Societal interaction plans—A tool for enhancing societal engagement of strategic research in Finland

Paper by Kirsi Pulkkinen, Timo Aarrevaara, Mikko Rask, and Markku Mattila: “…we investigate the practices and capacities that define successful societal interaction of research groups with stakeholders in mutually beneficial processes. We studied the Finnish Strategic Research Council’s (SRC) first funded projects through a dynamic governance lens. The aim of the paper is to explore how the societal interaction was designed and commenced at the onset of the projects in order to understand the logic through which the consortia expected broad impacts to occur. The Finnish SRC introduced a societal interaction plan (SIP) approach, which requires research consortia to consider societal interaction alongside research activities in a way that exceeds conventional research plans. Hence, the first SRC projects’ SIPs and the implemented activities and working logics discussed in the interviews provide a window into exploring how active societal interaction reflects the call for dynamic, sustainable practices and new capabilities to better link research to societal development. We found that the capacities of dynamic governance were implemented by integrating societal interaction into research, in particular through a ‘drizzling’ approach. In these emerging practices SIP designs function as platforms for the formation of communities of experts, rather than traditional project management models or mere communication tools. The research groups utilized the benefits of pooling academic knowledge and skills with other types of expertise for mutual gain. They embraced the limits of expertise and reached out to societal partners to truly broker knowledge, and exchange and develop capacities and perspectives to solve grand societal challenges…(More)”.