Working Together, Silos and Word Choices

Everyone talks about the importance of teamwork. We repeat together how nobody can solve current and future problems alone, how equal and respectful communication is the key to success, how together we are more and how our goal is shared. Why, then, do we build silos? Silos between academic and administrative activities, between students and staff, between titles, between fields of science, silos between funders and those who are funded.

Partly this comes down to habit and to human beings’ neural tendency to categorise, classify and differentiate, to name things. Sometimes this is an intentional and even a functional choice, but sometimes it would be good to think again and to update vocabulary at the same time. Talking, however, is a good start. The route from words to action may be quite long, but there seems to be something good in the air now.

The Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers’ university tour started in Helsinki and continued to Tampere and Turku, during the autumn and spring we will cover the entire Finland. The discussions have brought up the common goal to construct work communities where everyone would have a clear role, early-career researchers would have wide-ranging support for their development, those working in teaching- focused positions would be appreciated for their educational task, and clear rules for career advancement would exist.

Well-being as a goal is also found in the Vision 2030 notes, in the government programme and in the results of the budget session, so the time is ripe. I gladly welcome all the aspirations related to these goals. I am particularly delighted with the kind of development where the community feels that they are being listened to. Administrative structures are certainly a way to make listening possible, but the most important thing is that listening is genuine and mutual. In addition to getting to know the local activities of the union, one of the goals of the university tour was to speak for these things, but instead of lecturing we have had the opportunity to hear about different practical methods that are being used to construct well-being.

Yet, not everything is ready. The glory of multidisciplinarity has hit many people in the face, personally I belong to many things and not to anything.

It is difficult to start collaborating when the measuring instruments recognise us as representatives of categories, as educational scientists, physicists, psychologists, business scientists, or then we are from Jyväskylä, Oulu and Lappeenranta. Who gets the money, when these fields of science and cities together seek answers to big questions? Why are the researchers of a department known as resources in a profit centre or the teachers of a subject as budgetary burdens in a cost centre?

We are experts, skilled people, scientists and even humans. We are not euros, education and knowledge are not money pits of the national economy; instead, we are where everything begins, the basis of success.

As decisions are made about the appreciation of education, intakes are increased and constant learning is taken as an everyday activity, it would be sensible to think about how to do this in practice. An appropriate answer in the prevailing language would be that we need resources, but what that actually means is people and time to do things well. We have been known for quality and we want to hold on to quality in the future as well. If funding follows speed and quantity, we don’t need a multidisciplinary research group to tell us what suffers.

The time of collaborative work and discussion may be upon us, our tour has proven that. Even though not everything is perfect yet, there is cause to highlight the big and small actions and gestures that we do together for the future. Lowering the walls of silos, working together to affect things, respectful dialogue and even word choices can be the most important things for the future – and they are not even expensive. I wish you strength for the autumn and the winter, see you on the tour!

Maija S. Peltola
President, The Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers

Painetussa lehdessä sivu 38