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Strong engagement in RQ20

The research quality evaluation, RQ20, is now in full swing. The evaluation-fatigue that project leaders Freddy Ståhlberg and Mats Benner expected to see among their university colleagues has not materialised.
“We have encountered a strong engagement and interest!”

The 200 or so external advisors for the 32 panels are appointed and the 156 research environments are organised. In January, the self-evaluations are to be completed and, so far, everything is going according to schedule. 

This means that the external advisors will conduct evaluations in the spring and complete their reports by 1 June. 

The results will be processed next autumn. The project leaders urge colleagues to respond honestly in the self-evaluations

“It’s about learning to be better. Everyone can grow and that does not need to be at the expense of someone else. Everyone is to have the opportunity to flourish”, says Mats Benner.  

In the following articles, LUM has discussed expectations for RQ20 with the deans of the Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Science and Faculties of Humanities and Theology. Their faculties and challenges differ, but what they do have in common is that they expect answers about whether their research is correctly organised or not. And, if it is not – the opportunity to correct it.

 

Faculty of Medicine: A fantastic opportunity to see deficiencies 

 

The Faculty of Medicine together with the Faculty of Engineering (LTH) has most evaluation panels – nine each. Dean Erik Renström says that the idea of organising the panels according to departments was abandoned at quite an early stage, as today’s subjects stretch across departments.  

“We discovered that we have several subjects that have links to each other and could be combined”, he says, and is pleased that a large part of the faculty has activities that are included in a larger context.

He thinks that all research teams need more affiliations and that there may be some teams that could gain strength by acting together.

“This is something we have already learned”, he says.
Erik Renström thinks that the self-evaluation provides a fantastic opportunity to get down to a detailed level. And that the point is for deficiencies to be revealed. If the previous evaluation, RQ08, was about gold stars, RQ20 is to provide an outline of today’s situation in order to create forward momentum.

“It is all about raising the lowest level.”

He has been positively surprised by the small presence of conservatism and retrospective attitudes he has encountered among his colleagues.

“Obviously, you are not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but everyone is sincerely interested in looking forward and seeing and thinking in new ways.”

The Faculty of Medicine is also well-equipped for generation change – the worst is behind us, according to Erik Renström.

“It is a boon to have this kind of review and become a little more accurate. When an area has stagnated and the professor has retired, it is already at least ten years too late.”  

A general request for the future is that the faculty’s research is to be a little sharper and that more benefits are seen for each invested krona in research. 

“The citation impact has diminished here – as it has in the rest of LU”, says Erik Renström.

Faculty of Science: Easy to acquire blind spots and difficult to prioritise


The Faculty of Science has four panels and dean Sven Lidin says that external reviewers are not needed to assess the quality of research. 

“However, seeing how all the activities fit together is more difficult to do from the inside. You become aware that there are blind spots and it can be difficult to see where solutions may be found.”

Sven Lidin thinks that the results of RQ20 may entail a number of organisational changes – but nothing on a large scale. He says he has dedicated colleagues, and this makes it particularly difficult to prioritise their activities. 

“There is a fundamental strength in having passion-driven colleagues, but the job is like their babies.”  
However, he does not see any satellites in the form of isolated subjects or teams at his faculty. On the contrary, considering the joint affiliation with the Faculty of Engineering LTH within physics, chemistry and mathematics.

“This mostly provides advantages, but we are not as coordinated as we should be”, he says.

He also hopes that the evaluation will show the consequences of the administrative load that is constantly increasing. 

“There is a great satisfaction in having meaningful duties, but there is less and less time to carry them out. And the work is not meaningful without quality, so you then increase the work rate and work too much and that is not good.” 

Sven Lidin says, however, that he has an understanding and respect for the weightier public authority controls, but things should not go so far that it leads to paralysis. He urges honesty in the self-evaluation.

“If you feel that you don’t have the right conditions for doing your job well, you now have the chance to change things.” 

However, the faculty’s conditions change in line with changes in the world at large, states Sven Lidin, and thinks that there is perhaps a need to focus, adopt a new strategy and not do everything. Even so, he cannot see any subject within science that is unnecessary. 

But there is more and more to embrace”, he says. “And we are very bad at prioritising!”

 

The Faculties of Humanities and Theology: Hope that potential and hard-to-measure strengths will be revealed

 

The Faculties of Humanities and Theology (HT) has three panels, one of which is for theology.

“There is a desire and determination to show each other internally what you do”, says dean Johannes Persson. 

He also hopes that the hard-to-measure strengths and development potential in research that cannot be assessed via citations will be shown in RQ20. He fears, however, that the already established research units will be the most visible in the evaluation. 

“Those who are strongest within research probably don’t dare to also be the most honest in the self-evaluation”, he believes.
Another hope is that the external advisors will place the faculty’s research in an international context.

“We very much want to be leaders internationally, and in certain cases we have some work to do to achieve it.”

HT carried out its own evaluation five years ago, RQ14, which identified some ten subjects as excellent research environments. Johannes Persson thinks that it will be interesting to follow the development of subjects based on this. 

“We want to develop research and have the scope to do it. We were the first in Sweden to be awarded an ERC grant within the humanities, but that was a few years ago. And since then, despite a positive trend for external funding in general, the performance in obtaining strategically important European grants has been a little weak”, he says.

HT will be reviewing its professor programme in parallel with RQ20. With so many subjects encompassed by the HT faculties, there is no scope for professors in every subject and particularly not for several professors in each subject. Johannes Persson thinks that RQ20 will have organisational implications – but no discontinuation of subjects, he assures. He does not expect that everything will be fine within his area. 

“But, I think that there will be good explanations as to why there are problems, such as a lack of funding or that a subject has become too solitary. Then, it is good that it comes to light – both for the subjects and for us, so that we can help to push development in the right direction!”, says Johannes Persson.

 

Portrait of man
Dean Erik Renström, Faculty of Medicine

Portrait of man
Dean Sven Lidin, Faculty of Science

Portrait of man
Dean Johannes Persson, Faculties of Humanities and Theology.

About LUM

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The first edition of Lund University Magazine – LUM – was published 1968. Today, the magazine reaches all employees and almost as many people outside the university. The magazine is published six times a year. Editor Maria Lindh.

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Maria Lindh
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Jenny Loftrup
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