Uppsala University, Sweden

Month: September 2018

Guild Vice-Presidents meeting

(Original Swedish post published 25 September.)

Last week Uppsala hosted deputy vice-chancellors and vice-rectors from the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities for a Vice-Presidents meeting. These meetings are held a couple of times each year and prepare ‘policy papers’ and similar documents for adoption when the heads of the member universities meet at the network’s General Assembly.

On Wednesday evening, Professor Norbert Lossau, Vice-President of the University of Göttingen, led a much-appreciated workshop in the University Main Building on the EU’s Open Science Policy Platform. Storage and accessibility are highly topical issues for research data, as is the issue of open access to research publications. The latter issue is becoming increasingly highly charged. An alliance of European research funding bodies and the European Commission is pushing hard for full Open Access within a few years, but it is still difficult to see exactly what sort of model we will end up with – and how to get there. One of the questions is how to limit the unreasonable profit margins demanded by powerful publishing houses. In Sweden, as in Germany, universities and libraries are currently locked in a struggle with the publishing giant Elsevier, after talks on a new agreement broke down this summer. However, the issue is also complicated by the fact that the vociferous demands for Open Access challenge long-established publishing traditions and norms in different research fields and disciplines.

The meeting in the Segerstedt Building on Thursday included presentations and discussions on Horizon Europe, the Guild’s North–South strategy, focusing on Africa, a proposal on a joint Guild summer school for doctoral students, and a proposal on ‘Guild Benchlearning’. The meeting concluded with an update on the European University Networks process in Brussels, in which we in Uppsala are deeply involved through an application with our partners in the U4 Network and the University of Tartu.

Guild Benchlearning is a proposal that relates to the type of basic data that all member universities compile in any case for delivery to ranking institutions. The concept of ‘benchlearning’ has been chosen deliberately instead of ‘benchmarking’ to emphasise that we are interested in comparisons for the sake of learning from one another, not for producing our own rankings. These data can provide insight into differences between our universities and areas where we can each improve. They can also be used as a basis for analysis and studies of the Guild network as a whole.

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First meeting of University Board and 10 years with Hallym

On Wednesday the University Board gathered for its first meeting of the autumn semester. As tradition dictates, we met in the University Main Building, where the meeting in the new University Board Room began with the Vice-Chancellor’s report (PPT). The presentation met with lively interest, and as Vice-Chancellor I was pleased to be able to say that we had welcomed 9,500 new students, that the number of international students is increasing, that our researchers are successful and that we are engaging in new initiatives, such as the European University Network. If you follow this blog, you will already have read about many of these things.

The next point on the agenda was the half-yearly financial report. Director of Planning Daniel Gillberg presented the forecast for 2018, which confirmed that things are going very well for Uppsala University. The number of full-time equivalent students continues to increase and will exceed 24,000 this year. The financial situation is stable. The deficit in 2018 means that the University is using accumulated agency capital, as planned. The total number of full-time equivalent employees at Uppsala University has been fairly stable over the last few years. In the first half of 2018, the total number of FTE employees increased slightly to 6,042, up from 5,960 last year. Among research and teaching staff, the main growth has come in career-development positions, but the number of professors, senior lecturers and lecturers has also increased. The number of researchers and doctoral students, on the other hand, has gone down.

One of the University Board’s most pleasant tasks is to award prizes. This time we had the pleasure of deciding on the winner of the Björkén Prize. This very prestigious award was established in 1902. Several future Nobel Laureates have received the prize, including Kai Siegbahn and Arvid Carlsson. The prize winner is nominated by a prize committee that includes the Dean of the Physics Section, Jan-Erik Rubensson. He attended the meeting and presented the nomination to the University Board. The prize will be presented at the Winter Conferment Ceremony.

