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Fewer Finnish researchers are working abroad than before

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The international mobility of Finnish researchers reached its peak in the 1990s. In the beginning of the current millennium, the number of scholars heading out into the wider world declined.
      On Wednesday, professor in church sociology Eila Helander presented statistics on the international scholar mobility at the Science Forum organised at the University of Helsinki from January 7th to 11th.
      The information is included in the so-called KOTA database.
In the record year of 1996, Finnish researchers spent long periods abroad, in terms of months a total of around 7,000 months. Since then, the number has gradually fallen, and in 2007 it was no more than some 5,000 months.
      At the same time, exchange periods of foreign visitors especially at Finnish technical universities increased, and the same trend has continued in the current millennium.
      ”The question is, whether or not the increasing number of foreign scholars in Finland can make up for the decline in Finnish researchers’ international mobility”, Helander contemplated.
      ”Mobility itself has no absolute value, it is just a medium to upgrade the standard of research”, Helander notes.
Even though statistics indicate that Finnish scholars have decreased their researcher training abroad, another truth is hidden behind the figures.
      The statistics do not include any short and unofficial visits across borders.
      Moreover, communication between international researchers has increased enormously thanks to the Internet and e-mails.
      In fact, thousands of virtual ”visits” are made on the Internet all over the world day and night. The Internet was developed already in prototype at the end of the 1960s for researchers’ communication purposes.
International mobility is mostly hindered by the prospects of the individual scholar’s family.
      Scholars no longer believe that foreign experience would promote their careers. Besides, moving abroad does not guarantee that both spouses are employed.
      ”Many researchers consider it smarter to be available for permanent or fixed-term employment in Finland”, Helander reports.
      They obviously fear that if they are not present they will be forgotten, says Helander.
When Finland joined the European Union in 1995, the mobility of researchers became appreciably easier. Today, researchers and experts from outside the EU have also enhanced opportunities to advance their studies at the universities and research institutions in the European Union.
      ”Today Finnish researchers are sought-after partners in the research community worldwide”, Helander noted, comparing ”research travelling” over the past 700 years.
      Internalisation in the field of the arts and sciences began in Finland when the country was still part of Sweden. The destination of the first scholars was Paris.
      ”Currently, Finns are holding top positions even in some European expert organisations. Moreover, some of them are women, including Marja Makarow, who is the CEO of the European Science Foundation”, Helander smiled contentedly.
In proportion to its population, Finland sets a good example in the field of the arts and sciences. Finnish researchers and scholars produce around one per cent of all scientific publications worldwide.

  Science Forum

Helsingin Sanomat

  8.1.2009 - TODAY
 Fewer Finnish researchers are working abroad than before

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