|By invitation only|
Thu 28.8.2008 at 10:00-15:00
Summary of the seminar
The first session of the seminar concentrated on the scholarly view of the topic: how is policy oriented research conducted and why. Dr. Vadim Kononenko opened the session by bringing up the four dimensions of discussions (See the table).
Prof. Tuomas Forsberg stated that there are three schools according to whether the IR research should be relevant from the point of view of policy-makers. First view is that IR research should not be relevant and the second view is that it should be very relevant in the decision making processes. The third view is that scientific research should not aim to be policy-relevant, it is policy-relevant only to the degree it educates future generations of decision-makers. However, the field is so big and so much money is poured in that it cannot be justified if it does not have any policy relevance or if it is simply a critical voice. At the same time, policy advice and criticism often go hand in hand and good policy advice should be based on analytical thinking and systematic research. Finally, we can always ask what kind of research is useful. Sometimes research is useful if policy makers can use it for their own purposes. The exact difference between academic and policy oriented research is that policy oriented research is more timely, can be more provocative and is shorter.
Dr. Helena Rytövuori-Apunen brought up the researcher’s dilemma, which makes answering the decision-makers’ needs more difficult. This dilemma refers to the pressure to publish internationally in peer reviews, international journals etc. This is related to the academic meriting system that encourages publishing abroad. This alienates from our own immediate social and political context. Therefore a better balance needs to be found within the academic meriting system. A second dilemma relates to policy-making. During the Cold War years, researchers participated substantively in policy discussions much more than they do today. Currently,
The second session took another point of view to the discussion; namely how do decision-makers use research in the decision-making processes and what is the use of scholarly advice in the making of policy. The chair of the session, Dr. Henri Vogt started by wondering that if the decisions are not based on research, then what are they based on. Ambassador Jari Luoto from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs brought in a slightly pessimistic picture by stating that academic research can provide a framework and a lot of background information but it very rarely offers good advice for policy makers in a time of sudden policy changes. For example during the
Ms. Eija Limnell from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs had a more optimistic view. According to her, the status of research is higher and higher in the ministry. Alongside, there are of course other sources of information like embassies, media, etc. Based on that information, policy makers can react fast and make decisions. However, there is a need for a change of culture and change of attitude. The ministry is already commissioning papers from certain research institutes abroad and in
Mr. Petri Helander from the Finnish Parliament brought up two major areas where more research on EU policies is needed. The first one relates to Finnish perspective; what is relevant from our point of view and on the other hand, what can we bring to the discussions. Secondly, more analysis is needed on such issues that are not available easily, like other member states’ positions and moreover the discussions and debates that are going on in other European countries.
During the discussions, many additional points were brought up. Many participants thanked for creating an event of this kind as there has not been this type of platform before. Some basic definitions were still lacking, for example, what is research since it also includes opinions and ideas. It was stated that research has a role to play especially in showing long term tendencies. This distinction is not so clear as some researchers can do research years and years on a topic that is not policy relevant but suddenly it becomes policy relevant. Research can also be used as a way of lobbying.
Problems that researchers had come across related to resources: often, researchers do not have access to the material that decision-makers have. Another problem is the fact that in today’s world there is so much communication but so little dialogue. Contacts between the two communities should be on a daily basis. A third problem in the context of policy relevant research is that it does not merit academically. What counts are the peer reviewed articles, and nothing else.
Policy makers stated that they need research that is reliable and gives information on where
There were still many open questions for both communities, such as that regarding research agendas: who has the right to add items to the research agenda. The principles of academic research mean that no-one from outside can decide on this but at the same time researchers try to maximize their possibilities to get money. Influencing the decision-making process can happen via influencing the research agenda. Another open question is the generation gap. Currently, we have new generation of civil servants who deal with EU questions. The generation that took us to the EU is no longer involved in the decision making processes. Generation gap exists in the research community as well: today’s researchers have studied during the 90’s. The third open question concerns the role of media which seems to have taken the upper hand and acts unethically at times. and that could be sometimes unethical.
During the discussion, possible solutions to these problems were also brought up. One option could be to make exchanges between the academics and civil servants at the ministries. This would have a long term influence. Especially the policy-makers emphasized the importance of networks in