Last week I delivered the introductory remarks at the second Brain and Culture Symposium organized by Ingemar Ernberg, Gunnar Bjursell och Fredrik Ullén. Giving introductory remarks is a big honour that I take very seriously and see as an opportunity to reflect about a particular field. I always aim to stay for at least one lecture, in that way I get a nice overview of all the fantastic activities that go on within our university day after day, week after week and year after year.
In honour of Professor George Klein
This year’s symposium was organized in honour of professor George Klein whose interests extended far beyond his professional field – into arts, music and literature. When different disciplines and perspectives meet added value can be created, which is particularly important to consider for a single faculty university like ours: Studies on how cultural activities and performances may affect the human brain is a new research area relevant for understanding the brain, for understanding society and for treating diseases.
Culture and Brain Symposia in honour of Professor George Klein.
My understanding is that with the developments in the last years it is now possible to make evidence-based statements like: dance slows the progression of Parkinsons disease or listening to music enhances recovery after a stroke; very promising results particularly as the side effects are in general positive. With other words; to be part of this new research field and these promising developments, we have initiated a network for studies of culture and the brain and have the ambition to develop this into a new research center.
Celebrating European Research Council, ERC, 10 years
Later the same afternoon the Swedish Research Council was celebrating the ERC 10th anniversary with a symposium hosting, among other, the ERC president Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the ERC.
The ERC has really positioned itself as a uniquely important research founding body at the European arena with its sole focus on the highest research quality! It seems that this strategy is no longer questioned which holds good promise for the future!
Last week I took part in Framtidsrådet’s Spring Mingle including two very inspirational lectures. Framtidsrådet strives to make Karolinska Institutet an attractive workplace for the students and employees of tomorrow, and contribute to a modern, dynamic and innovative Karolinska Institutet.
Framtidsrådet had chosen to entitle this springs mingle “Ethics & the Future 2017” and in that supporting our ambition to make sure that ethical issues are constantly at the top of the agenda at Karolinska Institutet. In my introductory remarks, I stated that ethics is about trust and about KI’s image. Framtidsrådet’s mission is to make KI an attractive place to work. Questions about fundamental values and ethics is of course a big part of that. It should be so for all universities, but it is especially true for a medical university. We have learnt from our mistakes and taken actions. We have taken decisions and made changes with the aim to secure that we will not repeat past mistakes. We will emerge stronger with improved prospects for tackling future challenges. And by working together we can and will achieve that goal.
Amina Manzoor, Dagens Nyheter
The journalists’ perspective
The seminar was very professionally managed by Anneliese Lilienthal. One of the speakers was Amina Manzoor, medical journalist, Dagens Nyheter who talked about “Ethics & trustworthiness when communicating medical research to the public”. She contributed with very interesting perspectives on how journalists usually have very limited time to read up on a topic before delivering a news article. Here we as scientists can assist by providing comprehensive summaries. She also discussed news headings and how they are used to catch attraction. Something I myself have personal experience from in the last year when our university has been heavily exposed in the news media.
The team at ARC.
Last Friday I took my bicycle over the Solna bridge to Gävlegatan, to a part of our university that I have not had the chance to visit before: The Aging Research Cente, ARC. I met with Johan Fritzell, ARC Director, Kristina Johnell, Martin Lövdén, Laura Fratiglioni and Maria Eriksdotter, Head of the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society (NVS). They all made the visit a very rewarding experience. ARC was established as a multidisciplinary research center in 2000, by Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University jointly. Itis organized as a division under the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society and includes about 70 people. The center has been very successful at attracting external funding and I believe that part of the success is based on their strong commitment to invest in building up infrastructures in the form of large cohorts that are followed over time and that can be used to address questions like; Why do we age and why do we age so differently? Is it possible to decrease disease and disability in elderly? Questions that call for answers in times of enormous demographic changes. In the life science sector there is, and should be, a large focus on developing novel drugs. However, equally important is of course compliance – that drugs are taken in accordance with recommendations – and not least to study how they interact in the body. Kristina Johnell showed that many old people take several drugs and it is very important to establish how they interact to get a good therapeutic efficacy. When the meeting was finished I bicycled through Kungsholmen, which forms the basis for recruitment of individuals to the cohorts that are studied at ARC, with a feeling that KI researchers really make a difference!
