From four research councils to three – Q&A

The Academy of Finland’s research councils will be reorganised. The idea is to have three research councils instead of four. Why is that?

To be able to identify new scientific opportunities and support multidisciplinary research in the best possible way, we need flexibility and capability to function at the interface of different scientific disciplines. That is why in June 2017 the Board of the Academy of Finland outlined a move to reduce the number of research councils at the Academy from four to three, with a view to overcoming the boundaries between councils and furthering the renewal of research both in the councils’ domains and in the areas between them.

Which are the three new research councils?

According to the proposed Government Decree on the Academy of Finland, the Academy will have three research councils as of 1 January 2019: the Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment, the Research Council for Culture and Society, and the Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering.

How will the members of the new research councils be selected?

The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture invites reasoned nominations for Academy research councils from Finnish universities, universities of applied sciences, research institutes, science academies, ministries, research funders and the scientific community. Qualified individual persons may also nominate themselves.

Nominations for the 2019–2021 term opened on 5 March 2018. Nominations must be sent to the Ministry of Education, Science and Education no later than 16 April. Research council members are appointed for one three-year term.

What are the tasks of a research council member?

The research council members’ most important task are as follows:

  • development of research council’s science policy orientations, operational planning
  • decision-making on research funding and monitoring funding performance
  • foresighting developments in research fields
  • involvement in Academy working groups, Academy Programme steering groups and the FIRI Committee
  • cooperation with national and international funders and stakeholders.

More information about the roles and tasks of the research councils is available on our website under Our research councils.

In terms of funding, will the reduction in the number of research councils disadvantage certain disciplines?

The number of research councils does not determine the level of funding allocated annually by the Academy Board to each research council.

In September 2018, the Board will decide the operating and financial plan for 2020–2023, which will outline the funding appropriations of the research councils. On 6 November, it will decide the research councils’ funding budgets for 2019.

When will the change affect applicants and Academy calls?

If Parliament adopts the new Act on the Academy of Finland and if the government decree establishes the three-council model as of 2019, the Academy must be ready to implement the changes in time for the September 2018 call. In practice, this would mean that those applying for funding in September 2018 could address their applications to the Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment, the Research Council for Culture and Society, or the Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering. The call text will be published in early July.

How will I know which research council is the right one for my application?

When deciding on the most suitable research council, it’s best to look at the research councils’ research fields from a broad perspective. Also, it’s good to remember that you will still be able to choose five research fields for your application when you’re submitting it in the online services. Read more about the new research council model on our website.

As always, all applications will go through the best possible review. Each application will be reviewed by a panel most suited to that end in terms of the contents and research fields of the application. When making funding decisions, the research councils always consider the varying traditions and review practices of different disciplines. The Academy will also continue the established practice of organising joint panels between research councils, if necessary.

Will the application review practices change?

We’re currently testing different models where panels would perform both rating and ranking. However, this will not reduce the powers of the research councils. As before, the research councils will make their funding decisions based on their own policies and the results of the review. The notification sent to applicants when a funding decision has been made will describe the key grounds on which the decision is based, as is the current practice.

In the case of applications for multi-year research grants, we request a written panel review report or at least two written reviews by external experts who are esteemed researchers in their field. Depending on the funding scheme, the funding decisions are made by the research councils, the Strategic Research Council (SRC), the Finnish Research Infrastructure Committee (FIRI Committee) and the subcommittees appointed by the Board.

Last modified 20 Apr 2018
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