Graduation ceremony in Aula Medica 13 January, 2017. Photo: Gunnar Ask

Welcome back to Karolinska Institutet after the holidays, students and employees!

Monday I will welcome new students to Karolinska Institutet and this Friday I had the privilege of addressing the students leaving our university at two graduation ceremonies. Meeting our students is very valuable for me as vice-chancellor. It is an opportunity to present what our university is and wha

t we stand for as well as to give some personal reflections and advice along the road. It also provides for more informal discussions with some of the students, not least the student marshals (marskalkar) who play a very important part in ceremonial aspects of our celebrations, and who guide me through the ceremony and make sure I walk in the right direction and do the right thing at the right time. Thank you for your contributions!

Graduation ceremony in Erling Persson Auditorium at Aula Medica, 13 January 2017. Photo: Gunnar Ask

A graduation ceremony followed by welcoming students illustrates what makes the university such a vibrant environment: new students arriving full of expectations and others leaving equipped with new knowledge, experiences and an attractive degree, all in a constant cycle. New students and those which have just obtained their degree share the experience of being at a cross road probably with great expectations but also a little concern. But between the two cross roads, many days have passed. As a university it is our responsibility that these days consist of educational activities of high quality fulfilling our students’ expectations and preparing them for their future important work tasks. To achieve this, leadership, not least of our educational activities, is of great importance.

Discussing leadership

By coincidence, between the graduation ceremonies, I had the opportunity to meet participants of our leadership programme “Education Manager of the Future – “Framtidens utbildningsledare”. These programmes are very important since good leadership is a prerequisite, however not sufficient, for high quality activities. At the meeting, I spoke about what kind of university KI will be in the future and thus what they will be expected to be leaders of; An internationally leading medical university competing for students, teachers and researchers on a global market; An extensive operation with over 6000 students and 6000 employees, with many activities, both research and education, taking place partly within the health care sector, and last but not least, all of this anchored on the solid ground of being a public authority, tasked by the government to serve society’s need for new knowledge.

I also touched upon on how to be a good leader, where I can only refer to my own thoughts and experiences. My ambition is to be a lucid, transparent and communicative leader, while at the same time being responsive and having a listening attitude. I believe that well-informed students and employees perform better. It must be clear to all on what basis and by whom a decision is made. Mandates and responsibilities must also be clear.

Then we had a very fruitful discussion where we touched on many important aspects such as who is responsible for what, not least in the interface between the university and the health care sector? We also discussed the importance of clear rules and regulations and that these are followed and how do we as leaders deal with different difficult questions we might encounter? I very much appreciated the discussion and wish we would have had more time!

 

 


The end of the term has been filled with activities and hard work including the Nobel week, where we celebrate and honor the exceptional contributions of individuals to science and ultimately mankind, to cases of scientific misconduct that constitute a threat to the credibility of medical research and the basis for future medical advances.

The importance of the Nobel Prize and the Nobel week for research in Sweden cannot be overestimated. The Nobel lectures is an inspiration to us all and the Nobel laureates constitute role models for coming generations of scientists. It was a very hectic week but a fantastic celebration in the name of science.

Scientific misconduct is about fundamental issues, about our reliance on research and the foundation for future medical advances.

In relation to current publically exposed cases of scientific misconduct at Karolinska Institutet, I realize that people sometimes experience a lack of information as the cases are being investigated. You might wonder, what is happening in the different cases and why is does the process take such a long time. Regarding the first concern, investigating alleged scientific misconduct is a process with potential legal implications and must therefore follow certain procedures. As for the second concern, investigations of scientific misconduct will in many cases include external evaluators that have to go through extensive material, the involved authors must get reasonable time to be able to respond to allegations, evaluations at several stages of the process. All in all, this can lead to what is experienced as extended time lines.

In the process, we also have to investigate and decide upon not only whether an article constitute scientific misconduct, but also who is responsible and what the consequences and sanctions should be. Our decisions are based on assessment of each individual’s contribution and responsibility. Signing a document does always entail a responsibility, but junior scientists can be in a situation of dependence towards more senior colleagues and this is also taken into account in the assessment.

