Towards complexity competence in environmental research governance

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Oulun Puhelin auditorium (L5)

Topic of the dissertation

Towards complexity competence in environmental research governance

Doctoral candidate

Master of Science Jouko Inkeröinen

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Technology, Environmental and Chemical Engineering

Subject of study

Environmental Engineering


Professor Karl-Erik Michelsen, LUT University


Professor Erkki Alasaarela, Univeristy of Oulu

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The accumulation of commissioning competence in environmental research promotes sustainability transition

This doctoral thesis reveals that the development of cross-sectoral actions, thematic and temporal continuity in funding, and understanding internal interactions within the research system are essential elements in environmental and natural resources research management. This comprehensive management requires diverse expertise, contributing to the progression towards phenomenon-based governance and sustainability transition.

In Finland, environmental and natural resource research integration into decision-making processes has primarily occurred within administrative sectors in the form of sectoral research. However, the research needs, requirements and practices are increasingly horizontal, transcending sectoral boundaries.

This doctoral thesis examines the renewal of Finland's sectoral research from the 1990s to the 2010s. The goal of the renewal process was to enhance the relevance and horizontal nature of sectoral research and to make interactions between research institutes more systemic. The data for the study is based on interviews conducted with key figures in the research and innovation system during that period. The interpretation of the results employs a multidisciplinary approach, combining various theoretical perspectives, including open systems theory, systems thinking, evolutionary organisational theory, and complexity thinking.

The acquisition of information necessary for societal decision-making typically entails commissioning research from various researcher actors. The aim was to renew sectoral research by developing this process. The thesis demonstrates that the gradual structural development of the research system was intended to occur through the reinforcement of market mechanisms and networking. However, challenges emerged in balancing the emphasis between horizontal and sectoral research requirements.

Effective commissioning competence, as revealed by this thesis, requires knowledge of research content needs, requirements, implementation, and the utilization of results. In addition, commissioning competence involves managing uncertainty of operational environment and perspectives on handling intertwined and wicked problems. Thus, commissioning competence in research approaches the management of complex issues. Adapting to complexity is a well-known approach in environmental research, facilitating its adoption in research management within the field.
Last updated: 23.1.2024