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Newsletter from the University management 19 October

On the management’s agenda

“Openness is as unique as it is fragile”

Last Sunday night the Vice-Chancellor made the decision to close the University on the following Monday, after an anonymous threat of violence directed at the University.  Read Vice-Chancellor Torbjörn von Schantz’s blog post on the event at the end of this newsletter.

Improved research, external engagement and innovation

Pro Vice-Chancellor Bo Ahrén has been working on drawing up a proposal on how the University’s support activities within research, external engagement and innovation (managed by the Research, External Engagement and Innovation division) can be strengthened. The Vice-Chancellor writes in his blog that the activities are very important and that the objective is to increase interaction with wider society and contacts with business and industry. As part of these efforts, Bo Ahrén was this spring appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor, with a special responsibility for external engagement. “The offices within the Research, External Engagement and Innovation division have developed well and are performing well. Many skilled professionals working there have meant a lot in enabling this development. However, the review, which will be largely presented now and during the coming weeks for employees and managers, shows that the division needs to have a clearer remit, governance and financing, and that its activities need to be connected to the faculties and the University administration”, writes Torbjörn von Schantz in his blog.

Internationalisation in focus in Japan – an opportunity for Sweden

Eva Wiberg has traveled a lot recently, including to Japan and South Africa. During the Science and Technology Forum in Kyoto, Japan, various topics related to science in a broad perspective were discussed. The focus was on issues such as climate change, smart cities, gender equality issues and other global problems. In the more informal conversations after the conference, Eva Wiberg talked with Japanese colleagues and funders. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor writes in her blog that there are many indications that Japan will set clear targets for the internationalisation of academic work, especially in certain fields, for both research and education, and continues: “I think the strong incentives from the Japanese government open up opportunities for our Swedish universities”. Read more on the Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s blog 

The work on a new strategic plan has begun 

Pro Vice-Chancellor Bo Ahrén has started the work of drawing up a new strategic plan, which will take effect in 2017. The new plan will be valid for ten years, instead of the previous five years. “It will become the main policy document of the University over the next decade, and it is therefore very important that many of us are involved in drawing up the plan”, writes Torbjörn von Schantz in his blog. Read more about the upcoming Vice-Chancellor’s seminar on the subject further down in the newsletter.

Developed exchange with Japan on the agenda 

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Eva Wiberg has been to Japan, where she met with colleagues from the Japanese universities in Keio, Kyoto, Tokyo and Waseda. She and a number of other Swedish and Japanese university representatives, together with representatives of major Japanese research funding bodies also participated in the “President’s Summit” at the Swedish Embassy. “The purpose of the meeting was to present our internationalisation efforts and discuss possibilities for closer collaboration between our countries”, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor writes in her blog. During the trip, the Swedish group also had time to visit Kyoto for the annual “Science and Technology in Society Forum”. Read more on the Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s blog 

“The dialogue with politicians is becoming increasingly important” 

The Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and the rest of the University management, as well as the heads of divisions and faculty offices have been in Brussels for two days to “get to know the EU and the politics from within”, the Vice-Chancellor writes in his blog. Many important decisions are made in the EU, and the EU’s framework programmes have for many years been the University’s second-largest funding body after the Swedish Research Council. During the visit, they met with several Swedish EU politicians, but also the network LERU (League of European Research Universities), and made a visit to the University of Leuven. “As I see it, the dialogue with politicians is becoming increasingly important, as the democratic rules of the game are changing, and short term political goals are pitted against the need for solutions to long term global challenges”, writes the Vice-Chancellor.

LU news

Vice-Chancellor’s seminar on the new strategic plan

On 25 November all University employees are invited to come and discuss the University’s goals and visions at the Vice-Chancellor’s seminar. The issues that will be addressed include the most important challenges facing LU, what LU should look like in ten years, and how to achieve this goal. It will be a contribution to the ongoing work of drawing up a new strategic plan, which will take effect in 2017 and be valid for ten years. Read more on the Staff Pages

Hans Rosling lectures on Sandblom Day

On 29 October it is Sandblom Day, organised by the Faculty of Medicine and Kungliga Fysiografiska Sällskapet. This year’s speaker is Professor Hans Rosling who will address the topic of a world view based on facts.

