Uppsala University, Sweden

Month: July 2018

Open access to research – cancellation of agreement with Elsevier

A few weeks ago it was confirmed that Swedish universities are without an agreement with the publisher Elsevier. The cancellation of the agreement – after prolonged and tough negotiations – is due to two reasons: first, the universities want to make it clear that the runaway escalation of costs is both unreasonable and unsustainable, and second, the company is unwilling to meet demands for open access.

The government has set the goal of immediate open access to all publicly funded research by 2026. To achieve this requires a transition from a subscription-based system of licence fees to a system in which companies cover their costs through publication fees. At present, the major companies, spearheaded by Elsevier, increasingly charge publication fees without any corresponding willingness to accept lower licence fees. The Swedish universities negotiate jointly via the Bibsam Consortium, and Elsevier has not offered an agreement on a model that meets Bibsam’s demands. As a result, the agreement has been cancelled from 30 June 2018.

The decision has been taken after extensive discussion, which began when all of the Swedish universities in Bibsam found that costs had begun to escalate and Elsevier in particular was taking unreasonable advantage of its market dominance. Retaining the agreement became unsustainable.

For a transitional period, the situation that has arisen will affect access. This is unfortunate, but the University Library is working on solutions. We hope that everyone at Uppsala University will support the decision, which ultimately concerns the long-term defence of the principle of open access to research in Sweden. Read more on Uppsala University Library’s home page.

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Guest post: How do we solve antibiotic resistance?

This week we welcome guest bloggers to the Vice-Chancellor’s Blog. Our guests have all participated in Uppsala University’s various events during Almedalen Week on Gotland and share their impressions from the events. You can also follow them o n the web at www.uu.se/almedalen

“Medicine as we know it today completely relies on working antibiotics”, this was one of the introducing statements at the seminar “How do we solve the antibiotic resistance problem in the world?” that Uppsala Antibiotic Center (UAC) arranged yesterday in Almedalen. Moderated by Björn Olsen, a panel of seven experts in areas such as bacteriology, social interaction, medicine, chemistry and veterinary epidemiology engaged in an active debate that aimed at pinpointing what we can do, as academics, politicians, and citizens regarding this current health threat. Resistance to antibiotics by bacteria is something that scientists have been aware of since the very beginning of antibiotics use, but its effects have not gained the global attention they deserve until recently. The lack of discovery of any new antibiotic classes for the past three decades, coupled with the increased use and misuse of available antibiotics has led bacteria to develop resistance to all available drugs and are threatening to bring us into a dystopian future where antibiotics are no longer a treatment option. Is it too late? The conclusion of yesterday’s debate is that it is not, but constant active work, broad collaborations and effective communication are needed to solve the current situation.

The seminar started with, perhaps, the most difficult question of them all – how to get broad, worldwide political change in the use of antibiotics. As a global problem that knows no boundaries, as indicated by Otto Cars, minimising selection and spread of resistant bacteria is something which every country should be working on. However, the economical possibilities differ widely between countries. Today, antibiotic resistance is without a doubt a political matter that requires global team-work and coordination just like global warming. Unfortunately, current collaborations between countries are not successful and more work is needed to achieve overall control.

“But, are there any potential alternative to antibiotics treatment?” was one of the questions that several people from the public repeatedly came back to. It is logical to think that if antibiotics stop working we might be able to treat infections in different ways. Alternative treatments such as phage therapy or prevention strategies like vaccines and probiotics are being investigated, showing potential effectiveness towards specific bacteria and infections. Especially vaccination should be used as much as possible, but nevertheless, should be looked at more as complements than substitutes to antibiotic treatments.

Although there is at the moment a drought in the antibiotic pipeline, current research initiatives between the industry sector and academia are possibly leading to new compounds that could hit the market in the near future. Alternative economical models that decouple antibiotic development from sales are also needed and are being tried. But, as pointed out several times, we must be cautious once we get access to new antibiotics to avoid ending up in the same situation we are in today. Resistance will always develop, and we must have a system in place that works consciously to preserve effectiveness.

After the interesting and intense 90 minutes of questions, answers and debate, the panel wrapped up the session by highlighting briefly their take home messages. “This is not a one-solution problem and just as bacteria will not stop evolving we can never stop working on it,” Linus Sandegren pointed out, a statement that was repeated by other panelists. As a multifactorial problem we need many different scientific disciplines to work together to solve it.

As a centre focusing on antibiotics and antibiotic resistance, UAC is actively working to create knowledge, establish and coordinate collaborations and help the communication of all matters in these topics – three key points to get closer to a solution to this problem. The high attendance and active interaction yesterday show that we are heading, without doubt, in the right direction.

