The latest government research policy has a clear focus on innovation and touches upon the role of university-associated holding companies. The government expresses its intention to review the focus of holding companies and to bring suggestions forward to the parliament. I believe that in general the innovation support is too fragmented and undercapitalized and we should deepen the collaboration within the sector to gain critical mass and to share the responsibility, similarly to how the sector has realized the need to collaborate and share responsibility for infrastructure.

Innovation is one important way for universities and other higher education institutions to collaborate with and have an impact on the surrounding society at large. Government is urging universities for increased outreach, collaboration and societal impact. This was evident in the latest government research policy and also in a government commissioned report from Vinnova, exploring the possibilities of directing part of the direct government funding on the basis of measuring collaboration performance. While agreeing with the overall purpose of stimulating collaboration, it is our opinion that the government is starting at the wrong end and should instead look more into eliminating obstacles to increased collaboration. Last week, six university rectors expressed our concerns in a debate article in Svenska Dagbladet (article in Swedish only).

As KI’s acting vice-chancellor, I am a member of the board for the KI-related holding company, Karolinska Institutet Holding AB. We recently appointed Anders Flodin KIHAB interim CEO, following the resignation of Magnus Persson. Anders has been in the group since 2006, as CEO of Karolinska Institutet Housing AB, and is well acquainted with the KIHAB group and its subsidiaries. As CEO, Anders is expected to review the activities and organization of the KIHAB group, to generate conditions for a cost- and operationally effective corporate structure, in accordance with the owner’s directives and the board’s vision.

Visit at KI Innovations AB

Meeting with the staff at Karolinska Institutet Innovations AB

KIAB CEO Lilia Wikström

KI Innovations AB (KIAB) is an entity within KIHAB, and the first instance of the overall commercial innovation system. Researchers with ideas or projects with a possible commercial potential are offered professional support.

Monday 13 February, myself and the university director Per Bengtsson was invited to KIAB to get an update on their operations. It was a very interesting hour where we were presented with examples of the diverse repertoire of projects that have received coaching by the KIAB staff. We were presented with examples of both projects aimed at early drug target discovery and other projects that had progressed further into the drug development phase. But we were also presented with very different projects where novel digital tools can be used in diagnosis and to save lives.

 

Honouring long-term serving employees

On Thursday, we had the annual ceremony for honouring those who have served as government employees for 30 years, the award is called “Nit och redlighet i riketsikets tjänst (NOR)”, similar to ” Royal Medal for Zeal and Probity in the Service of the Kingdom”. As acting vice-chancellor it is a great honor to participate in a NOR-ceremony and honor employees who devoted 30 years of their lives in service for the government. I am also very grateful to the staff of our ceremony unit that with extreme professionalism prepares and completes our ceremonies, and to the photographers for producing memories of happy and important moments.

Photographer Ulf Sirborn together with staff from Unit for Academic Ceremonies: Karin Björklund-Jonsson and the Head of the unit, Ylva Blomberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The dean of higher education, Annika Östman Wernerson had asked med to join her for an afternoon at the advanced leadership programme she is currently attending. Known as HeLP, Högre Ledarprogram/Higher Leadership Programme, this training is organized by the Association of Swedish Higher Education (Sveriges universitets- och högskoleförbund, SUHF).

This programme is important in many aspects; It equippes participants with important tools and experiences in their own formal and personal leadership. Personal leadership is a continuous process where there is always scoop for development, the nature of which is dependent on one’s previous experience and present position. The programme is also important as it is an opportunity to network with other academic leaders from universities and higher education authorities all around Sweden. We can all learn from each other and there are many questions and challenges which we should discuss and develop together within our sector.

Discussing equality

This afternoon all participants’ rectors had been invited, and the afternoon ended with handing out of diplomas by Helen Dannetun, Rector at Linköping university and Chairperson of SUHF. But prior to that, we enjoyed a very interesting afternoon on the theme equal opportunities. The course participants had prepared activities – a mixture of panel discussions, mentometer surveys and sketches. It became very apparent that although we think we know what equality and equal opportunity is, we did not always see the obvious. This was a very important “eye opener” that knowledge is not enough, one has to always be observant and challenge one’s perspectives, not least by interacting with and listening to others who have different experiences than yourself. I left the day with a feeling of being inactively competent.

