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Call a Researcher! a new way for research to have societal impact

Fifteen researchers offered their knowledge on digitalization through free one hour Skype discussions.
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Effective distribution and use of research knowledge is a vital part of the third function of universities: societal impact. Digital Disruption of Industry research consortium, funded by the Strategic Research Council and led by Aalto University, offered its researchers’ expertise to citizens, media and companies in a new form through one hour free Skype discussions in April 2018.  

Fifteen researchers had dialogue with 65 persons during one week. The participants were from startups, industrial companies, the Finnish Parliament and EU, ministries, unions, PR agencies, banks, universities and a county. Discussion topics included for example artificial intelligence and ethics, platform economy, ecosystems, blockchains and data sharing. 

'The discussions were very successful. We discussed on concrete challenges and problems of different companies and communities related to a certain subtopic of digitalization. It was very interesting to note that just by summarizing the topic and discussing the fundamentals of it was much appreciated and beneficial for the caller in understanding the problematics and in drafting a solution. The dialogues were truly beneficial also for the researcher – for me they gave motivation and new ideas for future research', tells Kimmo Karhu, post-doctoral researcher at Aalto University. 

Call a Researcher! made contacting easy and the participants wished for the service to continue  

'Boosting innovation requires new modes of operation and being ready to just plunge in. When I saw the Call a Researcher! campaign on Twitter I immediately booked my slot', says Maria Rautavirta, Senior Engineer at the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications. The discussion reassured her on the questions to be tackled in the digital transformation. She also got reassurance that the ministry is focusing on the right topics and especially on the people in the midst of this transformation. 'I hope there would be more such opportunities to easily contact researchers. I would also like to see short pitches of broad topics around digitalization', explains Rautavirta. 

Jussi Simolin from Innoduel is a start-up entrepreneur developing a product that helps leaders to lead better, or in turns helps people to participate in decision making. 'For our marketing we need scientific facts. We need to show evidence to our target customers, the leaders, that soft things like engagement, listening to employees and inclusion are beneficial to business as well. And this is where science comes handy, also leaders believe in science, typically', says Simolin. 

Jussi Simolin was thrilled to see Aalto Start-up Center tweet about this opportunity. He rushed into the site and after a very difficult decision making process decided to book one hour time slot from a researcher at Lappeenranta University of Technology LUT. 'The whole process was so easy and we managed to have great chats and I really felt that the researcher had prepared things for me. It was a dialogue that we continued in another call! This service is just what I need as a start-up entrepreneur. I do not need facilities or tools or anything. I need access to people that can talk with me and give me some directions. I love this service!', he comments. 

Timo Honkanen from Vaisala says that the discussion he had was really fruitful. He got good views and experience, not just from an academic perspective. 'Well spent hour. I hope this becomes a regular service!', says Honkanen. 

The Digital Disruption of Industry research consortium will organise another Call a Researcher! week next autumn. 

Thank you to everyone who participated! 

The Digital Disruption of Industry research consortium studies the impacts of digitalization to the Finnish industry and society at large. The consortium has more than 40 researchers in five organisations – Aalto University, ETLA, Lappeenranta University of Technology, University of Turku and VTT Technical Research Center of Finland. It is funded by the Strategic Research Council at the Academy of Finland. More information ddi.aalto.fi 

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