Two weeks have passed since I took office as vice-chancellor of KI. Getting to know my new organization has been my top priority thus far, as it will continue to be in the weeks to come. I will keep my eyes open, I will listen, and I will ask questions. This is what a transition to a new organization is all about.

During my career as a medical researcher I have learnt to appreciate KI from the outside. Now I will get to know KI from the inside. I will visit each KI department, and I have notified the department heads about this. We have also decided to arrange a general meeting, open for all KI group leaders – the very driving force of KI’s research. Already next week I will meet representatives of the Medical Students Union’s house foundation (Kårhusstiftelsen) and soon thereafter I will have my first meeting with the Chairs of the Medical Students Union and the Student union of Odontology. I am deeply committed to student issues and look forward to collaborate with the student unions. In a couple of weeks I will meet all new students at the Welcome Day. This will be one of the highlights of the current semester.

KI will come out strengthened

While KI has been exposed to extensive negative media coverage and public debate throughout the last one and a half year, it is now time for a fresh start. The crisis has taken its toll, but I am convinced that our university will come out strengthened. We should all take responsibility for this to happen. The interim management has initiated a number of important measures and I will now build on this work, tasked by the KI board. In addition I suggest creating a collegial advisory board (kollegialt råd) that can support the university management so as to ensure that the interests of research and teaching are duly taken into account in all decisions of the management and the consistory. The aim must be to raise our university to the uppermost international level where it rightly belongs.

Getting out of the crisis with added strength is not about introducing new rules and regulations. It is about developing strategies and visions for the future KI, it is about ethical preparedness, it is about taking responsibility and complying with those rules and regulations that are already in place. Obviously this is fully possible without undermining the very foundation of any university: academic freedom. Excellent research must go hand in hand with an excellent work culture.

KI highly ranked in Nature Index Innovation

KI is doing well and has continued to do well throughout the turbulent period that is now behind us. One example was provided last week by Nature Index 2017 Innovation supplement, where KI ranks as number 1 in Sweden and 38 globally. This Normalised Lens Influence Metric measures citations of research articles in patents owned by third parties.

I am very keen to have an open dialogue and my blog will hopefully prove helpful in this context. If you are a KI staff member you may let me and the KI management know what you think about your workplace, the working atmosphere and leadership by participating in the employee survey. The survey will be open late September. You can read more about this at the staff portal.

More on my vision for KI can be found in my programme declaration put forward to the Consultative College in the recruitment process.

 


This blog post in Swedish, ser below.

This is my first blog from my new workplace – Karolinska Institutet. I am proud to be allowed to work for KI and look forward to getting to know the university better. More about this in forthcoming blogs.

I am also proud that Karolinska Institutet has chosen to join Queerolinska, the LBGT section of the Medical Students’ Union (Medicinska Föreningen) in the Stockholm Pride Parade. We do this with the motto A university for diversity. This blog is about the Pride Parade – an initiative that deserves our full support.

Every university should strive to provide an attractive study and working environment that is free from discrimination and that provides equal opportunities for all. All employees and students are entitled to the same rights, opportunities and obligations regardless of gender, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age. Our university strongly regards utilizing people’s various experiences and perspectives as fundamental requirements for excellence in both research and teaching. The Pride Parade epitomizes all these values that are at the core of any forward looking university.

Pride is also a celebration. A celebration of love and fundamental human rights for everyone. A celebration of victories – be they personal, or be they victories for our society at large. This year Finland,Taiwan and Malta passed new laws that make same sex marriage legal. These are true victories.

Pride is also and above all a manifestation for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people – the right to live openly without discrimination, and to enjoy personal autonomy and freedom of expression. Pride is also an opportunity for education and information, through several public presentations and seminars that focus on LGBT research as well as on lived practices in the LGBT community.

It is important to participate in the Pride Parade to show that we as a university take an active stand against every kind of discrimination such as racism, sexism, homo- and transphobia. But the most important thing is to strive for equal rights in our daily work, act when we spot inequalities, and encourage an environment where we openly discuss these matters. It is not only about flagrant discrimination but more often about the more subtle, unconscious bias that needs unveiling.

I see the Pride Parade as a celebration of human diversity and as an embrace of tolerance, freedom and inclusiveness. These values are cornerstones of any liberal society. It is incumbent on all of us to honor them and safeguard them. This is what tomorrow’s event is all about.

