A heated debate emerged this week over the policy recommendations provided by researchers at the Economic Research Institute Etla, specifically regarding their publication “Finland rescue package” which proposed changes such as cuts in corporate and income taxes. The controversy centered on the selectivity of research references and the ideological nature of the tax proposals. As the discussion intensified, CEO of Etla Aki Kangasharju accused University of Helsinki professor of social policy Heikki Hiilamo of lying and exhibiting bias towards party politics.
The debate drew attention from many experts and three economics researchers were asked to weigh in. Mika Maliranta, Director of Labore, considered whether publications like “rescue package” should be seen as reviews presenting the scope of research literature on a particular issue. He noted that such publications are more beneficial to public debates than individual research results. He acknowledged that it can be challenging to provide strong or explicit policy recommendations given the uncertainty associated with social science research. His stance is that meticulous reviews require generous funding, pointing to the former State Council’s investigation and research activities as a successful model.
Marita Laukkanen, a WATER research professor and working life professor of economics at the University of Tampere, emphasized the importance of good scientific practice and thorough analysis when formulating policy recommendations. She highlighted the need for evaluating and qualifying prior research to ensure credibility and high quality, taking into account factors like age and relevance of materials and methods.
Kaisa Kotakorpi, a professor of economics at the University of Tampere, added that writing clear policy recommendations from economic research literature is challenging due to limited policies benefiting everyone directly. She stressed examining both advantages and disadvantages of a particular policy as well as its distribution. She also emphasized considering country contexts and reliability when studying economic issues.
All three researchers agreed that providing unambiguous policy recommendations in social science is difficult, highlighting the need for evidence-based discussions on these topics.