Scientific misconduct has no place in research and reporting suspected scientific misconduct is welcome. Those being investigated should be confident that our investigations follow a clear, transparent and secure process. And this goes also for those who report – they should feel safe.

And we must all work proactively to make sure each and every researcher knows what makes up a sound research practice. We should work to make it difficult to conduct scientific misconduct by introducing and implementing tools such as electronic documentation, and by reinforcing relevant rules and regulations. But most importantly we should provide a clear and supporting leadership.

The KI acting vice-chancellors blog now closes for 2016. Welcome back in 2017!

 


Last week, I had the pleasure of awarding the 2016 KI work environment award. The prize was awarded to the Swedish Toxicology Sciences Research Center (Swetox) which was represented by the deputy head, Heike Hellmold. The unit sets a good example for how the work environment should be integrated in, and a natural part of, all activities and include everyone from students to management. For example, the work environment is an important part of the introduction for new employees. The management supports contributions that aid the work environment and adherence to rules and regulations is never compromised. For me, I was reminded that I actually nominated the first recipient of the award, then handed out by the former vice-chancellor.


A healthy work environment does not just magically appear, it is something we have to work for all the time and it is all of us together that can make it happen.
Karolinska institutet is one of the world’s leading medical universities. A good work environment is a key factor in building high quality and a successful university.
All employees must get a good introduction to the work environment work. Leaders should set example and value contributions to improve the work environment. Everyone at KI should know and adhere to rules and regulations that is our shared framework, and responsibilities should be clear.
The demands are high at KI, as they should be, but we must find the balance where high standards are combined with a pleasant work environment. If students and co-workers thrive, KI thrives.


This has been a very exciting week. Tuesday was marked by a kick-off for the new regional so called ALF agreement between the Stockholm County Council (SCC) and Karolinska Institutet (KI). This agreement is a foundation for research and education and regulates our essential collaboration with SCC and the hospitals. The agreement is a common responsibility and constitutes our common road map into the future. We are several stakeholders but share a common vision to improve health and this was the overall feeling as we met kick-start the new agreement. Invited were members of the KI-SLL management team, the research and education councils as wells as the FoU committes at the hospitals.

Kick off with SCC

Kick off with SCC

Structural changes taking place in the health care sector in the region constitute challenges for medical research and education. New structures will replace structures established over a long time and it is our common responsibility to ensure good conditions for health care, education and research. The main goal of the day was to get everyone familiar with the ALF agreement so we share a common platform and to start discussions, what are the challenges for education and research in the new landscape. A lot of good ideas came up that we will bring with us in the future work. A kick-off is of course also a valuable opportunity to get to know who is in which role. You can read more at ki.se/news

 

The government research bill

 

Monday, the Minister for higher education and research presented the government research bill, which I commented on at ki.se.  The research bill focus on societal challenges in health and life sciences, digitalization and environment. SCC is KIs most important collaborator and together we aim at jointly address societal challenges within health. We hope that innovations within life sciences will occur along the way. Digitalization will be of great importance in addressing many of the challenges within health. And we should not forget that there are clear connections between health and the environment and in line with that, our university has active research also in the area of the environment. Biobanking is another prioritized area where KI works together with SCC as part of a national effort. There is a clear focus on collaboration, which is further emphasized by the fact that collaboration will be included as a base for resource allocation. I believe that collaboration is critical if we are to solve the societal challenges that we are facing. We all understand that it is difficult to measure collaboration but we should not dismiss a potentially important indicator measuring it constitutes a challenge. At last it was confirmed that the funding for the strategic research areas will remain. This is very good as it provides stable funding to strong research environments. But of course the policy also raises questions; We have asked for increased base funding which was met by a small increase. But how it will be distributed is unclear. From what has been communicated so far one would draw the conclusion that the focus is not on large research universities. How the increasing costs for research infrastructures should be handled also remains unclear and will put a significant financial strain on the sector.

As vice-chancellor of an internationally leading medical University, I am happy that the research bill has a strong focus on health but would of course have hoped for more funding in a world of global competition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Foto: Medicinsk Bild

Foto: Medicinsk Bild

Today the first part of the new Karolinska University Hospital (NKS) has opened. I really congratulate all involved in the terrific effort to launch the first operational building. The opening of NKS represents one important milestone to realize the joint vision in creating a vibrant, cross-sectional life science cluster, involving actors from academia, the health care sector and industry. But of course, most importantly, the new hospital is there for the patients!

The Stockholm County Council (SCC) is Karolinska Institutet’s most important collaborator and Karolinska University Hospital is a major player within this collaboration. The new hospital will give Karolinska Institutet new and unique opportunities to advance clinical research, innovation and education, all to the benefit of the individual and society. It is within the health care sector that Karolinska Institutet identifies many challenges to human health that we need to address and this is also the sector where our answers are being put to use.

Installation lecture Stockholm Sjukhem Professorial Chair
On Wednesday evening I had the great pleasure to hold the welcome address at the installation lecture for the Stockholm Sjukhem Professorial Chair in Clinical Geriatrics awarded to Miia Kivipelto I am very happy and grateful that Stockholm Sjukhem has once again generously donated a professorial chair to KI. It is their third donation of this kind and it is very important that this fruitful collaboration can continue. This type of collaborations between universities and health care are essential to make science progress and for science to benefit patients. The specific topic – geriatric research – is highly relevant. Life expectancy is steadily increasing, partly owing to progress in medical research. But with increased life expectancy comes new challenges.. We must learn more about age-related diseases and challenges.
Symposium for diplomatic missions to Sweden
On Tuesday evening KI hosted an event for representatives from diplomatic missions in Sweden for a presentation of who we are and what we do, all with the aim to improve human health. The diplomatic missions are very important for an international university like KI. After my welcome address I got a, nowadays rare, chance to stay and listen to some presentations of the exciting research that is being conducted at KI. I was impressed and feel very proud of KI.

Professor Jonas Bergh and Ambassador of Norway, Kai Eide.

Professor Jonas Bergh and Ambassador of Norway, Kai Eide.


Research infrastructure – core facilities and lab environments – is one of KI’s greatest strenghts and we are currently investing heavily in state of the art research environments at both our campuses. Research infrastructure is vital for most higher education institutions and there is a reference group, University Reference Group for Infrastructure, URGI, that includes representatives from the university managements of the large research universities and the group is focused on discussing and preparing issues related to Swedish research infrastructure. Research infrastructures, how they should be prioritized, organized, managed and not least financed is of critical importance to our sector in the years to come. Last week URGI held one of its meetings and this time we focused on data storage and management, which is tightly coupled to research information. This is only one, yet very important, part of research infrastructures, with a rapidly growing need. Several infrastructures where the government has invested heavily in the last few years, such as SciLifeLab, are also in high demand of data storage and management. The URFI group is one of few groups where representatives from the university managements meet regularly and it is very important that KI is properly represented in this group. Therefore, we have now decided to appoint a KI Vice Dean for Research Infrastructure after an open call within KI. This part-time position corresponds to the one I held before and also includes some responsibilities that were to be included in my planned position as KI ProVice-Chancellor.

New Rector at KTH

On Wednesday afternoon, I struggled through the snowstorm to KTH where Peter Gudmundsson was thanked for his nine years as Rector of KTH. KTH and KI, both single faculty universities, have much to gain from cooperation. I am personally very grateful for how Peter, and the other vice-chancellors, have welcomed me after my somewhat abrupt entering into their group in February this year. From this week Sigbritt Karlsson is new Rector at KTH and I am looking very much forward to interacting with her.

Conferment ceremony

On Friday evening I had my second Conferment ceremony (Promoveringshögtid) in my role as Acting Vice-Chancellor. The promovendi, women and men from different parts of the world, represent an incredible wealth of knowledge. We also celebrated our jubilee doctors on the 50th anniversary of their doctoral degrees. They have all contributed enormously health and knowledge and prepared the way for future generations.


Last week I joined the expert group for Life Sciences which is to support the government appointed life science coordinator, Anders Lönnberg, in his important task to develop Swedish life sciences. The group includes individuals from diverse sectors of life sciences in accordance with the group’s task to provide knowledge and experience and a picture of developments in life sciences. The group should collect opinions and provide suggestions which are then brought forward by the coordinator. It is important that KI, as the largest medical faculty in Sweden is represented in this group and I also hope that my industrial background will provide an asset. One topic that is presently on the agenda is the innovation system and how it is organized. The immediate observation is that it is a very fragmented landscape with many actors each possibly having problems to achieve critical mass. At the same time it is important to be present where ideas are being born is also important.

Sara Riggare, PhD student at LIME is also a member of the group. Sara is considered one of the most influential people in Med Tech in Sweden. She has a unique competence as researcher, entrepreneur and patient combined with an exceptional network and social skills. When Sara talks about the educated and well informed patient as a resource for research and health care, people listen! Sara wants to empower the patient!

Last week we also had a short visit by the Prime minister of the Czeck republic, Bohuslav Sobotka. He visit Labs at Fyfa and had presentations from two of the group leaders, Igor Adameyko and Andrei Chagin and Igor also gave a Lab tour. The lab tour and the presentations were really well prepared and interesting, a great opportunity also for me to visit KI labs and learn about some of all the exciting science that is going on at our university.

Group photo, visit by Czeck republic primie minister

Group photo, visit by Czeck republic primie minister


Last week we had the autumns retreat with head of departments. These retreats represent excellent opportunities to exchange information and to discuss topics of general interest to all of us. I presented the status of the KI managements activities following the Heckscher investigation. On October 10th the KI Board supported the action plan that I presented and asked me to further develop the plan and the actions taking into consideration points raised at the board meeting. I was also asked to, at the board meeting December 5th present a concise and time specified project plan based on the action plan.

The action plan builds on Strategy 2018 and activities already initiated by the previous vice-chancellor, to improve our internal culture, to implement a comprehensive quality system and to review the KI organization. It will also be important to further strengthen our core values and to improve communication to make sure that our environment that invites ideas and opinions. The plan includes precise actions to all recommendations proposed by Heckscher as well as the recommendations proposed by the KI internal auditors following an internal audit of the CLINTEC department. We are now focusing on detailing aspects of the plan as well as to build a project organization before it will be broadly communicated.

VIsit by MInister Gabriel Wikström

On Friday, the Minister for Public Health, Health Care and Sports, Gabriel Wikström, visited Karolinska Institutet. Karolinska Institutet’s vision is to make a significant contribution to the improvement of human health. This includes preventing and treating disease and in this it is highly relevant to have regular discussions with the responsible minister. KI scientists are also active as regards the effects of physical training for health so the minister’s responsibility also for sports provides an excellent frame work to discuss physical activity and its importance for maintained health. We met the minister at Widerströmska Huset where he was meeting student from the Masters program in global health, a visit hosted by Göran Tomson and Johan von Schreeb. We then made a visit to SciLifeLab, where Lars Engstrand and Valtteri Wirta showed the Clinical Genomics facility where whole genome sequencing is applied in diagnosis of monogenic diseases. Later on Anna Wedell, the responsible scientist and medical doctor, presented more about her work on applying genomics in the diagnosis of monogenic metabolic disorders, a truly ground breaking work. Miia Kivipelto presented her very important work how dementia can be prevented. Her studies provide hope for patients and relatives in showing that (progression of) dementia can be prevented by physical and mental training. Daniel Berglind presented his work focusing on physical activity in children, and how this has changed ie with the introduction of digital toys and associated consequences on child health. What can be more important than the health of children, the future! He suggests that parents have an important contribution in supporting physical activity in children. Something for us all to think about.

We also discussed in more general terms including the responsibility of KI to deliver well training personnel for the health care sector and how we should interact with the sector to make sure that research findings are implemented in clinical practice and that challenges in clinical practice are identified and subject to research and development activities.

We are looking forward to hosting another visit by the minister and for this he has already announced that he likes to meet more students.


