First INVEST conference was a success

Last week, INVEST held its first conference that was open for external participants as well, following the tradition of internal Scientific Seminars. The conference themes were digitalization, social inequality, and behavioral change. It attracted around 180 participants from both within and outside INVEST.

Photo of the info desk from above. A lot of people are around it.
Info desk was busy from the beginning. The free tote bags were especially popular.


Although the seminar began on Wednesday with a pre-conference event, the main kickoff was on Thursday morning with opening remarks by Jani Erola, followed by a keynote speech from Vili Lehdonvirta, who has recently been prominent in the Finnish media. Lehdonvirta, a professor at Aalto University and a professor of economic sociology and digital social research at the University of Oxford, skillfully guided the audience to consider the concept of INVEST’s #newwelfarestate with his talk titled “Welfare and Education in the Age of Cloud Empires.” The keynote received excellent feedback, with someone even calling Lehdonvirta Finland’s best keynote speaker.

Vili Lehdonvirta standing in a speaker booth with INVEST logo behind him.
Vili Lehdonvirta launched Thursday with an inspiring story.

Bigger and better ways to network.

What inspired INVEST to organize an open conference after nine internal seminars? INVEST director Jani Erola explains that an open conference had been planned since the beginning.

“The Scientific Seminars had grown and were already close to the size of an actual conference, so we decided that the extra effort required for the conference was worth it.”

Erola commented that the decision to organize the conference was easy, as the good spirit and active, participatory discussion style of the INVEST team had already been evident in the Scientific Seminars.

Patricia McMullin standing in front of a presentation.
The participatory spirit was self-evident in the conference, like in Patricia McMullin’s presentation.


Patricia McMullin, in her presentation, discussed her research on the employment of partners of people who migrate for work. The study included Denmark, the Netherlands, and Finland.

“I don’t think there’s a better opportunity if you’re interested in international, multidisciplinary research that uses register data,” McMullin commented with a laugh.

Three people standing and smiling for the camera. One is showing off his tote bag.
Stephan Bischof, Rona Geffen, and Leo Röhlke wanted to visit Finland.


Stephan Bischof, Rona Geffen, and Leo Röhlke were visiting Finland for the first time while attending the conference.

“I follow Jani Erola on the Bluesky social media app, and that’s how I found out about the event,” Röhlke explained. Geffen decided to attend because she is writing a research article on a topic matching the conference themes and hopes to network with people with similar research interests.

“I also want to see what the academic world looks like in Finland. ”

The Thursday concluded with a joint dinner, where the day’s discussions continued lively. Friday started with a keynote by Eva Serlachius from the Karolinska Institutet, addressing digital care pathways designed for treating anxiety in children and adolescents.

Eva Serlachius doing her presentation.
Eva Serlachius is a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry.

As the conference drew to a close, INVEST senior researcher Marta Facchini commented positively on the organization.

“I think the conference was very well organized. The schedule was kept, and presenting was easy.”

Marta Facchini standing in front of a presentation.
Marta Facchinis presentation was about parents’ employment uncertainty affecting childrens’ early skills development.


When I asked INVEST Director Jani Erola about the future of the conference, he said the goal is to organize similar open conferences annually.

“We are already considering next year’s theme, and all good suggestions are welcome.”