The point on the agenda that generated most interest, even before the meeting, was the review of the rules of procedure and the procedure for nominating a new vice-chancellor. The background is as follows. At the University Board meeting in December 2016, the Vice-Chancellor received a mandate to conduct a review of the University’s rules of procedure in 2017. The review committee delivered its report and proposal on the revision of the rules of procedure in October 2017. At the University Board meeting in November 2017, the Board decided to appoint a sub-committee of the Board to further elaborate the review committee’s proposal for new rules of procedure. An interim paper on Uppsala University’s rules of procedure will be distributed in the University for consultation. The interim paper concerns the procedure for nominating a vice-chancellor (appointed by the government) and a deputy vice-chancellor (appointed by the University Board). This has not previously been included in the rules of procedure. The interim paper also contains a proposal on terms of office for senior university officers. The Chair of the University Board, Gudmund Hernes, emphasised that it is important to allow the internal discussion to take time, and to give everyone a chance to say what they think, so that the proposal is firmly anchored in the University.

In connection with its ordinary meetings, the University Board often takes up important strategic issues. The topic discussed on Wednesday was fundraising, which is a prioritised area for the University. In the course of the past year, the Management Council and disciplinary domains have worked on this issue in a more focused and systematic way than before. Agneta Stålhandske from the Development Office described ongoing developments and progress in the area.

On the proposal of the Chair, Gudmund Hernes, a new point has been introduced at University Board meetings – a researcher presentation. The first researcher to present his work was Professor Thomas Schön from the Department of Information Technology, who gave a mini-lecture entitled “Machine learning provides the backbone algorithms enabling AI”. Gudmund and I believe it is important that the University Board obtains a deeper view of the research being carried out at the University.

We wrapped up a good and inspiring meeting by noting that the next time the University Board meets will be for an overnight conference in November, when we will discuss the University’s Mission and Core Values. I look forward to that.

Chongsoo Kim, President of Hallym University

This week we have also had a visit from Hallym University. Our partnership, which celebrated its tenth anniversary this year, began one icy winter a decade ago when a delegation from South Korea came to Uppsala. The delegation had come to discuss cooperation in the medical field and a decision was soon reached to hold annual symposia alternately in Sweden and in South Korea. Since then these symposia have served as a platform at which colleagues from the two universities have discussed new research findings and discoveries in medicine.

The universities decide jointly on the topic of each symposium. This year’s topic was “Health and Disease in Women and Children” – a choice representing successful research environments with ambitions to become even better.

The partnership is one example of our commitment to internationalisation and Uppsala University has previously welcomed visiting researchers from Hallym in areas such as neurosciences and clinical immunology. One possibility currently under discussion is to send one of our cancer researchers to South Korea, and we are also talking about arrangements for potential student and teacher exchanges.

This is a partnership that will certainly grow as time goes on. We have developed a close relationship over the past decade and we were particularly pleased that Dai-Won Yoon, Chairman of Hallym University, was among the visitors this time. He was the main force on the South Korean side in 2008, presenting a plan for the scholarly exchange and noting the great potential. Many today are glad that he did so.

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Autumn semester under way

The trees are slowly beginning to turn from green to yellow and red and now the autumn semester is properly under way.

In the last few weeks, Anders and I have had the privilege of meeting and welcoming our new students. Last week Anders had two receptions for new students in Uppsala and on Monday, as tradition dictates, I followed our own knight to the ruins of the church of St Eskil to welcome our freshers to Campus Gotland in Visby.

During Almedalen Week this summer, we celebrated Campus Gotland’s fifth anniversary and on Monday I had the opportunity to celebrate and mingle with staff at Campus Gotland. It’s fantastic how Gotland has developed. More students want to study there, the number of applicants is high. This year I welcomed more than 1,300 to a new semester – that’s a new record, and over 200 more than last year. The University’s only international Bachelor’s programmes are offered in Visby, and it is pleasing that the number of international students is increasing.

The return of the students makes its mark on Uppsala and Visby and the start of a new semester is obvious in town. It’s great to see all the welcoming events, they spread warmth, happiness and optimism. The University gives the towns more of an international flavour, but it also increases the demand for student housing and more services in English.

