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TAU gets 15 new Academy of Finland-funded projects in social sciences and humanities

Published on 1.6.2023
Tampere University
Kuvitus: Jonne Renvall/Tampereen yliopisto
The Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Culture and Society (KY) has granted nearly €31 million in funding for 59 new Academy Projects. The funded projects consist of a total of 78 subprojects. At Tampere University, 15 projects and consortium subprojects received Academy Project funding.

The Research Council allocated €30.8 million in funding for new projects. The success rate of applications was 16.8%.  

The Academy Project funding scheme is the most important funding instrument for promoting the impact and regeneration of research. In addition to the high scientific quality of the research plan, the Research Council pays special attention to projects that combine high quality with strong academic and societal impact and scientific renewal. The funding is granted based on the results of international peer review.

The Academy Project funding is intended for the salaries of the research team and other research costs. The funding is granted to a Finnish university or research organisation that manages the use of funding on behalf of the Academy Project. The funding was granted for a period of four years.

BRIDPOL consortium: Policy value amidst hybridity

The Academy Project led by professor of municipal economy Jarmo Vakkuri (MAB) investigates the impacts of hybridity on how different forms of value are created in the settings of societal policies. The question is about how policies combine competing value bases, public and private ownership structures, funding models and intersecting forms of coordination.

Managing complex societal problems has been based on a strict division between public policies, private business and civic activities, which has made managing significant global problems more difficult. Such problems include, for example, urban sustainability, climate change and social exclusion.

The project will shed light on the synergies of the policies but also on new forms of accountability. The project will study hybridity and value-creation mechanisms in three policy contexts: algorithmic governance, business platforms and urban sustainability. The project will increase the scientific impacts of policy research by integrating the research streams of policy studies, hybrid governance and value creation more closely.

The consortium partners are Professor Nina Helander (MAB), University Lecturer Ilari Karppi (MAB) and Professor Tero Erkkilä from the University of Helsinki who each lead their own subproject.

Follow-up study on the health and well-being of parents of children with special needs

Professor Salla Atkins’s project will do a 30-year follow-up study on the health and well-being of parents who have cared for their special needs children.

Special needs children may require care that burdens parents, which can result in health problems for the parents. The COST – Consequences of caring project analyses how caring for special needs children with, for example, mental health issues, diabetes, or cancer, is associated with parental ill health and diagnoses of their own.

The project will investigate the 30-year outcomes of parents of children from the 1987 birth cohort. The project will track the parents’ social security use and access, and studies how this may have impacted their health and well-being outcomes. Qualitative research allows investigating how parents experience the formal and informal support they have received.

Economic modelling is then used to theorise what social protection could better support these parents in the long term. The project’s innovation is a holistic combination of methods for developing policy relevant results for the future well-being and equality of parents of children with special needs.

SOREMO consortium: Living with dementia

Senior Research Fellow Lina van Aerschot from the University of Jyväskylä directs a consortium whose partners are Associate Professor Jenni Kulmala (SOC) and Leading Researcher Mari Aaltonen from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare who both have their own funded projects.

The rapidly growing number of people with dementia has created an urgent need to develop socially sustainable care. It is also vital to engage persons living with dementia and their informal carers in defining what sustainable care is.

In this project, a consortium of researchers from the University of Jyväskylä, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare and Tampere University outline socially sustainable care when persons living with dementia and their informal carers are the starting point. The researchers will use qualitative and register-based data. The study examines what it means to live with dementia and what kind of social and institutional barriers and risks of care poverty are faced by persons with dementia and their family carers. How should their participation and agency best be supported on the level of daily life, social participation and care services? The project also contributes to theoretical research on the social relational model of dementia, which is used as a basis for definitions of socially sustainable care for persons with dementia.

Van Aerschot also works as University Lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences (SOC) of Tampere University.

Vulnerability, Stress and Survival in the Finnish Army during World War II

Senior Research Fellow Ville Kivimäki’s (SOC, HEX) research focuses on the social composition of the Finnish army during World War II. The study analyses changes in the social composition and the Finnish soldiers’ socio-economic and health-related background variables from the pre-war era. 