Looking far enough?

There was also an interesting discussion on how to advice a young female researcher whether to take a leadership role or not. Clearly different opinions were expressed but at the end of the day,  it is only the individual herself who can decide. Lina Thomsgård, the founder of Rättviseförmedlingen presented a very interesting lecture on the theme; The balance, or rather imbalance, between males and females in media, culture, business and other contexts. She founded Rättviseförmedlingen as a response to the statement “we did not find any female candidates”. Rättviseförmedlingen uses the power of social media to search for a diversity of candidates for different positions. Are we perhaps not looking far enough when searching for candidates for tasks within our own university?

 

Participants in the davanced leadership programme with their diplomat. KI dean of higher education on the chair to the left.

 


It is becoming increasingly clear that no one is immune to international politics, including our own university in a country historically relatively unaffected by international restrictions and conflicts.
As a university, KI strongly defends the liberty of thought and the possibility and right of researchers to interact and build network across borders. This is a fundamental principle of a free world and a prerequisite for science.

Alarming news

Two days ago we were alarmed by information that a researcher who has been active at KI is imprisoned in Iran on unclear grounds and without due trial. Detention of any person under the threat of being punished without due trial is unacceptable. KI is now seeking further information and advice on how to act.
In another part of the world, new immigration rules are restricting movement of individuals and hence also the abilities for scientific interchange and the building of scientific networks. This is happening in the USA, a country known for attracting scientists from all over the world working together to deliver successful research. The latest on this is that the restrictions have been stopped by the US justice system on the grounds that they are unconstitutional

Important research ally

In a longer time span, alarming signals are coming from the new US administration indicating restrictions in academic freedom, ie the right of scientists to independently choose research questions and methodology, and to freely spread research results. For Sweden, the US is an important research ally and in many research fields also an example and an inspirer, why these developments raise concerns both from our own egocentric perspective but more importantly as a member of the global research community.

Dialogue

As an independent academia we are obliged to speak up and defend scientific values and our research colleagues. It is equally important for us to engage in dialogue with our government. We will do our best to bring attention to our concerns and, if asked, provide constructive advice.


Student representation is a critical part of our governing structure. We need input from students to continuously improve study programmes, teaching, and learning environments and to improve our university as a whole. Being a student representative is an important role guarding the interest and influence of students, not just here and now but also for future students. While some improvements cannot be implemented in the short term perspective, you, our present students, will still benefit later when you as colleagues in your work life encounter more junior colleagues that have had the best training. And being a representative is also in itself a valuable experience for your future work life. Beginning this week, I met with students that have chosen to contribute as student representatives in our different university bodies.

To provide attractive study programmes is one critical aspect for meeting the increasing demand of highly trained personnel in the health care sector. The latter is a real challenge, exemplified for instance by the Swedish Minister of Health tasking the Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslerämbetet) and the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) to jointly investigate possibilities for collaboration for competence supply for the health care sector.  I am part of the reference group and the group had its first meeting last week. It is evident that this challenge must be addressed by several stakeholders, including universities and other higher education institutions and representatives from the health care sector; in a collaborative manner. We as universities must contribute by providing attractive study programmes that equip students with the skills they need in the future working landscape, shaped not least by digitalization and the omics revolution.

As students of this generation, you add new perspectives in our governing bodies from the world we now live in, based on your diverse backgrounds and experiences. My hope, of course, is that you will experience that your contribution makes a difference and that you get new skills and experiences that is important in your future life.

Farewell symposium celebrating a fantastic research career

Later on in the afternoon, I attended a Valedictory Symposium for Outi Hovatta, professor,

Outi’s career at Karolinska Institutet, which spans almost 20 years, has really contributed to our vision – to make a significant contribution to the improvement of human health and she has also made sure that the research is put to good use. She has addressed individual, and in a broader perspective societal, challenges all to the benefit of individuals, families and society at large.  She is highly recognized in Sweden and internationally for her contributions to improve methods for in vitro fertilization, to preserve fertility in association with serious disease and for the establishment of novel methods for cultivations of human embryonic stem cells.

It was a fantastic symposium, with Magnus Westgren as main organizer, including a diverse repertoire of science and music provided by Outi and her family. Outi, will now move on to warmer parts of the world but will remain affiliated with Karolinska Institutet


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.