Eva Garmendia
Coordinator at Uppsala Antibiotic Center

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Guest post: Professor Peter Bergsten: Children’s health – our future

This week we welcome guest bloggers to the Vice-Chancellor’s Blog. Our guests have all participated in Uppsala University’s various events during Almedalen Week on Gotland and share their impressions from the events. You can also follow them on the web at www.uu.se/almedalen

I’ve participated in Almedalen Week for the first time. It was fascinating. Just about everything has been analysed and discussed, both lofty and down-to-earth topics, from the right and from the left. What role do universities have, particularly Uppsala University, in society? Universities develop society by seeking new knowledge, applying this knowledge and communicating it. Almedalen is a special opportunity to communicate with others and reach out with new, relevant findings and understanding on different social issues.

Yesterday, one of Uppsala University’s seminars dealt with children’s health. Ill-health among children and youth is increasing and a quarter of boys and girls in Sweden are overweight. Among these children, some already develop type 2 diabetes in their teenage years. Reasons for this development were a hot topic during the seminar. The panel consisted of Anna Bessö from Sweden’s Public Health Agency, Christine Senter from Barnsam Region Gotland, Lenka Prokopec Karlberg from Generation Pep and the undersigned from Uppsala University. Gustav Melén from Uppsala University Innovation served as the moderator.

It is evident that, in many ways, the environment in Sweden in which we live is not particularly healthy for our children. During the discussion, it was concluded that it is now time to use and translate the knowledge and experience we have accumulated into practical actions to create a society better suited for children to have a healthier upbringing. Uppsala University, together with two municipalities in Sweden, has begun work to influence society to make it easier for children to make healthy choices. We call this work ECHO zones after the WHO’s recently published report Ending Childhood Obesity. In these zones, we will follow children and their families and identify the important factors for understanding why children become overweight. This will make it possible to reverse the trend towards an increasing proportion of overweight children in Sweden. This is a crucial issue for Sweden in safeguarding the health and future of its youngest citizens.

In summary, I am pleased with the seminar. It allowed the others on the panel and I to share what we are doing and raise awareness of the issue. Almedalen is a meeting place that offers excellent opportunities to make new contacts. I look forward to returning for a follow-up seminar in a few years.

Peter Bergsten
Professor of Medical Cell Biology

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Guest post: The Swedish Carbon Cycle arrives in Almedalen: reflections on local and national (in)action on climate change

Over the past two weeks, Uppsala university’s Zennström professor Kevin Anderson has cycled between a number of cities and regions in Sweden to meet with citizens, municipalities, county boards and companies to discuss opportunities and challenges in the face of a changing climate. This two-wheeled journey ran under the banner of “The Swedish Carbon Cycle” and had the goal of raising awareness and catalyse discussions about local action on climate change.

As you can see in this video, public events and meetings with local authorities where organized in the cities and towns of Uppsala, Lund, Malmö, Ängelholm, Halmstad, Göteborg, Gävle, Märsta, Stockholm and with a final seminar in Visby at the start of the Almedalen week. The cycle tour is part of a larger commissioned research project where all Swedish municipalities, counties and regions have been invited to have their carbon budget calculated to scientifically ground and align their climate and energy strategies with the temperature commitments in the Paris Agreement.

A key message to emerge from discussions with municipalities and counties, strongly echoed by those attending civil society events, was that given the necessary powers deep reductions in carbon emissions could be achieved, even in the near-term. The real obstacle to delivering such rapid decarbonisation was that the municipalities and counties had too few powers to enact regional transformations in energy demand and supply. The National Parliament (Riksdagen), rather than facilitating local action, was seen to thwart opportunities through their weak legislative programmes.

Nowhere was this more evident than in Sweden’s house building boom – with the skyline of so many Swedish cities silhouetted with cranes and with new apartment blocks rising above the traditional city landscape. Yet, these new homes are being built for the twentieth century and consequently are inappropriate for meeting the energy and climate challenges of the twenty-first century. Whilst many municipalities and counties wish to impose strict efficiency standards on all new developments, including passive-house standards, the power to do this had been reclaimed by the national parliament. Of course the parliament could have established stringent minimum standards to which all new developments must comply. Instead it chose to set maximum levels, undermining any opportunity for the municipalities and counties to require developers to construct new homes commensurate with Sweden’s Paris commitments.

This preference of the parliament for the lowest common denominator as a prerequisite for their fixation on ever-more economic growth contrasts with the more societal focus of the municipalities, counties and civil society groups. It is this race to the bottom aligned with the rhetoric and empty promises of the parliament in relation to climate change that has failed to deliver any reduction in Sweden’s emissions since 1990 (once emissions from aviation, shipping, imports and exports are considered). So whilst there is a palpable drive and passion for real mitigation at the local and regional level, the parliament presides over airport expansion in Arlanda and Sälen, the development of a high-carbon gas (LNG) terminal in Gothenburg and a new super-highway (Förbifart) in Stockholm. This is not the decarbonisation recipe expected of a progressive nation – but rather a programme of high-carbon lock-in signalling climate denial rather than concern for its current and future citizens. Would the situation be improved if municipalities and active civil society groups held the powers currently misused by parliament?

After this first day of the Almedalen week, this disjuncture between local and national ambitions and willingness to act on climate change was further confirmed in the various engagements we had with a number of the parliamentary parties’ spokespersons on climate change.

