Journalist Heikki Valkama: Of all values, truth matters the most

The principal value of universities is truth. Not to be considered least, of the four values defined for the University of Helsinki, truth comes first, with Bildung, freedom and inclusivity following.

As a journalist, I find it easy to agree with these values. Our goals are the same. Science searching for truth is also the best companion for a journalist. When something is unclear or a topic of public discourse, the first questions by journalists often are “Is there research on this?” and “What does the science say?”

Science provides perspective. It offers vantage points to the future, present and past.

During the coronavirus crisis as well, I have been calling statisticians, historians, psychologists, economists, anthropologists, mathematicians... The research conducted in a range of fields presents surprising viewpoints and useful information.

In the time of crisis, science is used as a support, but it is also called into question. This is why science needs advocates to defend it.

Another thing I hold in esteem is the ability of the scientific community to correct its mistakes: this is something we don’t know; this has not been investigated; this was found to be wrong. Even though knowledge and understanding change, the pursuit of truth remains the same.

Heikki Valkama is a journalist at Yle News and an author.


In the series Science Advocates, people describe the significance of research and research-based teaching for themselves. Read the other installments on the Researchmatters website.