Tatte’s autumn assembly approves statement on political interference in research funding

Statement on political interference in research funding

We are deeply concerned about the recent government decision to not move forward with the Strategic Research Council’s proposed research programme on the interactions of immigration, work, and well-being in Finland. Researched knowledge and information is central to effectively addressing pressing societal challenges, and it is difficult to imagine a more timely set of challenges than those at the intersection of immigration, work, and well-being. 

In principle, we believe that knowledge advances best–and society ultimately benefits most–when researchers are free to pursue the critical questions and basic problems that animate scientific fields and disciplines. At the same time, we recognize the value of proactively supporting research into strategically important areas as Strategic Research Council funding seeks to do. We believe that this level of  intervention from government parties, and at this point in the process, is counterproductive to the objectives of strategic research funding. Identifying strategic research themes, developing research programmes, preparing funding applications, making funding decisions, and carrying out the research necessarily take a great deal of time–across which governments will come and go. These processes require stability and predictability over time, which this decision calls into question. We know, for example, that colleagues have already devoted considerable time and energy to preparing for this research programme–much of which now risks being wasted. The government’s decision is clearly not in the best interests of those who would produce or use the research created in response to the proposed programme, nor, crucially, is it in the interest of the wider society, which is best served by the knowledge and understanding that critical, high-quality research can produce when free from interference. 

We see these recent actions as part of a broader trend toward politicizing and, indeed, contesting the value of academic research. Of course, research funding priorities can always be debated and discussed–and universities and academic research are never entirely outside of politics–but, for this very reason, we call on all actors in the university sector, starting locally with Tampere University, to take a public stand and to robustly and resolutely make the case for the societal importance of research-based knowledge,  academic freedom, and  critical inquiry.

-Approved by Tatte members at our Autumn Assembly on 30.11.2023.