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Results of External Research Evaluation Published on 21.04.2021

National Defence University
23.4.2021 10.49 | Published in English on 5.5.2021 at 12.26
Press release

The National Defence University (NDU) published the final report of its external research evaluations on 21 April. The final report is the end result of an evaluation process that lasted over a year. The observations in the final report will be used to develop research in the future.

The external evaluation report with results is available in Doria: https://www.doria.fi/handle/10024/180852

The observations of the evaluation can be divided into four categories: positive observations, things to develop, food for thought and opportunities. The panel saw as positive, for example, were the strategic direction and the average research results of research, whereas areas of development included international engagement and networking, and communicating about research results.  Food for thought includes the efficient division of resources and the position of social sciences as part of the versatile field of military sciences. 

The evaluation project is part of the National Defence University’s continuous evaluation and development. The last evaluation that the NDU participated in was the university evaluation in 2017 done by the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC). That evaluation is done every six years. This voluntary external evaluation was a mid-term evaluation of the FINEEC evaluation, and it strived to gauge the condition of the development activities set four years ago. The next evaluation will be done in 2023. 

“The research and activities evaluation is part of continuing development and quality assurance in the university. The catalysts of this external evaluation were the recommendations of the 2017 evaluation. As the name suggest, the process focuses on developing research activities,” says National Defence University’s Research Director Hannu Kari. 

According to him, it is vital to get an outside perspective on the activities of the organisation:
“I would describe the external panel’s role as one answering the entity answering the question ‘Do we have credible basis for our activities and what strengths, weaknesses and challenges do outsiders see in our activity?’ Often the reality is that the organisation itself is blind to see its own weaknesses.”

Lieutenant Colonel, Doctor of Military Sciences, Juha Hollanti and Senior Researcher, Doctor of Military Sciences, Max Sjöblom, who represented the Department of Leadership and Military Pedagogy in the evaluation working group, described the importance of the external evaluation of research from the perspective of National Defence University’s personnel as follows:

“It’s important that the departments were given the opportunity to reflect on the current condition of their research. After that we were able to create a common situation picture of the current state, strengths and improvement need of research; first within the department and after that as a National Defence University. The purpose of the external evaluation is to act as a research development tool, first and foremost for ourselves. With this process all of the NDU's research personnel came together to reflect on the state of research. It was very important for networking.”

The evaluation process is divided into four phases: a two-part self-evaluation, an external evaluation and drafting a development plan based on the evaluation results. During the first phase, in the spring of 2020, each branch of science self-evaluated their performance based on the guideline set during the previous strategy period.  Reports were written on the self-evaluations, with the reports assessing the research environment and research quality per research field. 

During the second phase of the self-evaluation the research personnel of the National Defence University looked at themes on how to use the strengths of the previous strategy period to improve the areas identified for development during the next period.  The purpose of the research themes involving multiple units of the university was to find innovative ways to implement multidisciplinary research and to prevent a silo-effect between research fields. 

In the third phase, an external evaluation was conducted by a 7-strong evaluation panel consisting of 4 experts from Finnish universities, along with 3 experts from Canada, the United Kingdom and Sweden. They familiarised themselves with the results of the self-evaluation, and with the research field and research theme-specific material before the actual evaluation conducted in late January.  Along with the evaluation, the panel interviewed the NDU's heads of department, its professors, the research director, representatives from Defence Command Finland and the Ministry of Defence, doctoral students and public affairs representative. This way the process was as comprehensive as possible. 

Based on the results of the evaluation, the panel wrote a public report that presented its evaluation of the National Defence University's research environment, the quality of the research and its future outlook. 

However, the process is not over yet. In the fourth phase, the University will create a research development plan based on the results of the evaluation. In May, the NDU will arrange a workshop where the NDU personnel will assess and develop the ideas further. The workshop will be conducted in working groups, with each group consisting of representatives from different fields. These groups will look at the development suggestions and how they might be implemented, and they will draft a report based on their findings. 

Based on the external evaluation results and the quality wargaming, the NDU will write a research activity development plan that will be presented at the NDU's Research Council and Steering Group before the Rector approves it.  This way the results of the evaluation will be put into practice.