No. 40

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Academy of Sciences: Expense or Investment

11 December 2019

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RiTo No. 40, 2019

  • Tarmo Soomere

    Tarmo Soomere

    Member of the Academy of Sciences, President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, Lead Research Scientist and Professor of Coastal Engineering at Tallinn University of Technology

The classic academies have been established with a twofold goal: to be resolutely committed to the advancement of science and to advise government authorities. In order to give adequate and timely advice, it is important to be engaged in the shaping of policy on all levels, starting from discussions of topics and goals of political parties.  Several members of the Estonian Academy of Sciences (EAS) have contributed to active policy-making over decades, among other things, through performing the duties of the speaker of the Riigikogu and serving as ministers or parliament members.

An Academy of Sciences in a small country makes sense only if people know it exists. The Academy usually becomes visible through its national responsibilities and through contribution to the functioning of society. The EAS is mandated by law to select the national science awards and appoint members of several high-level decision-making and steering bodies. These duties are complemented by massive contribution to new ways of popularizing science, extensive cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Research within the framework of various programmes, including national award programmes for the popularization of the science and research achievements of students, and systematic explanation of the relevance of science to society. The science-policy interface was significantly improved when the Estonian Young Academy of Sciences was established in 2017.

The EAS considers the developing of a well-functioning science advice system as a major pillar of competitiveness of a small country; at the same time it should be clear that advice and lobby are mutually exclusive. Close cooperation with science and research advisers in ministries could be a further step towards such a system. This activity should be complemented by diverse support to the education landscape and further mobilization of the potential of the learned societies. There is an obvious need for building a channel (or portal) with the main goal of systematically presenting the work of the Estonian researchers and scientists to Estonian society, because in a small country an academy of sciences can prove its strength and value in terms of its visibility in society.

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