True boldness, not just rhetoric

Photo: Otto-Ville Väätäinen / Kone Foundation

Why do we keep talking about bold initiatives? Is the expression losing its impact? In Finland you do not have to be bold in order to do research, do you? If you are growing tired of the rhetoric, think about academic work in the wider world.

Kone Foundation has decided to support a gender researcher whose doctorate is from the prestigious Central European University, Budapest. Gender research was recently banned in Hungary for ideological reasons, and the Central European University had to relocate to Vienna due to the hate campaign of the Hungarian regime. Academic talent moves to Finland, and Hungarian science is on the losing side.

Another of our grantees is from Pakistan, a country that in Finnish mainstream media is known only for natural disasters and violence. The grantee’s focus is on language policy, and of note is the relation between English and Urdu in Pakistan. Passions and real dangers run high because the Taliban of Pakistan have been destroying schools, while at the same time local governments are emphasizing the role of English in their language policies.

One social science grantee funded in our 2018 call will focus on natural disasters caused by the war between Russia and Ukraine in Eastern Ukraine. Another grantee will combine linguistics, action research and activism to analyse how Western media present societal activism in China, as well as how Chinese activists see their roles in relation to Western media narratives about them.

All the funded projects mentioned here are examples of shifting focuses in social science. It is not Western academics who are enlightening the rest of the world about democracy; in these cases, it is the locals who are speaking.

Boldness and courage are required from these academics simply to make the research possible, and even more will be required in the future. An emphasis on boldness might not seem artificial to them.

Shortly after Christmas, Science Forum 2019, a research popularization event in Helsinki spanning several days, will take place. The theme will be boldness, and the inauguration event will include a presentation by Éva Fodor, Pro-Rector of the Central European University. Her theme will be the defence of academic freedom.

Kalle Korhonen

Director of Research Funding

Kone Foundation