The researchers will analyse how different war experiences, injuries, stress and fatalities were distributed among the soldiers. The project will examine how (un)evenly the war burden affected different groups of people and what kind of consequences this had both for individuals and society.

The researchers will also study private service paths and how they were connected to a person's survival in war. The project’s most important empirical data consists of an internationally unique, representative and detailed database of the Finnish men who served in the army in 1939–1945. 

The project will be a basis for future longitudinal research, which will study the influence of different war experiences on the soldiers' and their relatives' and offspring's post-war life courses.

CIRCEX consortium: The emergence and role of human experiences in the circular economy

Professor of Services and Retailing Elina Närvänen’s (MAB) participates in a consortium that investigates human experiences of the circular economy (CE). The consortium is led by Professor Elina Jaakkola from the University of Turku.

Societies urgently need to transition to a sustainable circular economy. The transition requires changes in people’s actions. The CIRCEX project researches the creation and role of human experiences in the circular economy. The key thesis of the project is that the experiences are crucial for engagement in CE practices, such as reducing, reusing and recycling. 

CIRCEX brings together research on CE, marketing, and design to study circular economy experiences (CEEX) in the pragmatically and theoretically relevant material domain of plastics.  The project’s qualitative multiple case studies draw on interviews, ethnographic observations and participatory design methods. The project will break new ground by conceptualising CEEX, unpacking how human stakeholders’ experiences translate into action and creates a CEEX design framework that supports CE practices.

As a whole, CIRCEX aims to augment the role of experience research in advancing societal well-being and sustainability.

Quasi-realistic theory on normativity – from a manifesto to implementation

Associate Professor Teemu Toppinen’s project is in the field of metaethics.

The following are examples of normative truths: freedom is valuable; waging a war of conquest is wrong. Toppinen’s project looks at how such normative truths can exist. What does it mean to be wrong? What does ‘wrong’ mean? And how can we get information on value and wrongfulness?

Such questions are investigated in the field of metaethics. Quasi-realism is a meta-ethical approach that combines two ideas: 1) that we can explain normative thought and language simply by the fact that they express our attitudes and feelings without any reference to peculiarly normative features of the world; and (2) that we can yet accept the existence of objective normative (eg, moral) truths or standards.

Even though quasi-realism is a central concept in methaethics, it is a strikingly incomplete research program. The aim of the Academy Project is to help complete the quasi-realist program with tools provided by relational expressivism, a new account of the meaning of normative language.

Accounting, accountability and animals: Negotiating the promises and pitfalls of quantification

Professor of Public Financial Management Eija Vinnari (MAB) investigates the expansion of organisational accountability to non-human animals. The purpose is to take animals’ needs and interests as a starting point for creating animal welfare and rights indicators for two case organisations. At the same time, the project will examine the effects of quantification on individuals and organisations.

How did Finland avoid witch hunts in the 17th century?

Professor of History Raisa Toivo (SOC, HEX) investigates how different actors in early modern Finland sought to prevent the escalation of rumours of witchcraft into trials and trials into hunts and persecution in the 17th century.

The Academy Project will compare the results of previous research on persecution and attempts to avoid it elsewhere in Lutheran Europe. The scientific impact of the project comes from the new knowledge on witch-hunts and the history of persecution in Finland and from the new approach to persecution history in general.

The societal impact comes from the applicability of the new knowledge to the challenges that societal enmity, religious or political persecution and ethnicity- and language-related antagonism poses for societies today.

Insurance and the new datafication of uncertainty (INDU)

Professor of Sociology Turo-Kimmo Lehtonen (SOC) investigates insurance institutions as a form of crucial infrastructure in contemporary societies. Insurance is a financial technology that collectively pools and distributes risk, produces welfare and builds up trust that backs up economic activity.

In recent years, it has been frequently proposed that Big Data and artificial intelligence have the potential to fundamentally transform the insurance industry. The INDU research project analyses how and to what extent digital technologies influence existing insurance practices.

