I was one of the “lucky ones” getting a Junior Group Leader position in Collegium of Science and Medicine in 2016. I say “lucky one” since there were 166 applicants and six of them got position. The competition of positions and grants has been “shadowing” the life of researchers for decades but as the pace of life seems to come more and more hectic, the competition comes harder and harder. Collegium, however, offers extremely nice opportunity (for those lucky ones that get the position) to start an independent scientific career. Those who got the position in call 2016 got a position for 3 years which gives time to start establishing your own research group and develop a career as independent researcher. Collegium also offered 20,000€ as research grant that could be used for material and travel costs and also for paying small working grants for students. Even though this extra grant might seem a small sum as compared to e.g. ERC, Academy of Finland or Tekes grants, it actually also makes a difference. To be independent you cannot rely anymore for your supervisor’s grants and building e.g. a lab requires funding. The extremely good thing in University of Turku is that most of the expensive equipment are bought centrally so actually the expenses are not that huge to start your work and even a small sum could really help. If you get your lab running fast (e.g. my collogues from abroad really have had to build whole lab all the way from the beginning which could take easily a year) you could get students working with you and you really start the group and you could spend whole three years leading a group not just doing science by yourself.
There are several global ranking systems for universities. The University of Turku is doing pretty well in these rankings percentagewise but there are about 400-500 universities to win for reaching the top. Can the University of Turku ever get there? Highly unlikely, I say, while hoping to be severely wrong. A university is as good as its people: successful scientists make marked discoveries and the best teachers provide the next generation with professional knowledge and make it ready for different duties in society. Administration, on the other hand, should make all the effort to avoid unnecessary formalities and form fillings, which in fact too often just take time from the ‘real work’ and do not get us any closer to the top universities.
Hello and welcome to the TIAS/TCSM blog.
I’m delighted to have been asked to write something for the first blog. Having been asked, it seemed to me that it might be appropriate to write something about the role of Institutes for Advanced Studies (IASs) in the modern world and how the Institute I direct, TIAS, contributes to that. In order to do this, it is necessary to say something about the origins of Institute for Advanced Studies and the ideals which they embraced. So, I need to start this blog with a bit of history.
The first Institute for Advanced Studies was established in 1930 in Princeton, USA. Idealism was present from the start as the founders believed this IAS should be concerned with the advancement of knowledge purely in and of itself. Instrumentalism was to have no place. The ideals which underpinned this Institute were wonderfully articulated by it first director, Abraham Flexner in an article published in 1939, just as the world was about to be enveloped in the horror of the Second World War. At this time of extreme international crisis, Flexner begins his article explaining the rationale for having an IAS by posing a question: