Uppsala University, Sweden

Month: November 2017


(Original Swedish post.)

In our Mission and Core Values, we state that Uppsala University will have a working environment and leadership characterised by openness, responsibility and trust, an ethical attitude and approach, and activities characterised by equal opportunities. A natural and integral part of this is that all of us – managers, staff and students – treat one another with respect. No forms of harassment or other discrimination must occur at Uppsala University. This is self-evident and fundamental. It applies to everyone and is everyone’s responsibility. But a particular responsibility rests with all of us in positions of leadership and management, especially heads of department and the Vice-Chancellor.

We have had guidelines for dealing with harassment since 2011, and these must be followed without exception. We can do a better job of emphasising the rules and standards that apply and try to make it easier for victims to report harassment. These issues are included in management training courses but could be emphasised more. This autumn, we have discussed sexual harassment in dialogues with heads of department, students and staff in many different contexts and we encourage all of you to do so too. It is good that we have included questions about sexual harassment in our work environment surveys for the past several years. It goes without saying that we will continue to do so. We welcome the fact that the #MeToo campaign has turned a spotlight on the issue of sexual violations and abuse. These issues really need to be brought to the fore and we will continue to do so indefatigably for a long time to come.

I would like to highlight the work that is being done here in Uppsala at the National Centre for Knowledge on Men’s Violence Against Women. The national telephone support line for women (Kvinnofridslinjen) has now existed for ten years and has answered more than a quarter of a million calls. Tomorrow, on Saturday 25 November, the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a lunch programme at Uppsala City Theatre will focus on the book Åttiosex röster, ett dygn på Kvinnofridslinjen (Eighty-six voices: 24 hours on Kvinnofridslinjen). The book has been produced with the assistance of Kvinnofridslinjen staff and contains anonymised quotations from women subjected to violence who have phoned the national support line.

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U4 in Ghent

(Original Swedish post published 22 November.)

On Sunday and Monday 19–20 November, the U4 network held its tenth Rectors’ Conference. Delegations from the four member universities (apart from Uppsala: Ghent, Groningen and Göttingen) met in Ghent, where the university incidentally is celebrating its bicentenary this year. The Uppsala delegation consisted of representatives of the three disciplinary domains, the administration and the Vice-Chancellor. Student representatives had met students from the other universities beforehand and also took part in the conference.

During the meeting, we looked back on all the activities that have taken place over the years, including mobilities, workshops, summer and winter schools, joint publications, funding applications and joint doctorates and Master’s programmes. We really have seen strong and effective cooperation develop in the nine years that U4 has been in existence.

Looking to the years ahead, we are discussing enhanced cooperation at Master’s and PhD levels, virtual graduate schools, the development of digital learning, peer review in the area of facilities and campus development, and in the area of culture and museums, and much more. I am impressed at what all the clusters have achieved.

Next year, U4 will reach its tenth anniversary and this will be celebrated at the Rectors’ Conference in Göttingen in November 2018, when we will sum up the ten years that have passed and set out the way ahead.

Four U4 vice-chancellors.

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Inauguration of Professors 2017

Today we formally installed 24 new professors at the University. The grand ceremony in the University Main Building concluded a week in which the new professors have been in the spotlight. They have given well-attended inaugural lectures in the University Main Building, giving the audience a fascinating sample of many aspects of our multifaceted University.

The ceremony began with music played by the Academic Orchestra. I then gave the traditional Vice-Chancellor’s inauguration address, in which I emphasised some principles that our new professors must bear in mind.

You can read the speech here.

The inauguration had a full programme. Inaugural lectures were given by:

  • Professor Sven Oskarsson on “Family connections and political engagement”
  • Professor Rose-Marie Amini on “Malignant lymphoma – a diagnosis with many challenges”
  • Professor Johannes Messinger on “How bacteria solved the energy problem”.

In addition, we honoured some of our skilful teachers, who received the Distinguished Teaching Award. This year’s recipients were:

  • Theology, Humanities and Educational Sciences: Senior Lecturer Jenny Beckman, Department of History of Science and Ideas
  • Law and Social Sciences: Senior Lecturer Susanne S:t Clair Renard, Department of Law
  • Medicine and Pharmacy: Senior Lecturer Martin Wohlin, Department of Medical Sciences
  • Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Technology: Senior Lecturer Magnus Hellqvist, Department of Earth Sciences
  • The Free Distinguished Teaching Award: Senior Lecturer Malin Löfstedt, Department of Theology, was awarded the 2017 Free Distinguished Teaching Award on the theme “Teaching that develops ethical competence”.

The University’s innovation prize Hjärnäpplet, awarded to a researcher or research student for an outstanding transfer of academic knowledge that has resulted in an innovation, was also presented. This year it went to Hans Lennernäs, Professor of Biopharmacy.

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University Board meeting at Krusenberg

(Original Swedish post published 15 November.)

Every semester, the University Board has an overnight conference that allows time for in-depth strategic discussions. This autumn’s overnight conference took place on Tuesday to Wednesday this week at Krusenberg Herrgård.

On Tuesday afternoon, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Anders Malmberg presented the results of the Quality and Renewal 2017 (Q&R17) project. Vice-Rectors Johan Tysk and Torsten Svensson and Deputy Vice-Rector Mats Larhed spoke about how their disciplinary domains will proceed with the recommendations that have come out of the project. The University Board made many positive comments on the work that has been done, the planned follow-up process and how the University works on quality assurance and development issues in general. The members will be interested to follow how the results are taken forward and translated into action, in both the short term and the longer term.

The second item on the agenda on Tuesday concerned the University’s rules of procedure. In December 2016, the University Board asked the Vice-Chancellor to initiate a revision of the rules of procedure. At the beginning of the year, the Vice-Chancellor appointed a task force led by Lena Marcusson, which has produced a thorough report and a proposal for new rules of procedure. Some of the major changes proposed are:

  • to give the University’s fundamental management principles special protection in the rules of procedure;
  • to replace the present Academic Senate with a new university-wide body, also called the Senate, whose duties will include taking over the role of the present consultative assembly; and
  • to regulate the procedures for appointing the vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor in the rules of procedure.

These issues inspired a lively discussion, which also took up the question of how to organise the ongoing process of revising the rules of procedure. Against the backdrop of the discussions on Tuesday, the University Board decided during the second day’s session to appoint a group to continue work on the new rules of procedure, on the basis of the task force’s proposal. The group consists of the Board’s Chair Gudmund Hernes, Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson, Shirin Ahlbäck-Öberg (representing the teaching staff), Gunnar Svedberg (external) and Rozbe Bozorgi (student). University Director Katarina Bjelke will provide administrative support.

A traditional feature of the University Board’s November meeting is a presentation on the year’s Nobel Prizes. This is greatly appreciated. Many thanks to Ulf Danielsson, Katarina Edwards, Ashleigh Harris, Mikael Elinder and Dan Larhammar for explaining the prizes in such an inspiring way.

On Wednesday morning, the University Board held its regular meeting. This began with a report from the Vice-Chancellor on developments at the University since the previous meeting. Two issues that were addressed in particular were the University’s procedures for dealing with sexual harassment and the media debate that followed the news about an exhibition in Enköping on textile archaeology research.

Another point on the agenda concerned the new Ångström Laboratory, where the Vice-Chancellor had requested a consultation with the University Board before taking a decision on implementation. The University Board has received information about this project on several previous occasions. It is a major and important project that has been discussed and prepared for a long time and is now ready for a decision, following approval of the proposal by a large majority by the board of the Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology. Critical views have been voiced, as reported in the newspaper Upsala Nya Tidning.

Among other decisions taken, the University Board elected Elisabeth Dahlin its new vice-chair. The University Board also approved the establishment of the Centre for Integrated Research on Culture and Society (CIRCUS), a new interdisciplinary research initiative in the Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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Quality and Renewal 2017

(Original Swedish post.)

Today I received the Quality and Renewal 2017 (Q&R17) report from the project team. It’s a weighty tome, running to more than 700 pages. This afternoon it will be presented to the University Board, which will begin its strategic discussions at the autumn overnight conference. I can’t imagine a better basis for discussion.

This is the third time Uppsala University has conducted a comprehensive review of its research, and this time there has been a special focus on strengths and weaknesses in our research environments.

The report is the result of a major effort that has involved almost the entire University. Q&R17 is part of the University’s systematic quality enhancement efforts. We have had broad participation, analysing our own strengths and weaknesses in a critical and forward-looking manner to produce the best tool for improvement and development. We have also enlisted the help of 132 critical friends and eminent colleagues from all over the world, who have generously taken the time to examine our environments from an outside perspective.

