Level of scientific research has slumped in Finland
Academy of Finland report argues that favouring of applied research is to blame
The level of Finnish science has fallen below the rest of the Nordic Countries, when measured by the number of references in international scientific publications.
The gap between Finland and Denmark, in particular, has been rapidly widening for more than a decade now. Norway surpassed Finland at the beginning of the decade. In Sweden the development has been similar to that of Finland, but on a higher level.
Finnish scientific research has long been rated as top class in the OECD countries when measured according to several indicators, but the Academy of Finland’s Tuesday estimate on the state and level of the country’s scientific work indicates a definite slump.
According to the Academy, particularly worrying is the downward trend in the number of references to Finnish science in international publications.
Such references are considered an important indicator of the quality and significance of the practiced science and research.
In all, Finnish scientific publications account for about 0.6 per cent of the world’s scientific publications.
In the last three years the total number has decreased slightly. Seventy per cent of the publications are produced in universities.
When examining the highest echelons of scientific research, in other words the top one per cent of all the publications with the most references in 2006-2007, Finland has fallen with its 0.7 per cent share from tenth place to 15th within the OECD countries.
One suspected reason for this development is the fact that in Finnish funding of research, applied research is favoured.
In the Finnish universities a disproportionate amount of R&D work is carried out at the expense of basic research.
Furthermore, the researchers are fairly inexperienced and the laboratories dilapidated. And the whole research system is not international enough.
The poor international connections of the Finnish research system and the country’s disjointed network of universities were also criticised in an international evaluation published a couple of weeks ago.
The Academy of Finland report includes a dozen or so improvement suggestions, with which for example the doctoral education and researcher careers could be set right in ten years.
According to Markku Mattila, President of the Academy of Finland, it is imperative that the research environment, such as laboratories and equipment, will get an urgent new injection of investment in the next few years.
The 3.4 per cent share of GDP that is invested in research and development work, the large number of researcher and publications per capita, and the close cooperation between businesses and universities and other research facilities, on the other hand, were all regarded as rather favourable in the eyes of the Academy.
Last year EUR 6.4 billion was spent on research and development in Finland. 70 per cent of this was covered by businesses.
Some 2.3 per cent of those employed do research and development work. This is the highest percentage in all of the OECD countries.
Last year more than 1.500 doctoral degrees were awarded in Finland, which is double the number compared with 1993. More than half of the degrees were received by women, except in the fields of natural sciences and technology.
Among those who belong to the Finnish research contingent, around 3% were born outside this country. For example in Ireland, Sweden, Austria, and The Netherlands this figure is conspicuously larger, at more than 10%.
Academy of Finland