The science policy program of Viite offers solutions to the current science crisis in Finland. The financing and autonomy of basic research must be secured, and the scientific community must have strong representation up to the level of the Finnish Government. Research financing must aim for top international research. However, this also implies strong and comprehensive research at the national level.
The level of science in Finland has regressed compared to other OECD countries in the last ten years. Structural problems go back a longer time, but the current aimless policy of austerity is rapidly creating a crisis situation. Building excellence in research may typically take decades, but destroying it is possible with a few bad decisions.
Scientific research can have many different objectives which can, at worst, be contradictory. The task of science policy is mainly to define which objectives are important enough to be financially supported by society. Since especially basic research must be as autonomous as possible, political control should be minimized. On the other hand, it is clear that full autonomy cannot exist, and society must be able to determine what its common money is used for.
Most important for political decision making is, therefore, to have concrete overall goals. The realization of these goals must be delegated to those who are actually able to direct research. Accordingly, the models of fund allocation presented at the political level can only be general, and they should mainly aim to stimulate high quality research.
Research can roughly be divided into three areas: basic research, applied research benefiting society, and applied research that aims at commercialization. This program primarily discusses the first two. In practice, innovations and commercialization demand their own program. The other two forms of research, however, form a basis without which there would eventually be no innovations either.
It would be populistic science policy to demand “more money for science” without defining any conditions for, or limits to the funding. Limitless growth of funding for science is not, however, in the nation’s best interest. Although scientific research must be autonomous, being able to direct and streamline it from above is still necessary.
Research does not exist in a vacuum, but it is deeply intertwined with education policy, as well as with innovation and industry policy. This program does not take a separate stand on education policy, as it is a basic assumption that educating citizens is important, according to Green values. The goal of Green education policy is, in any case, to produce knowledge which, when well directed, is enough even for top research.
The science policy of Viite has four points, the first two of which can be implemented immediately:
1. Science must be open. Open Access must be a short-term, and Open Data a long-term goal.
2. The Government must pay special attention to science. The Government must include a science minister or a permanent scientific advisor with experience from high level science and research.
3. The basic funding of science must be raised to an internationally competitive level. High level of science both now and in the future is an essential indicator of a society’s level of education and its economic viability.
4. The goal of science funding must be high-quality research. Reaching the international top level is the most important goal, but it requires high standards also at the national level as well as a wide knowledge base. The entire science policy program of Viite can be found here (in Finnish).