Published: 21-05-2014 12:16 | Updated: 21-05-2014 12:16

Recruitment important issue for KI

Since April 1, Professor Birgitta Henriques-Normark, is vice dean for recruitment at Karolinska Institutet. Thus, she is a key figure and a power factor in the work to advance the positions as a leading international university.

Today, she leads a research team at the Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology, MTC, of around 25–30 people, and during her many years at SMI she undertook several senior management roles with responsibility for up to a hundred employees. At MTC, she is a member of the management team.

As vice dean Birgitta Henriques-Normark will chair the recruitment committee, which prepares the recruitment of all professors and senior lecturers, as well as some researcher posts and postdoctoral research fellows. She will also lead the development of how the committee, and KI generally, shall work with recruitment.

“Recruitment is perhaps the most important issue for KI right now, not least because we are facing a great deal of retirements,’ she adds. ‘In recent years a great deal of good has been done on the recruitment front, for example doctoral student positions are now announced openly and clearer career structures are falling into place. Yet everything can be improved,’ says Birgitta Henriques-Normark.

She sees the promotion of a strategic plan of action for recruitment at KI as one of her main tasks as vice dean.

‘We need to consider where we want to go in the future and formulate a comprehensive plan for KI's recruitment. We need to include the heads of departments in this work. Today, it is the departments that initiate most things, but I think there is a need of a cohesive, KI approach as well.’

At the same time she stresses that it is important to safeguard the decentralised governance that currently characterises activities.

‘Really it is a question of balance. We need to combine the freedom of the departments with a common vision of where we want to be.’

Birgitta Henriques-Normark would like to see a more active, outreaching recruitment process at KI in the future. If you are serious about KI recruiting the best internationally you need to venture out into the world and look.

‘I think it is a good idea if the recruitment committee becomes more proactive and that search committees are employed.’ Internationally, this is a common method to improve the basis of recruitment.

In the work for equal opportunities, the importance of further developing the recruitment process in order to reduce inequality at KI is often mentioned. Birgitta Henriques-Normark agrees.

‘If you are more active you can influence more. Consequently, it may also favour gender distribution at KI if the recruitment committee becomes more proactive.

Yet it is not sufficient to just contact top international researchers, an attractive offer to entice them is also required. Clear career paths, good “backpacks” with funding tied to the service – these are crucial to the power to attract,’ says Birgitta Henriques-Normark.

‘It is important that we set aside money. We also need to consider other forms of funding. For example, the Swedish Research Council is investing vast amounts in its programme for international recruitment. Fundraising is another possibility. So when we do not have the resources ourselves, perhaps we can acquire them. This has also been done at KI before, but I think we can develop this kind of thinking more,’ she says.

Text: Anders Nilsson
Photo: Gustav Mårtensson

Name: Birgitta Henriques-Normark.

Current situation: New vice dean for recruitment from 1 April 2014, and for a further three years.

Born: 1958 in Stockholm

Family: Her husband, Staffan Normark, professor at KI and the permanent secretary of KVA. Together they have six adult and almost adult children and five grandchildren.

Career in brief: Educated at KI. License to practice medicine in 1987, specialist in bacteriology in 1994, publicly defended a doctoral thesis in 2000. Has worked at all the major hospitals in Stockholm, as well as many years at the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control. Here she has held positions such as section and department head responsible for up to 100 people. Today, chief physician at Karolinska University Hospital and Professor of Clinical Microbiology with specialisation in clinical bacteriology at KI.