December 20, 2020

No going back to how things were

Still raging across the globe, the coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the world we live in. Interestingly, it has also made visible the abilities of different political, economic and social systems to respond to the crisis.  

The pandemic has also brought research-based knowledge and science-informed decision-making to the centre stage. Citizens’ trust in their government and their ability to do their part and to act responsibly, too, are immensely important to overcome the pandemic.   

Education, research and science-informed decision-making play crucial roles, since well-informed citizens act more rationally and independently than citizens who are led by populists and conflicting information. None of this is possible without citizens having trust in science and in their country’s government, authorities and media, and this can only be achieved through interaction that is open and based on facts, and that taps into the resources and wisdom of each community.   

By international comparison, Finnish universities have coped well with the exceptional circumstances. In Finland, universities enjoy public funding and are not as susceptible to sudden changes as systems that are based on private funding. We really owe a thank you to the Finnish government for putting its faith in, and for safeguarding the resources of, the country’s universities in the fight to overcome the pandemic.    

The pandemic has moved work to our homes and significantly speeded up the much-talked-about “digital leap”. It has shown us how much of academic education and research actually can take place outside the university’s walls, more flexibly and more diversely than before. When the pandemic is over, it is vital that we don’t go back to how things were. Instead, we should keep on making our activities increasingly diverse, cherish our newly found good practices of doing our work and studying, and develop them even further. 

Article by Prof. Jukka Mönkkönen, Rector of the University of Eastern Finland.

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