Inauguration of the Campus Plan
The property company Akademiska Hus, that own, develop and manage properties for universities and colleges, has prepared a campus plan for KI campus in Solna. Several from KI staff have contributed to the plan, which outlines the vision and the path for an attractive campus as part of a world-leading life science cluster. For KI as an internationally leading university, aiming to recruit students, teachers and scientists on a global market, it is important to provide attractive surroundings. The plan was inaugurated by Akademiska Hus’ Regional Director Magnus Huss and myself last week. The plan is presently for exhibition in the entrance hall of Aula Medica. Take a chance to have a look into the future KI when you pass by!
The Chair of the meeting, Catarina Andersson Forsman, Director General of the Swedish Medicale Products Agency
The cutting-edge capabilities of the Swedish life science sector
Thursday May 2nd, Aula Medica hosted the seminar “The cutting-edge capabilities of the Swedish life science”. This seminar was one way to demonstrate what Sweden can offer if the European Medical Agency is relocated to Stockholm/Uppsala. The Government has decided to actively engage in the relocation of EMA from London to Stockholm/Uppsala following Brexit and the government’s commitment was clearly demonstrated by the presence of ministers and state secretary’s from four departments at the meeting. I believe that we can provide a very attractive environment for EMA and its employees and of course EMA will further strengthen the Life Science Cluster.
Days made up weeks that made up months that eventually added up to almost a year and a half but finally, on August 1st, 2017, I will hand over the ultimate operative responsibility for Karolinska Institutet to Ole Petter Ottersen, a highly experienced and recognized academic leader with a clearly expressed desire to join and lead our university in the years to come. I am sure that our transfer of responsibility will be smooth and very different from when I was put in operative charge February 13th, 2016 and took office with a mere 12 hours’ notice. Never could I then imagine that such a long time would lay ahead until I could welcome a new permanent Vice-Chancellor. Ole Petter will take over an overall very successful operation, where a lot has been done to deal with our shortcomings, but where there is still some way to go and were changes are needed. My personal wish is to, as I return to my role as Pro-Vice-Chancellor, continue to support Karolinska Institutet and its goal to improve human health to the benefit of individuals and society. I am actually curios to try this role as in reality the 6 weeks that I had the role was anything but normal…
We are in the middle of a very challenging journey
My finish will include hard work and is not without challenges. Karolinska Institutet is presently in the middle of a large infrastructural journey of change that needs to move on. The health care landscape in Stockholm is being transformed with significant implications for Karolinska Institutets education and research requiring action at many levels including at the top management level. We cannot step to the side and rest, but continue to work hard to rebuild and build a high-quality international university.
A restart for KI Holding
If the above was not enough, I was recently elected Chairman of KI holding. I see this role as a big responsibility as university innovation systems are an important part of our responsibility to transfer knowledge and ideas into the surrounding society to the benefit of individuals and society. My hope is that my experience from working in a large pharma will be valuable in this role. Together with the other board members and the acting CEO Anders Flodin, I am presently working towards a simplified company structure with a focus on core activities and improved coordination. Karolinska Institutets holding company, like holding companies at many universities, is fragmented and under-capitalized. In the latest research proposition, the government concluded that the focus of the holding companies managed by the higher education institutions should be reviewed. I really welcome this suggestion. However, so far, no further actions have been communicated.
Last week we had a retreat gathering the academic as well as the administrative leadership of Karolinska Institutet. This includes heads of department, their heads of administration, the KI wider management group including deans and pro deans and the heads of university administration offices. This was the first retreat of its kind. We usually have separate retreats but both the university director Per Bengtsson and myself thought it would be very useful to assemble everyone to discuss the many challenges that we confront as a university. Of course when you do something new, there is always an element of uncertainty but as we were leaving the retreat, Per and I agreed that the retreat had really had met our expectations. We felt there were many interesting presentations and also dynamic discussions. I hope those of you who participated feel the same way.