This week it was really noticeable that the semester was properly under way. The Management Council, meetings with the Internationalisation Inquiry and a visit from the University of Turku. On Thursday we had the kick-off in a broader circle for a project that has been getting going this summer, the European University Network (EUN) or U4+. This is an initiative that comes from the President of France, Macron, aimed at strengthening European cooperation in research and education. We can draw on our experience in the U4 network and develop this concept for even closer cooperation.

On Saturday it is Culture Night in Uppsala and the University will be opening its doors for many events, some of which we are arranging ourselves and others with other organisations – see “49 reasons to visit Culture Night” (programme in Swedish). You can get a sneak preview of Carolina Rediviva, you can have your say about the University in the City in the Segerstedt Building, or experience the beauty of the Baroque Garden in the Botanical Garden and listen to the Royal Academic Orchestra, just to give a few examples. You can also visit some of the student nations. Inevitably, the programme for Culture Night this year is influenced by the elections on Sunday. At the Museum of Evolution you can take part in an election night with a difference (elect your favourite whale!) and at Fyriskällan political scientist Sten Widmalm will be commenting on campaign films and posters.

As for me, I have the honour of presenting the Disa Prize during Culture Night. This is a prize that was established jointly by the University and Studentbokhandeln in 2001 to recognise researchers at Uppsala University who have published popular scientific or literary works. It is a prestigious award, with previous prize winners including Sara Danius, Ulf Danielsson, Peter Englund, Maja Hagerman and Johan Svedjedal.

Do you want to know who this year’s prize winner is? Come to Studentbokandeln at 19:30.

Hope to see you there!

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Guest post: How we are working on research infrastructure

For researchers at any university, making the most of great national and international research infrastructure ventures is both an opportunity and a challenge. If Swedish universities also have to draw on their government funding to co-finance national research infrastructure, the challenge becomes more complicated. It requires national coordination and to this end the vice-chancellors of the ten largest universities have set up a special group – the Universities’ Reference Group for Research Infrastructures (URFI). It is this group that negotiates with the Swedish Research Council’s Council for Research Infrastructures (RFI).

As Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor on Research Infrastructure at Uppsala University, I am in a position to influence how we develop, manage and use research infrastructure as best possible. I am the University’s representative in URFI. There are many types of research infrastructure and it is a major undertaking just to identify all the instruments, collections, databases, technology platforms and biobanks in our own organisation. To help me in this, I have an Advisory Board for Research Infrastructure, consisting of representatives of the three disciplinary domains, the University Library and the student body. We can submit proposals on the coordination of research infrastructure. We can identify opportunities and weaknesses in the research infrastructure landscape. We can also assist the Vice-Chancellor and the three disciplinary domains by clarifying funding streams, governance and strategic planning. Of course this does not occur in isolation, it is coordinated with URFI/RFI and international parties.


Research infrastructure can be invisible or really beautiful, and at the same time truly useful. One of the most beautiful infrastructures, which has actually won a European prize for its appearance, is the MAX IV Laboratory in Lund. The silver synchrotron light ring shines out across the plain, but it is the research content, created with hard work and passionate commitment by researchers from Uppsala University and other institutions, that is the real attraction.

One of the less visible sides of infrastructure is our treatment of research data. This is a major issue for the entire University, because of stricter legislation on the handling of sensitive data and demands that research data created using public funding should be open and accessible. Here, the Advisory Board seeks to contribute proposals on how we specifically should work on these issues, in line with other universities in Sweden and internationally. Uppsala University is responsible for the Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing (SNIC), which provides data storage resources for data in use, but after processing has been completed the data must be archived, and this is the University’s responsibility. SNIC incorporates the University’s own data centre UPPMAX, which has a national responsibility and know-how regarding sensitive data. Support is needed at several levels. Researchers need support in the form of correct information about which system is right for their specific needs. They also need support regarding the format in which open data should be stored so as to be searchable and accessible to others. This applies to researchers in all disciplinary domains and clear and correct information is vital.

UPPMAX. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

I never cease to marvel at the wealth of the knowledge, research ideas and research collections possessed by this University, Sweden’s oldest, and I hope I can help to make life a little easier for our researchers and pave the way for them to carry out the best research.

Kristina Edström
Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor for Research Infrastructure

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