With the ever more pervasive emphasis today on results, benefits and profits, research and science are under increasing pressure to show an impact. Investments made out of the public purse are expected to pay back. Although funding for research has increased considerably, competition for that funding has increased even more. This is seen both within the field of science and in the interaction and exchange between science and other spheres of life. Whenever questions are asked about the allocation of funds, about why science is more worthy of support than health care or the police service, the attention turns to impacts. Every aspect of the debate on impacts is dominated by money. The investment must generate a worthwhile return. Science is expected to represent a significant force of production whose national function is to strengthen the competitiveness of Finnish business and industry in the global market economy.
This is clear from the report "Civilisation cannot be imported. Researcher commentary on the impacts of cultural and sosial research" is one of the Academys SIGHT2006 publications on the state, level and impact of Finnish science to be published this year.
Representatives of cultural and social sciences have had two strategies in this debate. On the one hand they have pointed out that not all values can be measured in money terms. The aim is to try and contain the impacts of research within the field of science. Knowledge is considered valuable in and of itself; it is not thought to be necessary separately to identify any instrumental values. The thinking is that civilized society should support and sponsor science in the same way as it supports and sponsors art and other forms of culture. Science is thus protected from the practices and principles of business. The concepts of accountability, benefits, efficiency, performance targets, competition, measurement and impact are rejected by reference to civilization and scientific autonomy. Dependence on the outside society is a problem because science has to be able to justify the value of civilization and autonomy in order to get the funding it needs. Nonetheless it is accepted that at least within the science community, it is necessary to have debate about what is good and worthwhile and what has a positive impact.
Leena Vahakyla | alfa
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