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Yrjö Haila Master’s thesis Award 2023

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Yrjö Haila Master's thesis Award 2023


The Finnish Society for Environmental Social Science (YHYS) organizes annually a competition to award outstanding Master’s thesis. The prize has been named after the society’s long-term chair and Finland’s first environmental policy professor, Yrjö Haila. The aim of the competition is to find and reward distinguished thesis from the field of environmental social sciences, understood in broad terms. The selected high-quality thesis should address a multidisciplinary research audience and produce new environmental social scientific knowledge. Furthermore, the awarded thesis is expected to be societally important, be oriented towards providing solutions to problems, and develop good societal practices regarding environmental issues.

The awarded thesis is nominated by the board of the Society, based on the decision of an annually changing jury. This year, the members of the jury were researcher Anni Turunen from Syke, economist Heini Ahtiainen from European Chemicals Agency, and senior research scientist Erkki-Jussi Nylén from Syke.

This year, 15 theses were submitted to the contest, which is six more than last year. Most of the contestants came from the Helsinki metropolitan area: seven from the University of Helsinki and four from Aalto University. The University of Eastern Finland contributed with two theses and Turku and Jyväskylä universities participated with one contestant each. Last year, 90 % of the submitted theses were written in English, but this year Finnish language gained more ground, as five of the 15 theses were written in Finnish. The winner of this year was part of that fabulous five.

Once again, each of the theses was very well written, highly interesting, and all of them deserved to be in this contest. Overall, the judges had a high quality bunch of theses to pick the winner from. In particular, two theses stood out, and one of them was awarded the victory of the thesis competition and the other an honorary mention.

The honorary mention goes to Aino Kangas’s thesis “Luontopiha toimijaverkostona: Luonnon monimuotoisuuden toteutuminen kaupunkipihoilla”, translated freely to English as Natural garden as an actor network: enhancing biodiversity in urban yards. The thesis is done in the University of Eastern Finland, Master’s program of environmental policy. The thesis examines natural gardens as a way to achieve biodiversity objectives, focusing on privately-owned houses in the urban setting. Kangas utilizes actor network theory brilliantly and provides practical suggestions to the city of Joensuu on promoting natural gardens and improving biodiversity in urban areas.

The winner’s thesis is titled: “Hiilineutraali Suomi 2035. Kohti ekohyvinvointivaltiota?”, which translates freely as Carbon neutral Finland 2035. Towards ecological welfare state? The thesis contributes to the conceptual discussion and development of the ecological welfare state by identifying its features based on literature. The concept and features are used as the theoretical framework to analyse the Finnish medium-term climate policy plan KAISU. The thesis is written in a reasoned and rigorous way, but also gives room for the writer’s own voice, which should not be taken as granted in research. Additionally, the winner displays a high-level methodological understanding. Overall, the work is an excellent example of an outstanding thesis in the field of environmental social science.

With these words, this year’s winner of the Yrjö Haila Master’s thesis award 2023 is Oskari Hakala from the University of Jyväskylä, Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy. Congratulations!

The winning thesis can be found here:

The thesis awarded with the honorary mention can be found here: