However, the principal activity of the foundation over the years has been the sponsorship of talented Finnish scientists for sabbatical research terms. Eleven individuals were awarded such grants in the foundation's first year of 1968.
The principle behind the awarding of grants has been to facilitate individuals to take time for research activities, or more specifically to enable clinical scientists to take unpaid leave of absence from their normal post in order to concentrate on research. The emphasis has been on helping busy clinicians whose research is being hampered by excessive routine duties. This bias has naturally tended to have favoured the more senior, postdoctoral scientists. However, grants have not been given to those such as full professors whose seniority already assigns to their appointment full-time research prior to 1993.
The size of grants has been set to approximate the net income of a senior physician for two to six months, thereby providing freedom for research without significant loss of income. No grants for assistants or for equipment have been made. These policies were established at the out-set. During its first 25 years (1968-1993) 233 grants have been awarded, allowing a total of 700 free sabbatical research months, or 70 years, to the recipient scientists. As in all research work, results have to be assessed and conclusions drawn. So just how worthwhile an investment has it been to fund these sabbatical terms for clinical scientists? The recipients themselves are pleased, naturally enough, but to judge the real and lasting impact of these awards is not so easy. However, since many of Finland's current leading cardiologists, epidemiologists and lipid disorder specialists, plus a good number of full university professors, have benefitted from Paavo Nurmi Foundation grants, it can be claimed with some confidence that this method and measure of support has proved a fruitful contribution to cardiovascular disease research.
During recent years, the requirement of sabbatical leave has been abolished. Nowadays, grants are awarded also for acquisition of equipment and materials in addition to post doc research. Several professors have received foundation's grant.