The Finnish Food Safety Authority constantly utilizes international skills in its research projects, says Researcher Mervi Rokka from the Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit of Evira. The duration of internships varies from a couple of weeks to up to one year. Some internships are part of Master’s degree studies, while other interns are pursuing a doctoral degree or post doc studies. International researcher mobility with universities and research institutes is likewise common.
International cooperation sits well with scientific research, which requires an ability to question existing schemes and approaches as well as look for new ones. Cultural background affects the way one perceives the world, and when individuals representing different cultural backgrounds come together during a research project, their encounters give rise to a productive exchange of ideas. Often this leads to insights that further the research in question.
As research projects progress, international cooperation produces tangible outcomes at Evira. As a case in point, Rokka mentions the international visibility that the outcomes of research projects have gained in scientific publications in the field. Successful research projects generate follow-up projects that in turn promote international cooperation. A positive cycle is formed. At best, an internship leads to long-term cooperation, and the intern stays at Evira to work in laboratory research, for example.
In addition to hiring interns from abroad, Finnish research institutes internationalize by sending their own researchers to other countries. Rokka says that researchers from Evira have visited, for example, a research laboratory that is being established in Kenya. The working conditions and practices in other countries may differ greatly from those in Finland; this may broaden the researchers’ perception of the multiple ways in which successful outcomes can be achieved at work.
According to Rokka, encountering new cultures on a daily basis is the most meaningful aspect of international projects. The world view of the entire organization is broadened when researchers come together with others from Europe and elsewhere, such as Brazil. Internationalization is not just a phenomenon that occurs in the business sector, but public organizations should also utilize the skills and new perspectives offered by international experts, Rokka urges.