Development conference focusing on teaching 

On 26 November it is time for this year’s higher education development conference, aimed at all those involved in teaching – teaching staff, research supervisors, study advisors, directors of studies, programme administrators, programme directors, and others.

Higher education news

“Sweden needs to invest in interdisciplinary research”

“New times call for new approaches. If Sweden is to continue being a world class research nation a long term focus on interdisciplinary research and integrated science is required”, writes University Chancellor Harriet Wallberg in an opinion piece in Curie. She wants the government to invest in developing interdisciplinary research in the coming research policy bill which is to be presented in 2016. She finds that interdisciplinary research has been on the political agenda for decades, but has still not had any major impact. “There are many explanations as to why interdisciplinary research has so far been slow to flourish. Resistance from university managements, funding bodies and individual researchers are partly responsible. But the most important factor is probably the driving forces that have controlled the work for change. In the beginning, the incentives were simply not strong enough to create lasting change”, writes Harriet Wallberg. She highlights the many significant previous and current investments in infrastructure, including Max IV and ESS, and the opportunities they create. “We now need to use these national infrastructures in an optimal way, and connect them to an interdisciplinary approach – also within disciplines that have not yet embarked on this journey. It is important that researchers connect in a bottom-up process. If interdisciplinary research is to succeed, it must emerge from below. It is the responsibility of the Government and the research councils to provide incentives and systems to support this type of research”.

“Akademiska Hus has been overcharging rent”

The debate continues on the profits made by the government-owned property company Akademiska Hus (AH). In an article in Universitetsläraren, the policy manager Karin Åmossa at the Swedish Association of University Teachers (SULF) says that the fact that the government is able to extract SEK 6.5 billion from AH, in addition to the regular profit of SEK 1.45 billion, shows that they have been overcharging rent. This has a negative impact on the University’s core activities, research and education. “This is proof that all those who have criticised AH’s high rents have been right. There is no other explanation”, writes Karin Åmossa. The Ministry of Education, however, denies this accusation. “The additional profits made from AH are due to the properties’ value, not overcharging rent”, writes State Secretary Anders Lönn in a response to Universitetsläraren.

New investigation on how to handle cheating 

In early October, the Government appointed a commission to identify how suspected research misconduct is handled and how it could be improved, writes Curie. The inquiry will be carried out by Professor of Literature at Uppsala University Margaretha Fahlgren. An expert council of different actors in academia will also be working on the issue.

 

 

Openness is as unique as it is fragile

Posted 12 October 2015

On Sunday night I, as head of the organisation, made the decision to close the University after an anonymous threat of violence directed against the University.

It has in many ways been an unusual Monday and we have continuously had to make decisions about how to proceed. In the afternoon we decided that we will reopen the University, which is a great relief as our activities are obviously hit hard by such a sudden shutdown.

There are many things to consider when deciding whether or not to close a university. At the same time there is no hesitation when human lives are at stake and students or staff are subjected to threats.

I have often praised our open society, where our elected politicians can be in the midst of crowds, such as during the political week in Almedalen and on other similar occasions. Our open society is unique in the world but our openness is as unique as it is fragile.

Today’s event shows how a small person can cause enormous damage to our society, and ultimately threaten to derail our entire democracy. I sincerely hope that we are not moving toward a closed society and a closed University where we are controlled by fear of intimidation and harassment.

I am saddened by the threats hurled at our democratic values. I am saddened by the harsh words exchanged online. I am saddened that there are people who do not understand the importance of safeguarding our open, democratic society.

Unfortunately, we will probably have to get used to many similar occurrences in the future. Technology enables threats to be made quickly and anonymously by hiding behind keyboards, without an understanding of the consequences for individuals, for an organisation as ours, or for society at large when threats of violence are formulated and disseminated.

Finally I want to say: Welcome back all employees and students to your places of work and study. Let us work together towards openness and democratic values.

Torbjörn

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