Professoriblogissa otetaan kantaa yliopistojen ja tutkimuslaitosten ajankohtaisiin asioihin.

14.11.2016

Batting for a second century

The Finnish centenary year is coming up. It represents a great opportunity for Finland to project itself on the world stage, secure markets for its products, and advance its global mission. Are our politicians up to the task? As ever, the best answer to this question is that we shouldn’t be leaving this to the politicians anyway. It’s up to all of us, whether ‘true’ Finns, recent immigrants or people like me, who remain resolutely foreign but also fiercely loyal to my adoptive home. The future of Finland is our future. And since it will be built on science, we scientists have a special interest to broadcast our version of  it as widely as possible.

Finland has spent much of its first century of independence focusing on survival: defending itself against totalitarian empires that threatened to swallow it up, coping with the economic devastation that followed, and trying - though not always succeeding - in extricating itself from the perilous insecurity of supplies of raw materials. Its survival is, in itself, an inspiring story that should be told. But we should also assert the narrative of today's Finland, and how we are taking it forward.

Despite its unique and vibrant culture, Finland is a small country in an increasingly globalized world. Independence today means something quite different from what it did in 1917. It means asserting Finnish identity and values and making them count in the culture of all nations, just as other identities play an increasing part in the Finland of 2017. Finland can still be the home of sauna, Sibelius, human rights, Angry Birds and that peculiar version of baseball, whilst sharing these with the world. And this is also the right moment to raise global awareness of Finland's contribution to human knowledge; and how that knowledge could be used to help solve the world’s problems.

Finland has only a small voice in the world. So, to have broad and significant impact, we need strategic allies. Self-reliance will only get us so far. So the first step is to arouse sufficient awareness and interest to attract partners. So, unfinnish as it may seem, we need to shout out to the world about our strengths and our potential. I believe this is the only way we can hope to achieve all that we aspire to. Finnish science needs collaborators to finance the arduous road from discovery to actual inventions, to provide the tools to manufacture and market those inventions, to overcome all the legal and logistical hurdles that stand in the way of their adoption. And make sure they are used for good, not ill.

I believe the best way to do all this is not via some slick, bureaucratically managed government programme .We don't need someone to keep us 'on message'. We especially don't need something like those ghastly travel/investment plugs on CNN for an unknown faraway country with lots of mountains and folk dancers. Instead, we need a cacophony of voices and messages, coming from individuals and from organizations of every size and type. This will be far more authentic. For maximum impact, we should be like a dawn chorus: the embodiment of the independence that we seek to celebrate and proclaim to the world.

In 2017, I, my lab and my institute will be amongst the loudest and proudest proclaimers, batting for Finland's second century. A century of science. I hope many will join us.