Q&R17 is a powerful tool for the University’s development and quality assurance. The analysis reveals numerous sources of strength in the University’s research, but also areas where we must act to ensure that the University maintains and improves its international position. The report contains recommendations to the individual environments but also 40 more university-wide recommendations. They concern in particular:

  • culture of quality and quality control,
  • academic leadership and strategic renewal,
  • recruitment and career support,
  • international environment,
  • collaboration and application,
  • link between research and education, and
  • internal organisation and infrastructure.

Work on Q&R17 began in February 2016. The project team has been working for nearly two years. The report is based on questionnaire responses from some 3,700 active researchers, bibliometric analysis and other key indicators, self-evaluations by the departments and reports from 19 panels of invited external reviewers.

We have learnt a lot along the way. Many colleagues in Sweden and around the world are curious about the results but also about the process. It will be interesting to follow what happens now when the results reach the departments and research teams.

I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has contributed to Q&R17, particularly Deputy Vice-Chancellor Anders Malmberg and the project team, which has consisted of vice-rectors Anna Singer, Marika Edhoff and Mats Larhed, and to the secretariat of Camilla Maandi and Åsa Kettis of the Division for Quality Enhancement. And to all the researchers and heads of department throughout the University for your time and great dedication. And to the divisions at the University Administration and the University Library that have been deeply involved in the project. And thanks to all our critical friends as well.

Download the full report from DiVA.

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The Guild’s statement on Brexit

Uppsala University is a member of The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities. One of the purposes of this network is to give our University, among others, a more distinct presence in Brussels. (You may have read about this in earlier posts on this blog.) We hope that participation in the Guild will increase our leverage in European research and education policy.

We have a long tradition of collaboration with researchers throughout the world, but we have stronger relationships with some countries than with others. This is why there has been great concern since the Brexit referendum. Brexit negotiations are now in progress and from Uppsala’s perspective, it is important that cooperation with the United Kingdom in particular can continue to function smoothly. Many universities all around Europe are discussing solutions and agreements, research cooperation and student cooperation.

In this context the Guild, today published a statement signed by all member universities. You can read the statement here: Guild Statement on Brexit

Investing in the Future of Europe – The Guild’s statement on Brexit

As Brexit talks continue, it is crucial to restate the importance of joint investment in knowledge, human capital and innovation, enabled across borders by European universities. Ensuring the welfare of Europe’s economies and strengthening our societies requires more collaboration in research and innovation, not less. The success of European universities depends on their ability to circulate ideas freely, through their researchers, students and alumni. This must not be affected adversely by Brexit.

We need continued investment in student mobility, including between the EU and the UK, to strengthen our societies and ensure economic resilience. For students, spending time abroad halves the risks of long-term unemployment. In 2013-14, around 272,000 students across Europe studied abroad with an Erasmus+ grant;1 and 15% of that mobility was between the UK and other European countries.2 Of the 290,000 students undertaking a traineeship abroad between 2007 and 2013, one-third were offered employment by their host countries, and 10% created their own companies. It is hard to think of a better return of an investment of €274 per student per month for life-long high-quality employment, social welfare, and economic growth across Europe.3

We call for investment in EU framework programmes to sustain and enhance the quality of research in Europe, including the UK. By definition, Europe’s knowledge economies rely on the creation of new knowledge. Bringing the best minds together across borders to collaborate on solving scientific challenges is critical to maximizing the impact of research. The field-weighted citation index for EU-funded research publications for the period 2007-16 is 2.44 (with 1 representing the worldwide average), far exceeding that achieved by researchers funded nationally, in any country.4

The free circulation of ideas can best be guaranteed by the free and uninterrupted movement of researchers, students and their families. A study published recently in Nature shows that the normalized citation score for mobile scientists exceeds that of non-mobile scientists in Western Europe by 47%. Scholars who are mobile during their careers benefit the receiving country, but also the country of origin where they contribute to fostering international networks.5 Similarly, students must have the right to study for a full-time degree at the university that best suits their interests and needs. Our economies and university communities benefit from the skills and creativity of these graduates.

We urge continued long-term support for innovation across borders. Our graduates and our research are central to the success of European industry and entrepreneurship, and to the ability of European products to remain competitive in a fast-changing world. Since 2008, for instance, the Clean Sky2 initiative has brought together over 600 public and private partners to collaborate with European aeronautical industries, to ensure that European aviation continues to be at the forefront of the effort to reduce emissions. It involves UK-based multinationals like Rolls Royce, and 16 out of approximately 90 participating universities are British. Undermining the status of UK participation cannot be in anyone’s interest.6 Investment in innovation and skills across borders is the best guarantee that any jobs lost as a result of globalization are replaced by high-skilled employment.

