The Finnish Government has appointed a new board for the Academy of Finland, members to the Academy’s research councils, and a new Strategic Research Council for the period of January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2024. Only two of the new members are from Aalto University, professor Antti Ylä-Jääski (The School of Science, Department of Computer Science) and professor Patric Östergård (The School of Electrical Engineering, Department of Communications and Networking), appointed to the Strategic Research Council and the Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering, respectively.
For professor Östergård, the appointment is a great honour, because the appointment is made on the highest political level in the country, by the Finnish government, and there were many excellent candidates.
‘Throughout the process, I have got full support from the Head of the Department, Riku Jäntti, and the Dean, Jyri Hämäläinen, whom I thank. Especially considering that this membership will be rather time-consuming and take away time from all other duties. There is also a major personal disadvantage: members are not themselves allowed to apply for funding from the Academy of Finland. After having worked for many years in all kinds of committees at Aalto University, I am more than happy to be able to contribute on a national level,’ professor Östergård says.
Deciding the funding for scientific research is not easy
The most important task of the Academy’s research councils is to make decisions about funding for scientific research. ‘This task is getting more and more challenging with financial resources that tend to decrease rather than increase and with the level of Finnish research getting better by the day, that is, with a growing number of people that should get funding. During the fall there will be four days of training, where the processes and practical details will be explained,’ professor Östergård says.
‘I don’t know how much the members will be able to influence the application process, which I think could be streamlined taking into account that a clear majority of the applications will not get funding. For example, how long will our foreign partners keep writing commitments for negotiated visits that will not take place in 8 to 9 cases out of 10 (which is a common rejection rate)?’, he continues.
Professor Östergård is a professor of information theory, which is one of the major mathematical pillars of information technology. Discrete mathematical structures play a central role in information theory, and his research team uses mainly computational techniques in the study of such structures. One example of structures is error-correcting codes.
‘In my studies, research, and work I have come to know many fields (electrical engineering, computer science, information technology, mathematics); perhaps this breadth is one reason why I was appointed,’ he says.