The Action plan
Among the presenters were Sven-Erik Dahlén and Björn Forslöw, giving a status update on the work with the Action plan that we have prepared in response to the external investigation presented by Sten Heckscher in September last year. They and the rest of the working group, have really made a very good job at structuring up the activities and making sure we have clear goals and responsibilities making sure the actions can be checked and evaluated. We ended in agreement that the activities are important and that they should be implemented above all through the general line organization of KI. The group has recently published information at a part of our website where you can continuously find information about the progress of their work. Communication is really a key to success in this and many activities that we do. In the last year we have, by necessity, been very focused on external communication and this was a correct priority given the circumstances but now we need to refocus. I have personally been very frustrated with the difficulties I experience reaching out into our whole organization. Camilla Magnusson, acting director of communications, organized group discussions where many good ideas surfaced that you hopefully will soon experience as improved internal communication. One area where we need to improve our internal communication is how Karolinska Institutet is acting, and should act, in relation to the transformation of the health care landscape. This is an issue that occupies the university management and where we need to communicate into our organization and get input from the whole organization.
Health care sector challenges
To set a platform for further discussions on how Karolinska Institutet should act in relation to the health care system, we had invited Göran Stiernstedt to talk on the topic “Changes in the Health Care Landscape”. I cannot think of anyone more suitable to present and explain the past, present and future needs and development of the Swedish health care system. Stiernstedt has long experience from the health care sector in different executive capacities and also as a government investigator. He is also a member of our board, the importance of which cannot be understated in these times of dramatic change in the Stockholm health care landscape. He was followed by a presentation by Malin Frenning, the County Council Director in Stockholm who for instance said that while the Stockholm County Council has already taken the first step into the future health care landscape, one must always be observant and be ready for adjustments when necessary. She also encouraged us at KI to engage in discussions and provide with visions and ideas.
Other topics that were brought up at the retreat were the gender integration plan, which we soon need to submit to the Government; feed-back to departments on reporting that the board for higher education has requested; research documentation and the employee survey, which is planned for the autumn.
I left the retreat with a lot of energy for the hectic months that remain before the summer holidays.
Today, we were many people all over the world who marched for science. For us at Karolinska Institutet it was a matter of course to take part in the March for Science in Stockholm. Taking part in this event, I hope to send a signal that I consider this topic of great importance. When scientific truths are ignored and academic freedom is threatened, it is our duty as a university to show our support for scientific facts as the basis for decisions and academic freedom.
The KI crowd getting ready to march.
It is also our duty to tirelessly continue to contribute to society by developing and disseminating knowledge, science, and critical thinking – a core mission of a university. As it happened, it also gave me the opportunity to see some friends and colleagues under more informal conditions. I am very grateful to Cecilia Odlind who kept the KI crowd in order.
Cecilia Odlind, KI’s Editor-in-Chief for popular science magazine Medicinsk Vetenskap (Medical Science).
Jubilee Prom at the Medical Student’s Union – Medicinska Föreningen
This evening the Medical Student´s Union, Medicinska Föreningen (MF)”is celebrating their 140 years anniversary with a Spring Prom. The interaction between MF and the university leadership is extremely important. Their contributions in our different preparative and decisive bodies is critically important as we develop our university for the future. We continuously need to improve our study programmes for present and future students as we continue to educate students for the health care sector, where the demand for highly trained personnel remains very high. A particular concern is the present transformation of the health care system in Stockholm and how we can secure good practical training and the connection between education and research in the new health care landscape.
Meeting the students under more informal conditions, such as tonight’s Spring Prom is a pleasant complement to our more formal meetings.
Mats Lilja, project manager for Biomedicum, guides the KI management through Biomedicum.
Some time ago, the Karolinska Institutet management group was offered a guided tour of Biomedicum, Karolinska Institutet’s new ultramodern laboratory building for experimental biomedical research that opens in 2018. The building is even more impressive from the inside than the outside. We were guided by Mats Lilja, Marie Asplund and Kathrin Alw, who showed examples of how the interior is really well thought through, from windows and curtains to how the labs are designed. Thanks to everyone who has put so much effort in designing Biomedicum to a fantastic infrastructure for experimental research. It is almost difficult to imagine that in about one year, the building will be full of KI scientists working to improve human health.
If you wish to learn more about B iomedicum, visit ki.se
Illustration of future lab environment in Biomedicum.
The future health care landscape in Stockholm has been discussed and planned for many years. Discussions and planning where Karolinska Institutet has taken part, not necessarily being heard. The future health care system has many components; The new Karolinska University Hospital, a highly specialized hospital; the consequent transfer of patients into primary care and private actors. All this will influence Karolinska Institutet and its educational and research activities.
