Close encounters with reality

At Kone Foundation, the research funding round of autumn 2015 meant coming closer to the real world than possibly ever before. One in three applications for research funding was in social sciences.

Societal approaches were visible in the other disciplines as well, from research on music to environmental chemistry. The world is close at hand: it is important to focus on it.

Kone Foundation has its own profile and its own emphases: it is looking for bold initiatives. When I have presented our research funding to applicants I have also heard them say that Kone Foundation stresses the societal aspects of research. This is not really the case: the foundation does not require that the scholar would directly address timely issues. Is Finland Becoming Polarized? is an important programme, but a bold initiative can also be something that no one else is doing at the moment. (I have also heard that the foundation supports more theoretical approaches than other funders.)

Being timely often involves boldness.

This has been a rough autumn for everyone whose job is uncertain, but also for the scholars or quality journalists who write about immigration, or even gender equality. How can the foundation support those who receive hate and insults every day? And this concerns especially women. Is hating women on-line the new Finnish national vice?

Web-based hate is not conversation, but some people still try to discuss. This is why conversation and argumentation are more and more topical even in funding applications, especially in philosophy and in the social sciences. A good example is Laura Ahva’s funded project on conciliatory journalism. It was born out of ”the mutual motivation of scholars and journalists to change and alleviate the conversational atmosphere and to support democracy and peace in society”. In the project, journalism acts as the creator and mediator of trust.

Many have asked how Kone Foundation supports refugees and the people who receive them in Finland. In research, we are funding the best specialists of language learning and multilingualism in their research on the new Finnish multilingualism and on the possibilities of learning the major local languages even in a regular job. Thanks to the writings by Reetta Räty and some other journalists, a greater audience is already familiar with the fact that people with immigrant backgrounds are not just competent in foreign languages, but mostly fluent in Finnish, too. People are also trying to understand that migrating from a ”foreign culture” does not mean unsurmountable difficulties in learning Finnish or Swedish, because learning a new language is easier for a multilingual person.

Throughout the year, the connections between the people at the foundation and the scholars funded by the foundation have been strong: we are all in favour of academic research. We do not admire it blindly, but appreciate the bold, creative and significant work it represents.


Kalle Korhonen

Head of research affairs at Kone Foundation