Seminar with Johanna Sandahl, Kevin Anderson and Anders Wijkman.

In Almedalen over the next few days, Isak and Kevin are contributing to a number of events focused on issues of climate change mitigation and energy transitions, hosted by organisations such as Naturskyddsföreningen, Klimatriksdagen, Vätgas Sverige och Länsstyrelsen Stockholm, among others. The first of these events, on Monday morning, was a conversation about climate change leadership in Sweden between Kevin, Anders Wijkman and Johanna Sandahl.

For more reflections from Kevin and citizens around Sweden on local climate policy and action, visit the Swedish Carbon Cycle Video Archive.

Kevin Anderson & Isak Stoddard
Centre for Environment and Development Studies and the Climate Change Leadership Research Node, Uppsala University.

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Guest post: Campus Gotland 5 years old

The Campus Gotland sign is unveiled at the opening ceremony on 1 July 2013.

Five years ago, Gotland University College became part of Uppsala University and Campus Gotland saw the light of day.

The five year that have passed since then have been full of very intensive, successful and sometimes challenging work. Uppsala University has great ambitions for its education and research activities on Gotland.

The University’s main goal since 2013 has been to increase the number of students and teachers on the Visby campus. Several new Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes have been started and we have increased the number of full-time equivalent students on campus from around 700 to approximately 1,100. This autumn, we will be launching several more new programmes and we expect to reach our target of 1,500 full-time equivalent students on campus by the 2021–2022 academic year. The following figures help fill out the picture of what has happened over the past five years:

  • The percentage of teaching staff with doctorates has increased from 55% to 75%
  • The number of Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes has increased from 16 to 30
  • The number of international students has increased from about 50 to 200.
  • Direct government funding for research has doubled.

Needless to say, we are very happy and proud that our progress has been so successful. University departments and faculties with activities in Visby have been very serious and ambitious in their development efforts. Among other achievements, the University’s first international Bachelor’s programmes have started at Campus Gotland – four of them in all.

The development of Campus Gotland has been driven by staff in Uppsala as well as on Gotland. It has often been hard work, it has often demanded time – but that makes it all the more satisfying to note the excellent results.

But we are not going to rest on our laurels.

In September 2017, the University Board adopted a new Programme for Campus Gotland. The programme formulates goals that call for a continued increase in the number of students, as well as a long-term drive to strengthen research. In addition, the programme describes the particularly favourable conditions for assembling activities with a sustainable development focus, and sets out a vision of a Campus Gotland characterised by multi- and interdisciplinarity, regional collaboration and increased internationalisation.

The Planning Council – an advisory body supporting the Vice-Chancellor and faculties in issues relating to the development of Campus Gotland – has been working over the past year to identify a number of research areas considered capable of strengthening the research environment at Campus Gotland. Some of the areas under discussion are digital innovation, energy transition, sustainable tourism and hospitality, children’s health and cultural heritage.

The Planning Council has also given a working group the task of drafting a proposal for the establishment of a thematic doctoral environment.

The Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development (SWEDESD) has been given the special task of developing an ESD Learning Lab, which is intended to initiate and facilitate activities for students, teachers and researchers focusing on sustainable development issues.

Zohal Kazemi – graduating student in the Business Studies Programme – presents her Bachelor’s project during Campus Gotland PoP.

The spring semester ended with a new event: Campus Gotland PoP. During the two-day event, around 100 students gave popular scientific presentations on their degree projects. The general public and the University’s many different partners were invited and the event really showcased the diversity and quality that distinguish our educational programmes.

Mohammed Majid and Viviana Mora – students in the Master’s Programme in Sustainable Management – present their project during Campus Gotland PoP.

Another inspiring event that took place on 4–6 June was Gotland Game Conference – GGC. A much-appreciated conference at which students in Game Design have a chance to present all the games they have created in the course of their studies. The conference attracts industry representatives, international visitors from various universities and not least the people of Gotland.  GGC really illustrates the uniqueness and creativity of activities at the Department of Game Design.

Gotland Game Conference


On 1 June, approximately 500 people – students, teachers and family members – gathered for a degree ceremony at Wisby Strand.

The Student Welfare President of Rindi Student Union, Matilda Drejer, presents the Teacher of the Year Award to Gunnar Dahlin of the Department of Engineering Sciences.

The degree ceremony brought the spring semester to an end, and after a few weeks at a slightly more relaxed pace, we are now gearing up for Almedalen Week. Uppsala University is organising numerous seminars during this year’s Almendalen Week. In addition to the University’s own events, many members of staff are participating in other seminars, panels and debates.

On Tuesday 3 July, the University will be holding its annual reception, which will be particularly ambitious and grand this year as we celebrate the fifth anniversary of Campus Gotland.

In conclusion, I would like to thank all the members of staff – in both Uppsala and Visby – who have made Campus Gotland’s successful development possible.

Olle Jansson
Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor on Campus Gotland

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