Academic prestige abroad, trusted at home – international evaluation of the VATT Institute for Economic Research completed

An external evaluation panel examined the scientific level of the research conducted by VATT, as well as its societal impact. “It is extremely rewarding to have such an esteemed panel commend us for our success in research work”, says Director General Anni Huhtala.

High-quality research identified as VATT’s strongest point

According to the report of the evaluation panel, the research conducted at VATT meets high international standards. Furthermore, research indicators emphasising the quality of publications have been steadily improving since 2015, indicating an upward trend in research quality. The report identifies taxation, education and the labour market as particularly strong research areas at VATT.

According to the evaluation panel, VATT has managed to raise the level of research by making the right strategic choices. In particular, VATT has managed to build a culture of publishing where senior researchers provide support and act as role models for their juniors and everyone is expected to publish their work in international, peer-reviewed scientific journals. The report also lists good recruiting decisions, regular performance evaluations and the researchers' relatively freedom in choosing their own research topics as other factors that have enabled this improvement.

The overall picture painted by the evaluation panel is that VATT research and researchers are well-known and renowned by the international economics community. Compared to the previous evaluation performed in 2007, VATT has been “totally transformed to a modern research institute with a strong international reputation and a high domestic credibility".

Stakeholders in Finland also regard research quality and expertise as VATT’s greatest strengths. The comparison included in the evaluation shows that research conducted at VATT is considered to be very reliable and independent.

“This is very important for our societal impact as a research institute”, Anni Huhtala comments.

VATT could have a bigger role in ex ante evaluation of policy measures

The international status of VATT is an asset because, as the report notes, “importing” research is no trivial matter. The ability to access the international research frontier and to be able to digest and accommodate it in a domestic setting is hugely facilitated by having researchers that are integrated in the international research community. If policymakers in Finland had to rely on domestic research alone, the basis of knowledge would be far too narrow.

In the report, the societal impact of VATT is assessed by examining its contribution in the three stages of policymaking: preparation, implementation and ex post evaluation. While VATT “contributes significantly to the knowledge base of policymaking in Finland” and “is strong in deepen-ing general understanding of highly policy-relevant phenomena” in areas like taxation, housing and labour market, VATT is seen as relatively weaker in providing support for policy preparation, including ex ante evaluation of different policy options.

The report highlights the importance of finding the right balance between academic performance and policy support.

“For research institutes like us promoting evidence-based policymaking, this is a very important question. We want our scientific work and expert work to complement each other. Our expertise is always founded on research, and the questions we seek to answer are shaped by issues identified through our policy work”, says Research Director Essi Eerola.

The International Evaluation of the VATT Institute for Economic Research was commissioned by the Ministry of Finance. The evaluation was completed in late 2019 by Professor Emeritus Vidar Christiansen, Professor Olof Åslund, Doctor of Social Sciences Vesa Vihriälä and Director Raija Volk.

Evaluation report

International Evaluation of the VATT Institute for Economic Research. Report of the Evaluation Panel. Publications of the Ministry of Finance 2020:14.

Further information:

Director General Anni Huhtala, VATT, tel. +358 295 519 414
Research Director Essi Eerola, VATT, tel. +358 295 519 404