The Swedish government has requested that higher education institutions develop a gender mainstreaming plan 2016–2019. The plan should be presented by 15 May, 2017. The Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research at the University of Gothenburgh has been commissioned to support this work, and received associated funding. The secretariat is expected to assist in all phases of the process. This should include sharing knowledge and experiences as well as best practices in meetings and workshops. Last week, representatives from the secretariat visited KI and met with the KI management group and people more directly involved in the daily work related to equal opportunities, including our newly recruited strategist for gender equality, HR consultant Klara Folkesson.

Gender Mainstreaming

The purpose of gender mainstreaming is to contribute towards the nationally declared gender equality objective of women and men having equal opportunities. In our sector, this includes for example career opportunities and better balanced education choices, both being clear challenges at Karolinska Institutet. Furthermore, the core values as set out in KI Strategy 2018 is inclusion, openness, equality and diversity.

The gender mainstreaming plan should describe how gender equality is integrated into everyday operations, including management processes. In addition to the plan, universities should continuously report implemented measures and results to the government 2016-2019.

At the meeting, we had lively group discussions during the afternoon where our visitors from Gothenburg helped to suggest a few prioritized, and relatively concrete areas to focus on. More concrete plans should now be further developed with Klara Folkesson at the helm. In the KI management, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Henrik Grönberg is responsible for equal opportunities as part of his responsibility for our internal culture, often referred to as KI inner life.

Professor installation

With regards to career opportunities and particularly the unequal balance between male and female professors at Karolinska Institutet, it is worth noting that half of the 20 new professors being installed last Thursday evening were women.

The professor installation is an opportunity to honor those who are taking on the role as professor at our university,  but also those who have made prize-winning efforts to foster the advancement of education and research as well as those who have been awarded the Grand Silver Medal for important contributions to Karolinska Institutet. These academic ceremonies are important as they continue as they did for our predecessors and lay down the groundwork for the achievements of our successors. I believe that our newly installed prize winners and silver medalists do inspire and lead the next generation of young researchers and students, who, in turn, will one day participate in academic ceremonies similar to the one we had in Aula Medica last week.

 


Getting ready to cut the ribbon.

Getting ready to cut the ribbon.

Friday was a historic day for Karolinska Institutet. As the first public university in Sweden we officially opened a research centre outside of Sweden. Establishing activities abroad is a clear sign that we are building for the future. Marking this historic event, an inauguration ceremony followed by a scientific symposia was held in Hong Kong, Friday. The establishment was made possible through a generous donation covering all costs associated with the Ming Wai Lau center.

There are of course challenges being associated with being the first public university in Sweden to establish activities abroad, and we need to carefully consider the various issues we may be facing. Swedish regulations will apply also in Hong Kong, but we must also comply with applicable local law. An open climate, good leadership, high ethical and moral values and compliance with rules and regulations should characterize KI regardless of location.

Ribbon for research centre cut.

The Ming Wai Lau Centre for reparative medicine officially inaugurated!

Increasingly global

Karolinska Institutet is more than 200 years old and we have always valued international contacts and a natural next step in our internationalization of education and research is to establish activities in other countries. Our goal is to attract teachers, researchers, students and partner universities from around the world, and I am convinced that competition for global talent and resources will become even more important in the future.  This is why our international interactions and collaborations with other universities are critical to our continued development and success.

The Ming Wai Lau centre includes two nodes, one in Stockholm and one in the vibrant environment of the Science Park in Hong Kong. The hub in Hong Kong will have a strong focus on technologies and will include support for research programmes and recruitments, as well as allowing for strategic

planning of infrastructure, necessary for sustainable successful research.

Pioneering activities

Before the inauguration ceremony we had a tour of the facilities. I must say, that it was a special feeling entering and touring facilities being part of Karolinska Institutet on another continent. The inauguration ceremony was followed by a scientific symposia with presentations from some of the PI:s (principal investigators, i.e. research leaders) and more junior scientists associated with the centre, and also presentations by academic leaders from universities in Hong Kong and how they see that they can interact with Karolinska Institutet.

My thanks go to all those involved in getting these pioneering activities up and running as well as planning this historical day. If success can be judged by enthusiasm, the center is bound to deliver on our vision to improve human health for the benefit of the individual as well as society at large.