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Publication Detail
Physics Research in Finland 2007-2011: Evaluation Report
Abstract
This report presents an international evaluation of physics research in Finland. The evaluation panel included professors Christian Enss (Chair), Angela Bracco, Jörg Büchner, Franco Cacialli, Hans-Friedrich Graf, Ulf Karlsson, Finn Ravndal and Clare Yu. The evaluation includes 30 physics units and covers the period 2007–2011. The panel based its assessment on forms filled by the units, and on interviews conducted on 5–11 May 2012. The aim was to evaluate the quality of physics research and its subfields as compared to international standards. The panel was asked to provide a critical assessment of each unit, give recommendations for the future and pay attention to research infrastructures. The report presents the panel’s observations and recommendations in three main parts. Part I considers the field of physics in general, covering issues of quality and scope, funding, recruitment, PhD training, societal relevance and internationalisation. Part I also discusses research infrastructures and gives recommendations to the Academy of Finland and the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. Part II looks at the subfields: atmospheric physics, biological physics, computational physics, condensed matter and materials physics, high-energy physics, nuclear physics, optics and photonics, and space physics. Part III consists of the evaluations of the units. The panel found that the quality of Finnish physics research is generally high, with very successful or even internationally leading units. However, a number of units of subcritical size would benefit from efficient strategies to free their hidden potential. The research covers most major international trends with little need for introducing new directions through external measures. However, at the same time, the funding policies should be nimble enough to allow for the pursuit of emerging fields. The funding situation is generally satisfactory, though the proportion of competitive funding is already too high, and an increase in stable core funding would allow for a bolder seizing of long-term opportunities. The lack of administrative support was recognised as a general problem. The recruitment policies are approaching international standards, but the panel recommends that more start-up funds be made available for pursuing new areas and attracting top-level foreign scientists. The quality of PhD education is good, thanks to national doctoral programmes, but the panel was concerned about how this level will be maintained after the planned changes to the system. The research infrastructure was seen as quite good; there are several outstanding facilities but also units with outdated equipment.
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