Case Study

Responsible Research Network, Finland

Interview conducted 5 October, 2020  Compare case studies

Finland is among the first countries to have developed national recommendations on responsible research evaluation. In 2020, a task force formed by the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies published the “Good Practice in Researcher Evaluation: Recommendation for Responsible Evaluation of a Researcher in Finland.”1 A major driver for the national recommendation was the need to make conscious decisions in evaluation processes. Although many national entities were involved in developing the Recommendation, the approach is considered “bottom-up” and there was broad and enthusiastic buy-in among Finnish academic stakeholders .

Who: Organization profile

Country Finland
Profile of institution national interdisciplinary consortia
Number of FTE researchers < 100
Organization of research evaluation national
Who is involved? academic leadershipacademic researcherslibrary staffpolicy staffresearch department staffresearch support or management staff

What: What changed and the key elements of change

The Good Practice in Researcher Evaluation: Recommendation for the Responsible Evaluation of a Researcher in Finland are guidelines to improve how researchers are assessed in Finland.1 The Recommendation provides a set of general principles (transparency, integrity, fairness, competence, and diversity) that apply throughout 13 recommended good practices to improve four aspects of researcher evaluation, including:

  • Building the evaluation process
  • Evaluation of research
  • Diversity of activities
  • Researcher’s role in the evaluation process

The aim of the Recommendation is to encourage all those involved in the researcher evaluation process to consider how the process impacts the development of the research community as a whole, and how to achieve the desired outcome in the most responsible way.

The Recommendation pays particular attention to the culture change required in evaluation as a result of new ways in which research is conducted and communicated. For example, new forms of research knowledge sharing, changes in research processes, multidisciplinary and new phenomenon-based research methods, as well as digitalization, have all had an impact on researchers’ work. Because of this, evaluation culture needs to align with the developing research culture.

Research transparency, ethics, diversity, and societal interactions are important themes throughout the Recommendation. In addition, the role of the researcher in the larger community, and as a teacher and mentor, has been given a central role in the Recommendation.

Why: Motivation for change

A major driver for the national Recommendation was the need to make deliberate and conscious decisions regarding goals, criteria, data, and methods in evaluation processes.1 The Recommendation represents an attempt to “change and make more responsible” evaluation practices compared with the ones currently in place.

Additionally, there was a desire to foster a research culture embodying the desired principles of transparency, integrity, fairness, competence, and diversity. The Recommendation focuses on providing guidance to reflect on and implement their responsible evaluation practices.

One success was the broad and enthusiastic adoption of the principles behind the Recommendation. For example, the Academy of Finland, the main national funder for basic research, confirmed support for responsible evaluation of researchers.2 An initial challenge was to gain a consensus of opinion across all fields and a broad range of stakeholders, which was ultimately addressed through public consultation and discussion.

How: Processes and dynamics for developing, implementing and managing change

The Federation of Finnish Learned Societies formally initiated a national task force to consider responsible research evaluation.

A national task force was founded based on shared concerns identified by learned societies, research funders, policy organizations, publishers, national open science coordination, and the national research integrity board. While many national entities were involved in the Recommendation’s creation, the approach is considered “bottom-up”; in Finland there is a historic culture of autonomy for academic stakeholders.

The Responsible Researcher Evaluation task force facilitated necessary dialogue with researchers across academic disciplines in order to obtain genuine buy-in. The entire Finnish research community, including HR staff, librarians, and researchers, were invited to comment on an initial draft of recommendations. The draft recommendation was opened to public consultation, and over 50 research-related organizations participated. The task force developed the Recommendation with the feedback from research community.

In addition, the Recommendation timing coincided with the uptake of FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) data and open science initiatives in Finland. These initiatives incentivize and reward researchers for producing open and FAIR data, and align with the Recommendation. In the coming years, the focus will be on building the capacity to move evaluation practices beyond quantitative publication metrics and in closer alignment with the goals of the Recommendation.

The Federation of Finnish Learned Societies was fortunate in that it is a trusted and independent entity, and it was within their purview to initiate the task force and propose the Recommendation. Additionally, they had the respected authority necessary to build a broad coalition of stakeholder groups to develop the Recommendation.

Specific obstacles faced were: lack of evidence on potential benefits of research assessment reform; resistance to research assessment reform from researchers; concerns over increased costs; complexity of research assessment reform; lack of coordination among the relevant actors within the institution; and lack of reliable data sources for assessment.

When: Timeline for development and implementation

The formation of the task force by the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies in 2018 was preceded by a long period of informal contact and working through existing networks. Once the task force was created, the policy development process took 12 months. The working group published their recommendations in a report in early 2020.1

In 2020, the task force completed its work, and a steering committee was subsequently formed to implement the Recommendation and develop impact measures. The Finnish national consortia are working on developing the data architecture and models necessary to encourage the Finnish research and funding organizations to change and improve their evaluation practices. In December 2020, Universities Finland endorsed the Recommendation in their theses on sustainable development and responsibility.3


  1. Good practice in researcher evaluation. Recommendation for the responsible evaluation of a researcher in Finland. The Committee for Public Information (TJNK) and Federation of Finnish Learned Societies (TSV) (2020): doi:10.23847/isbn.9789525995282.
  2. Academy of Finland confirms support for responsible evaluation of researchers (2020). Retrieved 22 November 2020 from:
  3. Theses on sustainable development and Responsibility. Universities Finland (2020). Retrieved 8 December 2020 from: