Evaluation: Strategic research largely meets the objectives set for it
The Strategic Research Council's (SRC) funding instrument for strategic research has offered diverse opportunities for organising research on social policy, developing society's functions and solving major challenges. This is according to a new evaluation report published on 27 September, which examined whether strategic research has achieved its objectives. The evaluation focused on a seven-year period between 2014 and 2020.
Strategic research has produced new research knowledge and practical solutions that key stakeholders have been able to utilise. The knowledge produced by SRC-funded research has been used most often in the public sector to support decision-making, in producing new guidelines and in drawing up strategies. The key development areas for the funding instrument involve improving the linkages of research themes to the information needs of decision-making in society and to themes that are important for national competitiveness and business.
Strategic research has fulfilled the expectations placed on it
Strategic research has been successful in targeting research at themes related to significant challenges in society while also recognising the information needs of stakeholders. Strategic research has had important impacts on society, especially when it comes to supporting the preparation of central government policy measures and legislation and promoting knowledge-based decision-making. Projects funded under the financing instrument for strategic research have led to the development of numerous new operating models and solutions that have been especially useful to operators in the public sector.
Based on this evaluation, it is not yet possible to assess the impact of the research funded by the financing instrument on solving major challenges in society, as the financing instrument had only been in operation for five years during the period under review.
“As a whole, the SRC funding instrument seems to have fulfilled many of the expectations set for it when it was established. At the same time, we were able to identify certain areas for development with regard to strategic research. However, we will not be able to reliably assess the wider impacts of the funding instrument on society until later,” says Professor Jussi Kivistö from the University of Tampere, who led the evaluation project.
Closer interaction with users of research knowledge needed
Moving forward, the implementation of strategic research and the development of the funding instrument should be examined with at the levels of the funding instrument itself, the Division for Strategic Research, research programmes and projects alike. The evaluation identified needs for development with regard to the thematic preparation and decision-making behind strategic research programmes.
One challenge – and opportunity – lies in developing closer links between research themes and the information needs of decision-makers in society and themes important to business life, while still prioritising scientific creativity and freedom in the implementation of research. It is important to take into account the inclusion of stakeholders and measures that support interaction with stakeholders both at the project and programme level and in the activities of the Division for Strategic Research and the Strategic Research Council.
The evaluation report also offers other concrete recommendations for developing the funding instrument for strategic research. These include:
- Shifting the focus of support for decision-making from transferring research knowledge and issuing traditional scientific guidance to developing dialogue that better examines the information needs of decision-makers.
- Ensuring that the central government is committed to developing a knowledge-based decision-making system at all levels. This will require, for instance, concrete measures to increase the importance of strategic research in all ministries, including those where this has not yet been systematically done.
- Developing, piloting and utilising science transmission functions and skilled information intermediaries with knowledge of the operating environments, cultures and practices of decision-making, business life and research through interaction.
- Focusing on measures to promote international research cooperation that is of a high level in terms of its content.
- Further developing support measures related to international impact on society.
- In the future, paying attention to re-evaluating the usefulness of monitoring and evaluation and the added value it brings.
The results of the assessment will be used in preparing the Government’s policies on strategic research and in the related decision-making. The evaluation also provides information for ministries and other actors on the operation, impacts and effectiveness of the financing instrument for strategic research and on the procedures for utilising the knowledge produced by the research.
The evaluation was conducted as part of the implementation of the 2021 Government plan for analysis, assessment and research. The project was carried out by researchers from the Higher Education Group at the University of Tampere in cooperation with outside experts.
Inquiries: Professor Jussi Kivistö, Project Leader, University of Tampere, tel. +358 50 421 1070, [email protected]
The Government’s joint analysis, assessment and research activities (VN TEAS) produce data used to support decision-making, everyday operations and knowledge-based management. They are guided by the Government’s annual plan for analysis, assessment and research. The content of the reports published in the publication series of the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities is the responsibility of the producers of the data in question and does not necessarily represent the view of the Government. For more information, visit https://tietokayttoon.fi/en.