Do we have enough resources for research on shipping?

“Good research requires several different perspectives on the same topic. By collaborating across borders on the same topics, we can carry out sufficient research examining the problem at hand, even if the research resources of one country are smaller.


Maritime research has never been this easy, writes Joakim Dahlman in Svenska Sjöfarts Tidningen on September 26. He is a research manager at VTI, the Swedish State Road and Transport Research Institute.

According to Dahlman, Sweden has never had better financial conditions for maritime research, and there is no shortage of research topics either. With the container crisis and the war in Ukraine, the importance of shipping has become increasingly clear to the vast majority of people. He also states that there have never been as many people doing maritime research in Sweden as there are now.

However, Joakim raises concerns about whether there is enough know-how for the big issues in shipping: digitalization and the green transition. There is also a challenge in communicating research, which places great demands not only on the researcher but also on the recipient of the results.

How is the situation in the other Nordic countries?

In Norway and Denmark, there are powerful marine research institutes, whose significant studies we can constantly read. What about Finland? Or Estonia? Do we have enough personnel and financial resources to do good research and respond to maritime research needs?

In Finland, we are pleased to see an increase in maritime research personnel in recent decades. Several good professors have started in universities in recent years, and the growth of research in universities of applied sciences has been significant. Research institutes and even foundations, such as the Baltic Sea Action Group, also conduct significant research in the field. In Estonia, takeover of the Estonian Maritime Academy by the Tallinn University of Technology has been a big and important step towards the increase of academic research in the field and the training of researchers.

In addition, the importance of discussion and different perspectives in scientific research must be understood

It is important that researchers have a national and international community that follows each other’s studies, listens, argues against and brings new perspectives. We can only meet the challenges of changing business through continuous discussion with new and different views.

Of course, this requires resources. It is not enough that we have only one research group in one field, because good research requires a sufficient number, a critical mass, of researchers looking at things from different perspectives. By collaborating across borders on the same topics, we are able to get enough different perspectives even if the research resources of one country are less.

However, research alone is not enough, the research must also be made known to other researchers

An academic publication can take even years. Instead, faster-paced discussions can also be held in newspapers, magazines, social media and, more traditionally, at industry conferences. As an advice for young researchers, I would say that only by talking you learn to talk: to hone your own perspectives, to be polite in all situations, and to highlight perspectives that may be overlooked by others.

Recently, I have seen a gratifying number of collaborative projects between maritime researchers from different countries. It is important that together we look at the challenges of Baltic Sea shipping. We need also other fields, such as IT and energy researchers. Even scientifically good research is not good if it does not provoke discussion, objections and new perspectives. They take the science forward!

This blog has been published in Navigator Magazine 11.11.2022.

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