THIS BLOG POST IN SWEDISH:

Ett universitet för mångfald

Detta är min första blogg från min nya arbetsplats – Karolinska Institutet. Jag är stolt över att få arbeta för KI och ser fram emot att lära känna universitetet bättre. Mer om detta i kommande blogginlägg. Jag är också stolt över att Karolinska Institutet valt att gå med i Prideparaden tillsammans med Queerolinska, HBTQ-sektionen i studentkåren Medicinska Föreningen. Vi går under parollen A University for Diversity, ett universitet för mångfald. Detta blogginlägg handlar om Prideparaden – ett initiativ som förtjänar vårt fulla stöd. Varje universitet ska sträva efter att tillhandahålla en attraktiv studie- och arbetsmiljö som är fri från diskriminering och som ger lika villkor och samma möjligheter för alla. Alla medarbetare och studenter har samma rättigheter, möjligheter och skyldigheter oavsett kön, transgenderidentitet eller -uttryck, etnicitet, religion eller annan tro, funktionshinder, sexuell läggning eller ålder. Vårt lärosäte värdesätter olika erfarenheter och perspektiv och ser det som väsentliga bidrag för att bedriva forskning och utbildning av högsta kvalitet. Prideparaden sammanfattar alla dessa värden som är grunden för alla framåtblickande universitet.

Pride är också en fest, där kärlek och grundläggande mänskliga rättigheter för alla firas. Där vi firar framgångar – vare sig de är individuella, eller för vårt samhälle som helhet. Bland årets framgångar bör nämnas att Finland, Taiwan och Malta lagstiftat om rätten till samkönade äktenskap.
Pride är också och framförallt en manifestation för HBTQ-rättigheter, rätten att leva öppet utan diskriminering, rätten till personlig frihet och yttrandefrihet. Pride är också ett tillfälle att genom seminarier och debatter sprida information och kunskap om HBTQ-frågor, -forskning och erfarenheter från HBTQ-gemenskapen.
Det är viktigt att delta i Prideparaden för att visa att vi som universitet aktivt tar ställning mot alla former av diskriminering som rasism, sexism, homo- och transfobi. Men det viktigaste är att i vårt dagliga arbete främja lika villkor och mångfald, agera när vi upptäcker ojämlikhet och verka fler en atmosfär som uppmuntrar öppen diskussion om lika villkor. Detta handlar inte bara om att stävja flagrant diskriminering utan också och kanske oftare om att blottlägga och skapa insikt om mer subtila, omedvetna fördomar som kan påverka vårt agerande. Jag ser Prideparaden som en manifestation för mänsklig mångfald, tolerans, frihet och inkludering. Dessa värden är hörnstenar i alla öppna, demokratiska samhällen. Det kommer an på alla och envar av oss att respektera och försvara dessa värden. Det är detta morgondagens händelse handlar om.



Back in Stockholm it is time to reflect on three busy days in Almedalen. Karolinska Institutet has less presence in Almedalen, with regard to own initiatives but also as regards management presence, than several of the other large universities. There might be reasons for this but that is something that I think we should discuss for the next year. Below, I touch on some of the events that I took part in.

KI event ”Skärmspel och rollspel – så kan forskning bidra till förbättrad psykisk hälsa bland barn och unga”.

Mental illness among children and young people in Sweden have increased over a longer period of time. What can we do to help children and young people? What does research say and what can we as a university do? This is a real societal challenge and what can be more important than the health of our children? The topic is not so often discussed and we can raise the awareness and invite to discussions on the topic, and that was what we did in Almedalen. We can also show good examples of how researchers at KI can contribute and that was also what we did in Almedalen. As a university we do not only have a responsibility to spread knowledge but also to listen to the society and its challenges

Magnus Jägerskog, General Secretary for Bris, The Children’s rights in Society, set the stage starting with their latest report. There is no simple explanation why mental illness have increased, but it is important to invest in research and to make results available. Professor Danuta Wasserman presented her work how suicide attempts among the young can be prevented by education and role playing. Professor Emily Holmes presented how the screen game Tetris can be used to prevent unpleasant memories after traumatic events.

From the following panel discussion it was clear that collaboration between many actors are needed including the health care system, voluntary organizations such as Bris, universities and politicians. We also have to acknowledge the long term perspective of research and implementation in repeated cycles of testing, evaluating and then taking the next steps based on this.

 

How well prepared are nurses for their profession?

