Academy focuses on review

2012/10/18 by Lassi A. Liikkanen

Academy focuses is on scientific reviewing

I met with Academy of Finland director, Professor Heikki Mannila on 17th Oct 2012. He was interested hearing my opinions as a researcher and a client for Academy services. I provided him feedback and we discussed three main themes: funding instruments, funding process, and their application submission system. Here’s the summary.

Submission system

Academy is concerned about reliability and usability of the submission system. Given about 4000 applications yearly, the potential effect on Finnish science is remarkable if system improvements could save 15 minutes of time each. However, their IT solution is a service from an external company, making the development a somewhat different from an in house software. We went through some improvement ideas and found some actionable items to improve transparency and better prepare the applicants to use the system. I suggested that some data could be provided only after the project (1/6 of all) has been selected for funding, or that Academy could provide an Excel template for budgeting for the open call instead of a web form. Mannila said they have been thinking about ways to balance the server load at the dead lines to reduce risk of system overload, but they had not found any satisfactory solutions this far.

Funding process

Heikki said they acknowledge the problem of one submission round a year and they are considering options for it. The challenge is how to guarantee a fair, high quality review if fewer applications are receive. Academy sees that its review process is its main strength and they want to keep it that way. Recruiting expert panels is a big challenge and having more applications makes high quality review easier and more reliable. They are currently working to improve the communication of their review results back to universities, so the departments could be aware of the level of applications that have been submitted from their department.

We discussed the special needs of interdisciplinary projects. This relates particularly smaller projects, which do not involve consortia. I mentioned difficulties in deciding how to target a multidisciplinary application to the right committee. Heikki recommends that the applicants contact science advisors of Academy to sort out which committee would be the most suitable. However, the question of fair review is tricky. It turned out that how the review gets organized within the committees of Academy is an interesting thing. Their processes have minor differences from each other, but these differences not widely known – even inside the house. For instance, some committees might be willing consider applications over instrument category borders if they just are excellent.

Funding instruments

Academy wants to keep the funding instruments evolving, however Heikki did not reveal any particular changes taking place in the near future. From my perspective, I called for both bigger projects (regular and post doc), shorter review cycle, and more frequent calls. Heikki agreed that especially post doc projects should be open more than once a year.

On behalf of my supervisors I asked about Academy’s role in funding researcher mobility, especially to locations of very high costs of living such as NYC, Silicon Valley, Boston, or Tokyo. Heikki replied by pointing out that he doesn’t see that their reviewer expertise is well suited to make decisions on separate mobility projects. He pointed out to both universities and foundations (existing Post doc -booli and Professori-booli) as more suitable parties to provide this additional support for researcher. He said that


Keskustelimme myös Akatemian osuudesta Valtioneuvoston kanslian Sofos Oy:lta tilaamaan Kestävän kasvun malli -selvitykseen. Tässä kävi ilmi, että Akatemian julkisesti kilpailutettavaa tutkimusrahaa ei ole käytetty tähän projektiin, vaan Akatemian hallituksen on ohjannut siihen Valtioneuvoston pyynnöstä aiheelliseksi katsomansa määrän varoja.

Related content:
My suggestions for archiving digital files so they can be identified based on the filename, 2012/04/19

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Keywords: [science] , [politics] Document's status: Ok (Document dates explained)

This document created: 2012/10/18
Modified: 2012/10/18
Published: 2012/10/18

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