Published: 31-08-2022 13:41 | Updated: 31-08-2022 14:31

Candidates for Academic Vice President for research highlight departmental resource allocation

Candidates for the assignment as Academic Vice President for the Committee of Research sitting on the stage.
Hearing for the assignment as Academic Vice President for the Committee of Research. From left to right: Martin Bergö, Marie Arsenian-Henriksson, Christian Giske and Catharina Larsson. Photo: Erik Flyg

During the hearings for the election of the Academic Vice President and Vice Chairperson of the Committee for Research, the present uneven allocation of resources among departments was emphasised, as was the need to counteract an increasing political will to direct research. Voting will continue from 25 August for one week.

The hearing began with each candidate making a brief presentation of their vision and goals, and providing a background of their career and research. Candidates for the position of Academic Vice President of the Committee for Research are Marie Arsenian-Henriksson, Professor at the Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology (MTC), Martin Bergö, Professor at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition (BioNut), Christian Giske, Professor at the Department of Laboratory Medicine (LabMed) and Catharina Larsson, Professor at the Department of Oncology-Pathology (OnkPat).

Martin Bergö står på scen.
Martin Bergö, Professor at BioNut. Photo: Erik Flyg

Martin Bergö succeeded Birgitta Henriques Normark as Academic Vice President and Chairperson of the Committee for Research in February of this year. He began by giving an overview of the Committee's work during the year, including the aim of strengthening the network of young researchers.

"Today we have very good cooperation among the various committees, which is very important. At the same time, the cooperation between the Academic Vice Presidents and the Department Heads needs to be stronger than it is today.”

Among the challenges he cited was a coming national military rearmament that could create significant competition for public funds. 

"Increased administration is among the biggest problems for us and other higher education institutions. We need to make sure that quality assurance procedures take place in the organisation and not in the archives,” says Martin Bergö.

Finally, he made a case for strengthening free research.

 "Today, important investments are being made in data-driven research, precision medicine and other areas, where I think it is important that we defend free basic research. This also applies to how society and politicians view the governance of research.”

Transparency in the career ladder

In her presentation, Marie Arsenian-Henriksson highlighted three overarching themes: recruitment and careers, research conditions and collaboration.

Marie Arsenian-Henriksson standing on stage.
Marie Arsenian-Henriksson, Professor at MTC. Photo: Erik Flyg

"Although KI has improved over the last five years in terms of career issues, transparency in the career ladder is still lacking. We need open and competitive calls to get the best researchers. In addition, we must see the ambitious and competent people who already exist within KI and dare to invest in them," says Marie Arsenian-Henriksson.

She also stressed the need to strengthen the conditions for research through more reasonable premises costs, while investing in state-of-the-art core facilities, and creating a better balance between research groups of different sizes.

"We need to review resource allocation, INDI and co-financing. The landscape here has changed completely in recent years," she says.

Regarding collaboration, Marie Arsenian-Henriksson highlighted the need to be more proactive and also to approach surrounding universities, such as the Stockholm School of Economics and Södertörn University.

Relations with the hospital

Christian Giske standing on stage.
Christian Giske, Professor at LabMed. Photo: Erik Flyg

Christian Giske's presentation emphasised the importance of the research carried out within Karolinska University Hospital. Relations with the hospital have deteriorated in recent years, he says, and this is something that needs to change.

"We don't offer as good a working environment as we might. Being a researcher at KI is tough, especially for those with weak funding. The poor finances of the departments make the situation more difficult, and this is something we need to change," says Christian Giske.

Many politicians see KI as a rich university, but this is not true.

“Here we need to create a better understanding among politicians of how our funding really works.”

Christian Giske also stressed the importance of strengthening the career paths of international researchers within the KI. As well as continuing efforts in global health and precision medicine.

Increased collaboration with Region Stockholm

Last out was Catharina Larsson, who highlighted the need for increased collaboration with Region Stockholm, with the aim of a clear and unified activity system that is more inclusive.

Catharina Larsson on stage.
Catharina Larsson, Professor at OnkPat. Photo: Erik Flyg

"Over the last month I have asked those around me: what do you want from your University, and received the answer that a job would be fantastic. We need to clarify the career paths that already exist with regular vacancy announcements," says Catharina Larsson.

"Here we also need to improve the flow, as it currently takes too long to fill vacancies. And preferably explore some form of centrally advertised, internally funded position programme.”

She also highlighted the possibility of lifelong learning with digital training for existing staff in areas such as precision medicine.

When the hearing turned into a question and answer session, one of the issues raised was how the candidates wanted to tackle the current unequal conditions among the 22 different departments of KI.

“This is a problem that KI shares with many of the country's higher education institutions. Here we need a continuous dialogue between top management and the departments, especially when it comes to solving financial problems that may be the result of historical decisions," says Martin Bergö.

Departmental differences

Marie Arsenian-Henriksson emphasised the differences in focus and activities among today's departments.

"We need to find a way to solve this without creating fragmentation or polarisation. A complete overhaul is needed to remedy this.”

She also highlighted increased rents and other overhead costs that are currently eating up funding which could be used for research.

Christian Giske advised against the solution of merging departments without further dialogue with Heads of Department.

“We need to look at what we can do to ensure that more of the funds reach the departments and don't stay centrally.”

Catharina Larsson said that it is important to continue to excel in the competition for the funds available nationally, and to try to curb the increase in internal costs.

"Rents have gone through the roof in an unreasonable way. It would also be desirable to arrive at some form of basic remuneration for teachers.”

Additional questions from the audience included how KI will handle large numbers of retirements, not least among professors, which may threaten the supply of skills. Also, how the candidates want to counteract the increasing desire for political control of research.

How to vote

Everyone employed as a teacher or researcher on at least a 50% contract at KI is eligible to vote. All eligible voters will receive an internal email containing a link to a digital voting system for the election in which they are able to vote.

See recorded hearings to each Committee here