Four subprojects will research life insurance, car insurance, climate change-related (re)insurance, and cyber insurance. Thus, based on empirical knowledge, INDU will provide an overall view on how new technologies are shaping insurance institutions and what effects the digitalisation of the insurance sector can have.

Early life intestinal microbiota and childhood mental health and cognitive development

Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology Kati Heinonen-Tuomaala’s (SOC) project investigates the effects of intestinal microbiota on child development.

Intestinal microbiota composition has been linked to brain development. However, most of the existing understanding is derived from animal studies. The first aim of the study is to examine the association between a child’s intestinal microbiota and mental and cognitive outcomes up to 4-5 years of age. Furthermore, several pre- and postnatal risk factors associated with child mental health problems have also shown to alter the intestinal microbiota, pointing to a possible mediation. Thus, the second objective of the project is to test whether a child’s intestinal microbiota mediate the association between prenatal stress, maternal pregnancy disorders and the child’s mental and cognitive development. Finally, breastfeeding, weaning and human milk composition are one of the most important developmental factors of infant microbiota. The third objective is to evaluate whether the known positive developmental effects of breastfeeding are mediated by the child’s microbiota.

Vocal efficiency and economy in loud classical operatic and contemporary commercial music (CCM) singing styles compared to loud speech

Professor of Speech Technique and Vocology Anne-Maria Laukkanen’s (SOC) project investigates loud singing in the operatic style and in the CCM style called ‘belting’. These singing styles are compared to loud speaking and shouting. The study focuses on efficiency (how loud the voice is) and economy (how much loading it poses on the vocal folds).

The topic is important because vocal overloading is an important risk factor for serious voice disorders.  Singing and speaking samples from professional singers and vocally untrained participants will be recorded. The research will be conducted in the Speech and Voice Research Laboratory at Tampere University. For comparison, results from the physical modelling of voice production will be obtained in collaboration with the Institute of Thermomechanics which is part of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. The results will profit voice science, singing pedagogy and speech training.  Updated knowledge of traumatising voice loading mechanisms and their adequate prevention among different voice users will also have clinical applicability. 

Entanglements of violence and care

The title of Senior Research Fellow Marjaana Jauhola’s (SOC) research project is Entanglements of violence and care: feminist analysis of commodity frontiers and ‘living green’.

Can we save the world by living green lives? Attempts to change our lifestyles are multiplying, following calls for green transition. Yet, research shows that new green commodity frontiers have intensified inequalities. They also cause dramatic changes to landscapes, livelihoods, and human-non-human relationships. Sisal and date palm commodity frontiers have re-emerged as responses to creating sustainable and green solutions.

The aim is to understand how such frontiers produce entanglements between violence and care. The novelty of the project comes from bringing together three sites of the commodity frontier’s production network: farmers, value-adders, and digital platforms. With the feminist political ecology perspective – focusing on intersectional human-non-human relations, embodied need-care relations and hierarchies – the project will offer new theoretical and empirical knowledge of the consequences and the real price of ‘living green’.

Consortium: MediaRoboLit 65+ – Media and robot literacies of people over 65 years of age

Professor Päivi Rasi-Heikkinen from the University of Lapland leads a consortium that investigates the media and robot literacies of people who are older than 65 years. The partners are Senior Research Fellow Harri Siirtola (ITC) and Professor Heli Valokivi from the University of Jyväskylä with their own funded projects.

The present digitalised information environment causes problems for citizens who are over 65 years of age who lack adequate media and robot literacies to support their participation in society.  MediaRoboLit65+ responds to this challenge. For using the increasing amount of information disseminated through media, with robots as one of them, citizens need media literacies, that is, competencies for accessing, critically evaluating, and creating media contents. Media literacies are needed especially in relation to online news, health information, communication, and robots.

With qualitative and quantitative data, the consortium will produce new information about media and robot literacies and related support needs of over 65-year-olds living in Finland. The results will help stakeholders plan and implement legislation, policies, and support practices aimed at strengthening older populations’ media and robot literacies, and consequently, their learning, well-being, and participation in society.

Academy of Finland’s media release 31 May 2023