Academy of Finland
Representative to ERA-AGE
Ms Anu Nuutinen (Science Adviser, Academy of Finland, Health Research Unit)
Professor Marja Jylhä (Chair of the ERA-AGE Steering Committee; Tampere School of Public Health, University of Tampere)
The Academy of Finland is an expert organisation in research funding. Its mission is to promote high-quality scientific research by means of long-term funding based on scientific quality and by means of reliable evaluation, science policy expertise and extensive international cooperation. It covers all scientific disciplines within four Research Councils. The main focus of the Academy to support the development of innovative research environments, promote professional careers in research, advance gender equality in research, and strengthen international cooperation and interaction. The Academy operates under the administration of the Ministry of Education.
The annual research funding of the Academy amounts to over 200 million euros, which represents 14 per cent of total R&D spending by the Finnish Government. In 2004 of the total, 41 per cent was allocated to research projects, 19 per cent to researcher training, 12 per cent to research programmes, 11 per cent to research posts, 8 per cent to Centre of Excellence programmes and another 8 per cent to international co-operation.
The Research Council for Health uses approximately 20 per cent (2004 figure) of the funds allocated to the Academy. The Council collaborates with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and with other key research funding agencies. It has prepared and co-ordinated several research programmes, most jointly funded with other public or private funding agencies, and it is active in seeking collaboration with international partners.
The Academy has adopted a Research Programme Strategy for 2003-2007. This gives special attention to the growing challenges of internationalisation and the need to improve co-operation with national and international research and technology programmes. It also seeks to promote multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity and develop co-operation between researchers, research organisations and funding agencies. The programmes are co-ordinated and supported by Programme Managers with the support of Programme Steering Groups. The creation and financing of such Programmes, and participation in national and international Research Programme co-operation, represents a key part of the Academy's activities. The Academy is committed to networking its research programmes with those run in other countries and to working closely with their respective funding organisations. In 2006 the Academy has a total of 15 ongoing research programmes and 8 upcoming programmes.
The Academy has implemented two national Research Programmes on Ageing, the first from 1989 to 1991, and the second from 2000 to 2002. Both the programmes have been multidisciplinary, bringing together projects from several disciplines from neuroscience and medicine to sociology and history. The objectives for the 'Second Research Programme on Ageing' were to help society contain the problems and challenges presented by the ageing of the population, to activate innovative basic and applied research into ageing issues, to promote co-operation and dialogue between different disciplines and fields of inquiry within ageing research, and to strengthen academic community involvement in the public debate on ageing.
Three research councils, two ministries and three other agencies contributed to the funding. Twenty-one projects were funded by the Programme. The actual funding was 3.4 million euros of which the Academy of Finland accounted for 2.5 million euros. The programme was interdisciplinary and the main themes were biological ageing and neuroscience; functional capacity and well-being; ageing, work, and economy; everyday life and environment; and elderly care and services. Projects were funded for three years and covered both experimental and descriptive, both quantitative and qualitative approaches. The programme participants were academics attached to universities or major governmental research institutes. Projects were selected in open competition with decisions based on the opinion of an international expert panel. In 2003 the programme was evaluated by an international expert panel.
The Research Council for Health and the Research Council for Culture and Society have also jointly targeted funding on international networking of ageing research in Finland. The funding will last for four years from 2005 to 2008. The Research Council for Health has included in its Action Plan for 2004-2007 the research programme on ageing which will be planned in collaboration with other research councils and national and international research funding bodies.