abroad to replace them due to scarce basic funds,” he writes in a blog on Puheenvuoro.
Sipilä’s government, he points out, has continued the trend started by its predecessors by reducing spending on higher education – despite its initial promise not to do so.
“Research funding has also been re-allocated in a way that makes a growing share of it contingent on what political decision-makers happen to consider important at a particular point in time. The most important issues for Finnish decision-makers may not be considered important by the international scientific community,” says Lehtonen.
The University of Helsinki, for example, has reported that its finances deteriorated considerably from the previous year in 2016, in part due to a decline in basic funding from the central administration.
Lehtonen is hardly the only high-profile academic to criticise the spending cuts.
Bengt Holmström, the winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences, admitted a few weeks ago that he is concerned about the diminishing share of highly educated people of their respective age groups.
Maija S. Peltola, a deputy chairperson at the Finnish Union for University Researchers and Teachers, stresses that the country must provide an environment for researchers to fulfil their potential.
“Universities have unbelievably great people who are capable of producing good results also with the current resources. But what if we were given the opportunity to focus on what we know best? How far could we go?” she asked in a blog posted on the website of the Union for University Researchers and Teachers in March.
“Conducting research is work. It is not a hobby, it is not voluntary work – those who do it should be remunerated accordingly. Are there any other jobs where employees spend a notable share of their working time on applying for funding to be able to continue their work?”
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Martti Kainulainen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi