Statement: Freedom of Research Must Not Be Endangered

On 16 November 2023, Helsingin Sanomat reported on the unfortunate plans of the Orpo government to reject the Strategic Research Council’s proposal on the strategic research programmes for 2024. Of particular note is the complete removal of the theme dealing with the societal impacts of immigration in Finland from the program because the theme – according to the Finns Party representative interviewed by HS – does not properly consider the negative effects of immigration on Finnish society.

In Finnish academia, scientists typically have the freedom to conduct their research first before reporting the results. The historical decision of the Orpo government seeks to change this norm and sends the message that research funding is subject to government oversight. Should these plans go through, they display worrying ignorance of the way research is normally conducted and raise serious questions about the competence of the government in matters related to science, universities, and higher education.

We at the Helsinki University Association of Researchers and Teachers find these developments gravely concerning and are disappointed with the government’s approach towards science policy, which appears to contravene the traditional independence of funding organisations. With this statement, we express our solidarity with the Strategic Research Council’s members and those researchers who have spent time and energy preparing proposals for the original research programmes and demand that the disastrous plans to interfere in the Strategic Research Council’s research programmes are immediately withdrawn and the original proposals accepted with their original contents.