COVID-19 research review provides Finnish decision-makers with up-to-date insights into science on the pandemic

Government analysis, assessment and research activities
14.4.2021 12.18 | Published in English on 21.5.2021 at 15.05
News item

In August 2020, the Prime Minister’s Office launched a new tool intended to enhance the transmission of the latest research results on COVID-19 to decision-makers and government officials and to provide them with a cumulative outlook on current research. In the COVID-19 research review, a group of leading Finnish researchers from different fields compile and comment on the latest research findings related to COVID-19 from Finland and around the world.

The review is published every three weeks and is intended primarily for use by decision-makers and members of preparatory bodies. It is sent to the Government, Permanent Secretaries and Special Advisers, for example, but also to anyone who wishes to subscribe. ​

Over 1,850 people have already subscribed to the review. The largest group of subscribers consists of officials from ministries, but many employees from municipalities, hospital districts and various agencies have also signed up. Subscribers also include Members of Parliament and representatives from businesses, higher education institutions and the media. 

“Subscribers to the research review include many key people involved in managing the COVID-19 situation in Finland. This shows that there is a clear need for a high-quality, comprehensive review of topical COVID-19 research,” says Science Specialist Antti Pelkonen from the Strategy Department at the Prime Minister’s Office, who is coordinating the work.

Review contributes to situational awareness on COVID-19 and improves understanding of the crisis and its effects

“The review highlights studies relevant to Finland in different fields of science. They offer perspectives on topics that are currently being discussed in Finland or will become topical in the near future. For example, recent reviews have highlighted a variety of studies related to vaccines – not only from a medical perspective, but also research looking into vaccine-related behaviour, vaccination campaigns, vaccine hesitancy and vaccination certificates,” says Pelkonen.

In particular, subscribers have praised the multidisciplinary and topical nature of the review and its data. Joonas Rahkola, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister in Economic Policy, says the review is an easy way to get a picture of the latest research data on COVID-19 and its socioeconomic effects.

“The reviews add depth to our situational awareness and give us a better understanding of the impact of the epidemic on society. The summaries give a quick overview of what each study is about. The short comments from researchers are particularly useful, since they help laypeople put the results into context even in less familiar disciplines,” says Rahkola. ​

Ministerial Adviser Eeva Raevaara from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has also been able to use information from the research review in her work.

“I work on issues of equality, so it is important for me to be able to monitor the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic especially on social inequality and gender equality. The reviews have done a good job of highlighting these themes. The reviews also make it possible to get an overall picture of COVID-19 research from a variety of perspectives,” Raevaara says.

Multidisciplinary research data compiled by leading researchers in different fields

Each research review highlights new studies and findings from eleven different thematic areas, from medicine to economy, technology and education (see structure of the review below). The group of researchers compiling the review consists of some of leading Finnish scientists who keep up with developments in their fields and select five to ten studies they consider important for each review. In addition to summarising the findings of the studies, the researchers can reflect on the studies and, for example, their relevance for the situation in Finland in their comments.

Scientists find participating in the work both interesting and challenging. Screening research data takes time and requires the ability to analyse information quickly, but the researchers involved consider it an honour to make research-based knowledge available to decision-makers.

“As a scientist who studies viruses, I think it is of great importance to be able to contribute to the availability of research-based knowledge on COVID-19, especially in the Finnish language and in terms everyone can understand. In this complex pandemic situation, we all need reliable and well-founded research information that takes uncertainties into account,” says Senior Research Fellow Ville Pimenoff, who works at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. 

“My own research on COVID-19, both in Sweden and Finland, has benefited greatly from systematic monitoring of COVID-19 research from a broad range of scientific disciplines, including outside my field of research,” he continues.

Professor Ahti Salo, who studies and teaches risk and decision analysis at Aalto University, says that the reporting task has led him to monitor the relevant research more extensively than he would otherwise and has helped him find new perspectives and materials for training future experts, for example. ​

“I have discussed the research reviews with my international colleagues who work on decision and risk analysis. They have found it to be an interesting operating model that could also be used in international contexts,” Salo says. 

Subscribe to the mailing list to receive the review via email

The review is in Finnish but majority of the studies discussed in the reviews are in English and the review includes links to the original publications.

You can read the research reviews published so far on our website or subscribe to the mailing list to receive future reviews conveniently via email.

Structure of the review and members of the research group

  1. COVID-19 infection – Professor Olli Vapalahti, University of Helsinki, Associate Professor Tarja Sironen, University of Helsinki & Senior Research Fellow Ville Pimenoff, Karolinska Institutet
  2. Impact of restrictive measures on the spread of the epidemic – Professor Kari Auranen, University of Turku & Chief Physician Tuija Leino, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare
  3. Impacts of the pandemic on welfare of the population – Research Professor Sakari Karvonen, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare
  4. Economy and business – Professor Otto Toivanen, Aalto University
  5. Inequality (incl. employment) – University Lecturer Hanna Ylöstalo, University of Turku
  6. Education and learning – Professor Mari-Pauliina Vainikainen, University of Tampere
  7. Technology and innovations – Professor Saku Mäkinen, University of Tampere
  8. Environment and sustainable development – Adjunct Professor Anni Arponen, University of Helsinki
  9. International relations, EU, security – Senior Research Fellow Saila Heinikoski, Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  10. People, behaviour (incl. psychological resilience, social media and disinformation) – Professor of Practice, Jarno Limnéll, Aalto University
  11. Resilience, foresight – Professor Ahti Salo, Aalto University

Text by: Senior Specialist Kaisa-Riitta Enakimio, Prime Minister’s Office.

Further information regarding the COVID-19 research reviews: Science Specialist Antti Pelkonen, Prime Minister’s Office, [email protected]