The Academy of Finland will be taking on new tasks following a legislative reform. In connection with the adoption of amendments to the Act on the Academy of Finland, the Academy will set up a strategic research council and a reinforced committee for research infrastructures. The Academy Board’s composition will also be revised. These amendments to the Act enter into force on 1 July 2014.
The Strategic Research Council (SRC) will provide funding to long-term and programme-based research aimed at finding solutions to the major challenges facing Finnish society. Additional aims of such research include the renewal of business and industry, the improvement of its competitiveness, the development of working life and the enhancement of the public sector.
The introduction of a funding instrument for strategic research will not change the operation of the Academy’s four research councils. The research councils will continue as before, accounting for the bulk of the Academy’s annual funding decisions in funding schemes such as Academy Projects, Academy Research Fellows and Postdoctoral Researchers.
The projects to be funded by the SRC will be selected based on a review of their scientific quality, societal relevance and impact. According to current plans, the annual funding budget has been set at around 57 million euros, which is some 3 per cent of the Finnish Government’s R&D expenditure of two billion euros. The first SRC call has been planned for autumn 2014 and the first funding decisions will be made in 2015.
Theme selection and priority formation will be based on the SRC’s proposal, which it will submit to the Government for approval. The SRC will then formulate the themes into research programmes in accordance with the Government’s decision. The projects to be funded will be selected by the SRC. Neither the Government nor any ministries will have a say in programme formulation and project selection. The SRC will also be responsible for project follow-up and impact assessment. The SRC will consist of eight members and a chair appointed by the Government.
The Finnish Research Infrastructure Committee (FIRI Committee) will receive a more entrenched role with the new Act. The FIRI Committee will be tasked with the monitoring and development of Finnish and international research infrastructure activities, the selection of projects to be funded in Finland and the follow-up of these projects.
The Academy Board’s composition will also be revised. As before, the Board is appointed by the Government. The Board will include a chair and at least five and at most seven members. The chairs of the Academy’s research councils will no longer be members of the Board, but will have a right to attend and the right to speak at Board meetings. The same rights policy is applied to the chairs of the SRC and the FIRI Committee.
The new Act on the Academy of Finland will also increase the number of Academicians of Science from 12 to 16. According to the Act, the title of Academician of Science can from now on be held by 16 Finnish scientists and scholars at a time. The objective of this move is to provide more opportunities to utilise the expertise and eminence of the Academicians in strengthening the position of science in society.