Published: 06-12-2016 14:43 | Updated: 06-12-2016 14:48

The Dean comments on the government’s research bill: Some reinforcement but lacks cohesiveness

Anders Gustafsson, Dean of Research at Karolinska Institutet, is generally satisfied with the government’s new research bill. But the funding is spread over too many initiatives, he says, which means that some programmes risk not getting off the ground.

“My overall impression is that most of the ideas are good. I’m also pleased that so much money is being allocated considering other important things that need to be financed at the current time. But the funding is spread over a little too many initiatives that it’s not really enough to finance them all”, Anders Gustafsson reflects up on the government’s new research bill, proposed last week.

He gives the new ten-year national research programme, where among other things the antibiotic resistance programme is currently of interest for KI, as an example. This will receive SEK 25 million – 20 million in 2018 and 5 million in 2019 – in the form of increased appropriation to the Swedish Research Council.

“The question is if measurable indicators can be found for interaction.”

“If it is to be distributed over a number of medical universities, there will be so little money that I wonder if it will really lead us anywhere,” Dean Gustafsson says.

Something that is new in the bill is how this basic funding is to be distributed between the universities. In addition to the two quality indicators used today – publication and citations and external research funding – interaction with the surrounding society is also to be a factor.

“The idea is a good one and KI interacts a great deal, first and foremost with the health and medical care sector. But the question is if we can find usable, measurable indicators for interaction,” Anders Gustafsson says.

Resource allocation to be reviewed

The government plans to appoint a commission to review the system by which resources are allocated to the universities. While awaiting the commission’s findings, the government proposes using Vinnova’s assessments of interaction as the basis for allocating new resources.

In 2013, the government commissioned Vinnova to devise a model for putting a value on the universities’ interaction with surrounding society. In December this year, the agency is to present its final report, which the government then intends to circulate for comment. The research bill states that in 2017 Vinnova will be commissioned to evaluate the universities’ interaction, which may come to form a basis for allocating new funding.

Biobanks to be prioritised

Of the prioritised fields in the bill, Anders Gustafsson is particularly pleased to see more funding going to biobanks and register research. A total of SEK 50 million is to be allocated up to 2020 in the form of increased appropriations to the Swedish Research Council.

“It’s an important field for KI and the funding will be sufficient to really make a difference,” he says.

He also welcomes the extension of postdoctoral research fellowships from four years to six, which was mentioned by Helene Hellmark Knutsson, Minister for Higher Education and Research, when the research bill was presented.

Text: Sara Nilsson