A medical faculty and the health care sector are mutually dependent on each other, as reflected in ALF agreements at the national and regional levels. KI is dependent on the health care sector for clinical research and placements for our students, and the health care sector depends on us for competent staff and novel care, diagnostics and treatments. So what is really happening? When the patients move, students, teachers, research, researchers and resources also have to adapt. The student has to be where the patient is and education should also be connected to research for example. All this needs to be done in well planned and long term processes, making sure to maintain high quality care, education and research. In parallel with this the Karolinska University Hospital is introducing a new work modell.
A top priority for KI
Altogether this is placing a lot of stress on our organization, students, teachers and researchers. Resolving this is a top priority for the university management. For instance, I will give the Board of Education a special assignment to look into how we can secure our learning goals within the new work model at Karolinska University Hospital. If the Board concludes that the learning goals cannot be secured, they are tasked to suggest alternative solutions.
In our regular dialogue and meetings with the Stockholm County Council we also bring up the importance of expanding the concept of specialist centra as we believe they represent a good model for combining care, education and research. The first specialist centra is well under way but we need much more of this. We also need assistance from the Stockholm County Council in reaching out into the private care sector.
Work-shop. Photo: Lena Atterwall
A have previously written about the decision to implement a coherent quality system for Karolinska Institutet. Maintaining and developing quality in operations are continuous and long-term efforts. KI’s new coherent quality system is to be viewed as the start of a sustainable systematic development of quality in all of KI’s operations. One important aspect that is not well developed was models for peer review and associated learning. I was very happy to learn that the Board of Higher Education is organizing workshops including representatives responsible for first-cycle education from departments (so called GUAs) and representatives from our study programme committees (programme directors) for peer review and associated learning of quality plans for first- and second-cycle education. I was very happy to be asked to start up the second of these work shops.
Senior colleagues as role models and mentors for younger colleagues for continued learning
Last week we had the yearly Emeriti dinner. We then honor those who have contributed to make Karolinska Institutet to what it is today, an internationally leading medical university. Senior academics and emeriti represent an extensive knowledge and experience resource not least to younger colleagues and we really welcome your continued contribution to our university into the future. Senior academics are very important as role models and mentors not least for younger colleagues. Nowadays, reaching the formal retirement age for professors at Karolinska Institutet is often a passage to the next stage and many will continue as senior professors. The position as senior professor was introduced at Karolinska Institutet in 2012 and today we have around 100 individuals employed as senior professors, ranging from a few per cent employment to full time employment. I have asked our HR Director , together with the chairperson of the Recruitment Committee review the position as senior professor to make sure we have a common view within the university and a clear purpose and scope. It is very natural to make such a review a few years after something new is introduced.
Last week SciLifeLab was visited by its International Advisory Board, IAB. SciLifeLab is hosted by four universities in Stockholm and Uppsala; Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University and Uppsala University, and supports activities organized within these universities. SciLifeLab is additionally supporting activities at several additional Swedish universities.
Translate novel methods
As vice-chancellor of one of the host universities, I met with the IAB. It is clear that the IAB is impressed with what has been achieved, but also sees unexplored possibilities and potential. We should not be content and rest assured that combining activities from universities with distinct profiles alone will automatically generate added value, but we should exolore how the universities could contribute to strategic initiatives that will move SciLifeLab to the next level. This is a clear responsibility for us representing university leadership. KI as a medical university has a special responsibility to translate novel methods and protocols into clinical practice, something that is already happening. I hope to contribute in the further developments of SciLifeLab and believe that I have a good understanding of SciLifeLab, including its potential and limitations, from my previous experience of being part of the SciLifeLab operative team as well as the Stockholm SciLifeLab steering group.
Focus on getting a permanent structure
One urgent matter is that presently SciLifeLab is managed by an interim organization until June 2017. It is very important that the universities now work together with the SciLifeLab management to get all organizational agreements and a permanent management structure in place. A structure that allows the universities to take their responsibility as hosts. Being a host of SciLifeLab includes the very important responsibility for personnel. I left the meeting (and the Alpha/Gamma building) with a feeling that we in the KI management should improve communication with our staff at SciLifeLab and that we should also improve joint communication from all host universities to all of our staff.