Anna Vatanen ja Alexey Popov

Interdisciplinary collaboration is learned on the science leadership programme

The future lies in cooperation according to Anna Vatanen and Alexey Popov, who are participating in the science leadership programme.

Post-doctoral researchers of the University of Oulu are gaining expertise in science leadership. The programme supports young researchers in their career and strengthens their knowledge, skills and capabilities for research, and their research leadership.

“The Class of ’18 is a support and peer network for post-doc researchers in which they learn about three themes: science leadership, interdisciplinary cooperation and impactful communication”, says Tarja Leinonen from HR services who coordinates the programme.


Science leadership is about having a vision, setting goals and understanding academia

Human relations skills and communication skills complete the competence of a researcher. But what does it take to be a science leader?

“To be a leader requires that you see something that needs to be solved or researched. You need to have a goal and know how to get there. It’s about encouraging others and knowing how academia works”, says Anna Vatanen from the Research Unit of Languages and Literature.

“Researchers should know what they are doing, why it’s important and how to communicate with others about it. In addition, they should have a broad understanding of both the world and the area that they are working in, see the big picture”, adds Alexey Popov from the Research Unit of Optoelectronics and Measurement Techniques.


Writing articles is not enough

As a part of impactful communication, researchers have practiced working with the media and pitching their research. Before the science leadership programme Popov could not realise how important science communication is.

“I thought that it was enough if a researcher is serious about his or her work, attends scientific conferences and publishes is peer-reviewed journals. During the programme, I learned how important it is to tell about your work and new innovations, at the right time and using the right channel”, says Popov.


Interdisciplinary projects

Researchers have developed different project ideas in groups, and some of the ideas will be presented in Brussels in February.

“Brussels is an easy choice because many of the funding instruments are applied for from the EU. It’s good for the researchers to see how different funding methods work. There will be people in Brussels to comment on the ideas. We’re taking the whole group on the visit”, says Leinonen.

“Multidisciplinary cooperation adds perspective and fresh solutions. In the science leadership programme, shared projects don’t have to be about one’s own research – it’s enough that you are interested and can discuss the topic. You’ll learn whilst on the project”, Popov says.

“One single discipline can’t necessarily solve complex problems, hence interdisciplinary collaboration is needed”, Vatanen tells.

To cooperate, researchers should find a common problem that they aim to solve together. To form a project group, you must know what other people are doing. Each discipline has its own language, and people can mean different things even when using the same term, says Popov, adding:

 “Usually we communicate and think in the same ways in our bubbles.”


Impact, recognition and support

The science leadership programme is the first one of its kind at the University of Oulu. In the future it might be a part of the yearly repertoire, says Leinonen. The programme has been customised to the needs and interests of the attendees, and feedback has been listened to carefully. The aim of the university is to improve the impact and recognition of the researchers and support their academic career.

The educators are mostly in-house. The programme consists of monthly 1.5 day long gatherings where specialists lecture and participants work in groups.

Nineteen researchers from the spearhead projects of the University of Oulu’s focus areas were chosen for the programme. Before the training they received personal coaching, where career plans, stress management and coping with work were discussed.

“To meet people from the other end of the research spectrum has been one of the best aspects of the programme. Listening to other people’s thoughts and topics has enriched me with new ideas”, Popov says.

“We have learned both from the experts and our peers”, tells Vatanen.


Author: Heidi Niemi

Image: Mikko Törmänen

Last updated: 7.1.2019