The “Västra Götaland” region had organized a panel discussion on the theme “How well prepared are nurses for their profession? Newly trained nurses often lack certain practical skills in the profession while the theoretical academic skills are good. The question is what should be done about it?”

I stressed the importance of a solid theoretical foundation in nursing, as a distinct scientific discipline. We should focus on making the practical parts better and more efficient. It is important that the students really get chances to practice their skills, and this requires time as well as trained and experienced supervisors. This is a shared responsibility for higher education authorities and universities along with the health care system. At the same time, everyone will at some point be new at the job and the employer must provide a good and effective introduction. I also noted in the debate that there seems to be a consensus that the theoretical knowledge is important, not the least when the health care system is becoming more and more complex, but that the practical elements need to be developed. To get all our students to complete their education and that nurses remain committed to their profession is of great importance to KI and the society.

How does a university welcome everyone?

Academic Housing had arranged a breakfast discussion about broadened recruitment. How does a university welcome everyone? This is of course a key issue for our society and what can we as a university do and how can Academic Housing provide arenas to facilitate this? I think one important aspect is visibility, going out into the schools to show that university students, teachers, professors and university management are no strangers. We should also open arenas at the universities where we can invite young people to present what a university is and what it can provide for them. The Campus at Flemingsberg was brought up as an example where much can be done to improve integration between the Campus and the surrounding areas. There is hope that the Gymnasium that is planned for the Neo building (that also includes KI activities) might broaden recruitment and also provide an interaction for these students with higher education.

After Macchiarini; About courage and possibilities

Finally, I took part in a panel discussion together with Melvin Samsom and Ann-Marie Wennberg, hospital directors for Karolinska and Sahlgrenska, respectively.

There is a general agreement that we need rules and regulation to support clinical research. We need to further develop an open culture and provide leadership that supports individuals to do clinical research of high quality. Much has been achieved in this aspect as compared to the last time this topic was discussed in Almedalen but there is more to do!


Swedish Vice-Chancellors gathered in Brussels

Tuesday and Wednesday this week the head of our Grants Office, Björn Kull and myself, joined vice-chancellors, pro-vice-chancellors and heads of grants offices (or equivalent) from the 12 largest research universities in Sweden (or in other words what i usually known as Huvudmannarådet) to Brussels. We met with representatives from the Permanent Representation of Sweden to the European Union in Brussels, from the Vinnova and Swedish Research Councils common office, as well as with representatives from the European Commission and Swedish politicians.

 

Discussing impact

A recurrent and important theme is that the ERC programme is a success! Another theme was that the conclusions from the midterm review of the 8th frame work programme, Horizon 2020, is in general positive, the programme is more straightforward than previous frame work programmes. The three pillars and the societal challenges are still highly relevant but the question of how relevance and impact can be improved was brought up.

We discussed FP9 which is now being developed and which will be effective 2021-2027. We should build on the strengths of H2020 and develop it further. Among issues and ideas that were brought up were: How do we demonstrate final impact? Open innovation, open science and open to the world. Co-creation and co-design. Innovation is broad and include for example social innovation, regulatory innovation and educational innovation. Cities could be learning urban labs just like patients provide real world data.

How to increase our share of EU funding?

On Tuesday evening we were generously invited to a dinner hosted by the Ambassador for the Representation of Sweden to the EU, Lars Danielsson. During the dinner he delivered a most interesting resume of EU politics, what is happening now and some scenarios for the coming years. How will Brexit effect the European education and research landscape? One important message was that it is really a two-step process. The conditions of the separation have to be settled before we can build a future relationship under new terms.

Lars Danielsson speaking at dinner for Vice-Chancellors et al.

Ambassador Lars Danielsson speaking on current EU issues.

As part of a university management I think it is very important to understand and relate to the European arena primarily of course to the developments in regards to research and education politics but our sector is not isolated from other sectors.

We have discussed how to increase the KI share of EU funding and how we should increase the number of projects coordinated by KI. Together we can work towards making FP9 relevant and attractive for KI scientists and provide good support functions.

 


Alexander von Gabain has brought a global perspective and laid a solid foundation for KI’s innovation and commercial outreach

Alexander von Gabain’s contract as deputy vice-chancellor for Innovation and Commercial Outreach is soon coming to an end and last week a very pleasant reception in our wonderful “Gammelgården”, gave us a chance to honor his achievements. Alex is a true global player in a world where education, research and innovation are increasingly conducted on the global arena. Three years ago Alex arrived from the international life science arena and an exceptional career in life science and innovation to bring knowledge and experience into the KI innovation system. The last three years have seen increased coordination within the KI innovation system facilitating access for researchers and teachers. A much needed systematic information and communication campaign was rolled out and an innovation council that brought together key stake holders was established. A number of important collaborations have been established under Alex leadership.

