Brussels, 07 Nov 2003
A new evaluation of Finnish research confirms the country's place among the best in the research world, and also underlines the rapid growth that propelled Finland to this position in a relatively short period of time.
Compiled by the Academy of Finland, the report states that more than 70,000 people (two per cent of the active workforce) work in Finnish research and development (R&D). The number of personnel increased by 26 per cent in the period from 1997 to 2001, reflecting Finland's position as one of the highest European investors in research, relative to the size of its economy. Indeed, Finland and Sweden possess the highest number of fully trained research graduates in the 25 to 34 age bracket among the EU Member States.
Apart from the quantity of research, there are indications that the quality and international exposure of Finnish research has also improved a great deal over the last decade. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, for example, the number of citations of Finnish publications was lower than the OECD average. From 1998 to 2002, however, the relative citation impact was seven per cent higher than the average figure for OECD countries.
International success and the increase of investment in Finnish research has led to more demands for assessment of the impacts of publicly funded research. However, the Academy of Finland's report argues that the impacts of research are difficult to assess and measure. While economic impacts can be measured to some extent, the social impacts of basic research are often of an indirect nature and take different periods of time to show through.
Nevertheless, there is little danger that Finnish researchers will suffer adverse effects from public opinion. OECD comparisons suggest that the population's high level of education is a major strength in the international marketplace and that Finns therefore place an appropriately high value on education and research.
Throughout the 1990s and up to the present day, students educated to PhD level have had little difficulty in finding employment compared with other groups in Finland. In 2000, whereas the general unemployment rate was ten per cent, the rate among people with a higher university degree was 3.6 per cent, while among PhD graduates, the unemployment rate was as low as 1.5 per cent.
The Academy of Finland's publication, 'Scientific Research in Finland: A Review of its Quality and Impact', is the third such general evaluation of the state of Finnish scientific research, following previous reports published in 1997 and 2000. The report will be available at the end of November at the following web address: http:///www.aka.fi/eng