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Science is culture

There are several reasons why, especially in a country such as Finland, government should invest in scientific research.

Science contributes to the development of knowledge-based economy – starting, growing, sustaining and attracting new companies; thus growing the sales and exports of high-value products, and growing and sustaining employment. Secondly, science contributes to the education and training of the population - crucial for economic and social development. Thirdly, science contributes (or should contribute) to evidence-based policy making. It also develops the country’s international reputation, which is important in an increasingly interconnected world.

Scientific research is needed to solve major national and global problems and challenges, such as climate change, energy and raw materials security, and demographic change. Finally, it helps to build efficient public services and societal benefits, such as better healthcare.

These are all good and fine reasons to build up and support the scientific enterprise.  However, there is yet another compelling reason, not mentioned often enough. Science enriches our culture and civilization. It enriches our minds, and provides a reliable method for analysis, debate and resolution of problems.  Science also interfaces significantly with the arts and humanities. Nobel Laureate Sir Paul Nurse has said: “The natural world is fascinating and is even more so if you are prepared to observe, to experiment, to think and to try to understand. That is what scientists do, and there is a little bit of scientist in all of us, especially when we are children”.  To me, this is at the core of culture.

Risto Nieminen
Dean, Aalto School of Science

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