Last year Alex was named the coordinator of the year. Very relevant for a person who brings the message of the entrepreneurial ecosystem at the KI, Stockholm-Uppsala, Swedish, European and global level.

Innovation and commercial outreach, important responsibilities for Karolinska Institutet

The government and the society has clear expectations on the sector to bring our results into innovation for the benefit of individuals and society. However, innovation and commercial outreach are not without challenges for our sector. In general innovation, including in life sciences, takes a long time, the incubator and science park landscape is fragmented and undercapitalized calling for improved coordination. Here KI, by virtue of our size, needs to take a significant responsibility for innovation within life sciences. Collaborations with large pharma, med tech and biotech companies are important as a way to translate research finding into innovation but not least to get academic scientists access to competence, experience, methodology and techniques available within the commercial sector.

That we are successful in innovation and commercial outreach is also important for the vision of the Stockholm-Uppsala region as a world leading life science cluster.

KI’s education and research activities in the future health care landscape; Next step starts with an creative, constructive and forward looking retreat

The future health care landscape in Stockholm is not without challenges for a KI’s education and research. I have commissioned the Board of Higher Education to analyze the consequences for KI’s education with focus on the new content of the Karolinska University Hospital in Solna. I have also commissioned the heads of our clinical departments to analyze the consequences for the education and research that is within their respective responsibility. At a retreat last week these reports were discussed among head of clinical departments, KI members of the Karolinska R&D committee, additional members of the boards,  the pro vice-chancellor and additional key individuals. I joined the retreat for the late afternoon and evening and I was very happy listening to the creative, constructive and forward looking discussions.  Critical issues identified include expansion of the Academic Specialist Center, the content of the local emergency ward at KI, maintained structures for interprofessional training and expansion of diagnosis at KI Solna. The work will now continue in smaller work groups which will shortly be appointed and given defined tasks that include to address concrete actions that is proposed to secure KI’s education and research in the future health care landscape.

News article on Alex at the staff portal.

 


This week I am in China together with a delegation headed by the Swedish Minister for Higher Education and Research, Helene Hellmark Knutsson. It is very satisfying to experience how strong the Karolinska Institutet brand is in China.

Collaboration
Mobility and collaboration has been two coherent themes at many of the meetings. A lot of Chinese students go abroad for bachelor, masters and PhD studies for instance at KI. However, there are still not many foreign students in China. The language has been a barrier but is improving quickly. Short summer courses might be an attractive complementary opportunity. There is already plenty of collaborative projects between scientists in China and Sweden, not least KI. However, some funding is usually important to get a good idea for a collaboration to develop into a true collaboration.

Scholarship support
The delegation has met with the Chinese Minister of Education, Chen Baosheng and Wan Gang, Minister for Science andTtechnology. It is important to bring up at the ministry of education that we very much value the scholarships from the Chinese Scholarship Council to support PhD studies. However, it would be important that the level of funding is similar to a PhD position at KI. At the Ministry of Science and Technology, I brought up the wish that calls for collaborative projects is expanded to include life sciences.

Digitalization

We had an interesting visit to CAMS (Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences) with which KI already has extensive collaboration in many areas. With the demographic changes seen in both countries aging research was clearly identified as an area of high priority for both countries. Here KI can really contribute. Of particular interest was the visit to the associated hospital where digitalization is really explored. At the National Chinese Science Council it was important to emphasize the value of the calls for collaborative projects between China and Sweden and that these calls are maintained in a predictable process with regular calls to facilitate planning for scientists.

Combined MD/PhD degree

We also had a visit Tsinghua University, a comprehensive highly ranked university which is now expanding its activities in life sciences and medicine. They presented an interesting initiative with a combined MD/PhD degree including top universities in the US with an ambition to provide similar initiatives in Europe. Finally at the Chinese-Sweden Health Care Summit, I had the pleasure of presenting Karolinska Institutet and some the important work that our scientists do.
Later today we are off for a one day visit to Shanghai.