1 European Commission (2015). Erasmus: Facts, Figures and Trends. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. [Online]. Available from http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/ education/library/statistics/erasmus-plus-facts-figures_en.pdf [accessed 17 October 2017].

2 European Commission (2015). Erasmus+ Statistics 2014 – United Kingdom. Office for Official Publications of Publications of the European Communities. [Online]. Available from http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/ repository/education/library/statistics/2014/united-kingdom_en.pdf [accessed 17 October 2017].

3 European Commission (2015). Erasmus: Facts, Figures and Trends. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. [Online]. Available from http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/ education/library/statistics/erasmus-plus-facts-figures_en.pdf [accessed 17 October 2017].

4 EU Commission, Horizon 2020 Monitoring Report 2015 (2016), p.67. Individual national field-weighted citation indeces include Switzerland (1.8), the Netherlands (1.77), the UK (1.54) and Germany (1.41). The Royal Society makes this point specifically for the UK. The Royal Society – Science Policy Centre (2016). UK research and the European Union: The role of the EU in funding UK research. [Online]. Available from https://royalsociety.org/~/ media/policy/projects/eu-uk-funding/uk-membership-of-eu.pdf [accessed 17 October 2017].

5 Cassidy R. Sugimoto et. al. (2017). Scientists have the most impact when they move. Nature, 550(7674), 29-31. https://www.nature.com/news/scientists-have-most-impact-when-they-re-free-to-move-1.22730 [accessed 24 October 2017].

6 See http://www.cleansky.eu.

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Domain dialogues, Göran Gustafsson lecture and internationalisation inquiry

(Original Swedish post published 8 November.)

Last week was dominated by dialogues with the leaderships of the three disciplinary domains. The purpose of our regular dialogues with the disciplinary domains is to discuss developments in their activities and strategies, the challenges facing the University and the domains and how these can be addressed jointly and by the domains and faculties. The dialogues started out from the University’s Mission and Core Values and the disciplinary domains’ own statements of goals and strategies. The domain dialogues this autumn focused especially on staff recruitment and retention, renewal/changes in priorities, budget input and agency capital. The disciplinary domains also had the opportunity to raise other issues.

Last week we also had this year’s Göran Gustafsson Lecture, with Professor Joseph E. LeDoux, which attracted a full house. Professor LeDoux is a prize-winning neuroscientist, author and musician from New York, who lectured on the topic of ‘Anxiety’. His work focuses on the mechanisms in the brain underlying memory and emotion, particularly fear and anxiety. During the lecture we had the pleasure of listening to music as well as Professor LeDoux.

Göran Gustafsson (1919–2003) was a successful Swedish entrepreneur and businessman. To give back to the community and promote opportunities for people to improve their milieu, he created two major research foundations. The Göran Gustafsson Lecture in Medicine is arranged by the Office for Medicine and Pharmacy at Uppsala University in cooperation with the Göran Gustafsson foundations.

This week there have been several meetings about the government inquiry on the internationalisation of higher education and research. As I’m sure you know, Agneta Bladh has been appointed to chair the inquiry. Her remit is to draw up a national strategy for increased internationalisation and propose new text for inclusion in the Higher Education Act. It is important that the inquiry takes up proposals that will facilitate international cooperation. At present there are many obstacles, and better coordination and collaboration between different actors is particularly needed. Issues concerning the Swedish Migration Agency and visa processing are often raised. The inquiry will also pay considerable attention to internationalisation at home. And we must not forget the numerous international undergraduates and doctoral students already at our universities, who can be more involved in various ways to further enhance quality through internationalisation. This will require us to improve our approach to parallel language use at Uppsala University.

Yesterday, 7 November, we organised Uppsala University Global Alumni Day in 62 cities in 45 countries, when our alumni all around the world organised events all on the same day. It started with breakfast in Dunedin, New Zealand, and ended with a dinner and mingle on the US West Coast. It drew a great response – more than 1,200 alumni participated worldwide. Meanwhile, in Uppsala we celebrated Global Super Tuesday and the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus Programme, partly by inaugurating the Forum for Studies of Internationalisation in Higher Education. In all, 9 million students have participated in the EU’s Erasmus Programme. Impressive!

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