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FiDiPro professors keen to learn the Finnish language and culture

The Finnish language and culture, the internationalisation of Finnish science and research, and EU research policy were some of the main themes discussed at the FiDiPro networking seminar in Helsinki in September. More than 60 FiDiPro researchers and other experts interested in the programme took part in this year's seminar.

The Finnish language and culture, the internationalisation of Finnish science and research, and EU research policy were some of the main themes discussed at the FiDiPro networking seminar in Helsinki in September. More than 60 FiDiPro researchers and other experts interested in the programme took part in this year's seminar.
Panel discussants included FiDiPro Professor Elisabeth Couper-Kuhlen, Jouko Haapalahti from Orion Diagnostica, Ari Pouttu from the University of Oulu, Ilkka Turunen from the Research and Innovation Council, Jussi Kivikoski from the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation and Pirjo Hiidenmaa from the Academy of Finland.

Professor Bo Stråth from the University of Helsinki and Professor Adrian van Heiningen from the Aalto University School of Science and Technology attended to seminar to report on their experiences. They were both among the first FiDiPro professors to arrive in Finland a few years ago.

Bo Stråth was particularly impressed by the international atmosphere and the high-level collaborative teams he found at the University of Helsinki. "Our partners in collaboration are among the very best there are internationally," Stråth said.

Stråth called upon the science community to adopt a more global mindset and break from its exclusively Western way of thinking. "Asian and African perspectives should be given greater prominence in science. In our own project on the concepts of world history I think it's essential that the viewpoints of researchers from other continents are taken into account."

Stråth was critical of EU science policy where he said that the research agenda was determined on political grounds. He insisted that the freedom of science and research and creative thinking in the choice and definition of research themes was crucial to supporting high-level research. He also felt there should be less bureaucracy in research funding.

Adrian van Heiningen said that getting to know Finnish culture and learning the Finnish language were crucial with a view to settling in the country - but admitted that studying Finnish had proved quite a challenge. "I've even thought about learning Swedish instead." Other factors that have helped van Heiningen settle in Finland are his friendly research team, having his own apartment and bicycle, which he says is a great means of transport in Espoo.

How to support networking after FiDiPro term?

Van Heiningen also addressed the question of what happens to the research started during a FiDiPro term once the funding term for the professorship expires. "Some arrangement is needed so that the Department can somehow take advantage and continue the research after the FiDiPro term expires."

With a view to continuity the seminar participants also discussed various ideas for alumni arrangements that would support networking after FiDiPro terms. In addition, FiDiPro professors expressed an interest in learning the Finnish language , which in turn would help them gain a closer understanding of Finnish culture. However, some doubts were expressed about the availability of time and other necessary resources.

The panel discussion that concluded the seminar focused on questions of how the FiDiPro programme can support and contribute to the internationalisation of the Finnish research system. Ari Pouttu from the University of Oulu said that FiDiPro professors have brought completely new lines of research into Finland and opened new avenues of interdisciplinary research.

Ilkka Turunen from the Research and Innovation Council pointed out that international exchange and the quality of science and research are closely interwoven with each other. "In order that we can attract more foreign researchers into Finland it's crucial that we pay special attention to practical everyday matters such as spouses' jobs, children's education, language and other social and cultural issues."

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