This post starts with something I believe is critically important for Swedish Research – Research Infrastructure and how we share the responsibility to secure that Swedish scientists get access to state of the art infrastructure. URFI (universities’ reference group on research infrastructures, originally installed as a reference group for the Swedish Research Council) has in the last few years developed into a very important actor with representatives from the large research universities with mandates to discuss and agree on issues related to research infrastructure. In line with its increasing importance, the group has during the spring been given a formal status by the Vice-Chancellors. KI is represented in the group by the Deputy Dean of Infrastructure, Stefan Eriksson.

Funds from KAW

The financing of MAX IV has been considered a large challenge in the sector. It is thus important that the research universities, via URFI, recently agreed on a model where they contribute 50 MSEK for operational costs 2019-2023 to match the generous funding provided by KAW.  Earlier URFI had agreed on a model to finance the computer infrastructure SNIC . In both cases each universities’ financial contribution is related to (historical) use. Karolinska Institutet is not a large user of MAX IV or SNIC, and thus our financial contribution is modest, yet these infrastructures do provide important opportunities for some KI researchers with potential for a broader use in the future.

Meeting vice-chancellors in Hamburg

At the end of last week I attended the Hamburg Transnational University Leaders Council. About fifty vice-chancellors from research universities around the world were invited to discuss ”Differentiation in the post-secondary sector: A response to massification, competition, and the emergence of the global knowledge economy”. I presented in the session “Measuring quality, effectiveness and relevance in a differentiated system – How do universities know that they are performing well? How can they promote excellence in research and teaching based on their institutional mission and purpose?” One conclusion was that university rankings do not support differentiation. Do students select university based on ranking or much more practical aspects? In another session we discussed the meaning of academic freedom…… and the importance of academic responsibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Last week, we had the yearly dialogue with the Ministry for Higher Education. Among many important topics, the Vice-chancellor has the opportunity to present the success factors and challenges of the university. As the most important success factor I highlighted that KI is needed! We perform research in areas with large national and global societal challenges. We educate students for sectors where there is a large need for competent employees and we have a unique role in the Swedish Life Science landscape as an internationally leading medical university. A related success factor is that we are part of a Life Science Cluster with world leading ambitions.

Moving on into the future

My message to the ministry is, use KI to educate students, to solve important research questions, as experts within our areas of expertise and to promote the life science cluster! A final but equally important success factor is that I believe that there is strong support in our organization to move on into the future, with important new insights and experiences, and to build future success on high quality throughout our operations. My message to the ministry is that they can assist us by providing a (regulatory) framework that supports high quality in education and research.

Expansion

For the challenges, I discussed the future health care landscape in Stockholm, KI’s infrastructural journey and our organization. Challenges that I have discussed on my blog before and the Chairman Mikael Odenberg have also highlighted this on his blog. One important topic that was discussed is the expansion of higher education that was initiated in 2015-2106. KI was tasked to increase nursing education, specialist nursing education and the education of midwives.

Limitations

Our expansion has been limited by lack of clinical placements, something that is unfortunately to a large extent is out of our own hands. To solve this, we have to work in collaboration with the Stockholm County Council. We have a mutual interest in finding good solutions, our present students are their future employees. Another important challenge is to decrease the drop out from the study programme in nursing. We need to make sure more students complete their studies.

Coherent knowledge environments

Under the topic “Connection between research and education”, we were asked to provide examples of coherent knowledge environments. I believe that the Academic Specialist Centra that we now see developing is one example of such a coherent knowledge environment. Starting up in areas of rheumatology, neurology and diabetes we really hope that this will be a success concept soon adding other diagnosis.

Graduation Ceremonies

The final part of an education at KI is the degree ceremonies. My great thanks to everyone involved in making these happy and memorable events, the unit for academic ceremonies, the ushers, the technical staff and of course not least our new colleagues that used to be our students.


Last week I was invited to the Centre for Translational Microbiome Research (CTMR) to present KI as part of a visit Ferring Pharmaceuticals to the centre. It was very interesting meeting the representatives from Ferring, visit the center and hear about all what they are achieving in this new research field which is a very concrete example of how new technology, in this case high throughput sequencing, opens up new scientific avenues. During the visit to the labs we got a mixture of new and old. We were presented with a very impressive film about CTMR activities, we some CTMR activities were presented in the form of more old fashioned posters (still very informative) and we learnt that technology cannot replace all, microbes are still grown on substrates in petri dishes! CTMR started in January 2016 as a collaboration between KI, SciLifeLab and Ferring Pharmaceuticals and it is very impressive what they have achieved in this short time.