I was very proud to kick off this morning’s seminar Global and Local Health – Legacy of Hans Rosling to share my views on the work of this outstanding scientist, teacher and communicator.

Hans Rosling.

I would like to start on a personal note.

Hans was the one who brought me into the realm of global health and who directed my attention to the stark and unacceptable health inequities in present day society. His work and thoughts provided much of the foundation of The Lancet-UiO commission on Global Governance for Health. This commission – which I led – was asked to identify the political determinants of health and to come up with suggestions for changes.

Now to Hans Rosling’s impact on the world at large.

Hans changed the way we think about the world and its development. He had this almost uncanny ability to inspire – not by glossing over inconvenient truths and sad facts – but by bringing them to the fore. I think that his optimism derived from his unwavering belief in the supremacy of truth and facts – in his belief that facts are inherently persuasive and will force decision makers to act, and to act wisely. Perhaps not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but eventually.

Groundbreaking lectures

By carefully unveiling the mechanisms of human and societal development – and by looking forward with optimism and an inquisitive mind – Hans was immensely popular among students. In 2012 I invited him to the University of Oslo to give the first lecture in a series on “The Global Citizen”.  His lecture was entitled “A fact based world view”. The queue of students wanting to attend extended several hundred meters across campus. All of a sudden our largest auditorium became too small.

Hans gave lectures that were groundbreaking in their ability to disseminate new knowledge and to question prevailing concepts. Hans was serial myth killer, no less.

Hans earned his PhD in 1986 and in 1990 was made associate professor of internal medicine at Uppsala University. He then taught courses about healthcare in developing countries until 1996, when he was made senior lecturer of international health at Karolinska Institutet. Rosling became professor of international health at KI three years later.

Hans was also one of the founders of the Swedish branch of Doctors Without Borders, and was voted into the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 2012.

When the US Magazine Foreign Policy listed the 100 thinkers whose ideas had shaped the world in 2009 – Rosling was number 96, and in 2012 he was included in Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

He gave hope for the future

In recent years Hans was a much sought-after speaker. He lectured at the World Economic Forum but also for new students at KI. And the students came first, just as he came first for the students.

But it is not his merits that he will be remembered for. First and foremost he gave hope for the future. Hans spoke about an interconnected world, a world where our destinies are intertwined. He described a global society that faces challenges that we never have seen before – in terms of demography, resource distribution, energy and climate. However, with facts and passion, he convinced us that there is progress in the world, after all.

Hans inspired us to reflect upon health in the broadest possible sense – how health relates to poverty, climate change, human rights, religious dialogue and governance. His message was that we are global citizens and that not everybody shoulders the responsibility that comes with it.

Hans’ sphere of influence extended globally. Together with his son and daughter-in-law he founded the Gapminder Foundation in order to promote global development through the greater use and understanding of social, economic and environmental statistics. When Hans spoke, the world listened. Statistics became alive and its message became compelling. Complex relationships between population growth, economy, and health suddenly became easy to understand when he spoke. When we left the auditorium we felt that we had a better understanding of the world. In fact, we – and I was certainly among this we – could easily feel ashamed when we realized that our perceptions about the world were not well founded on statistics and evidence.

This is exactly what an excellent lecturer should do: Identify embarrassing voids in our knowledge and world view and help fill in the facts we need.

A real humanist and altruist

Sweden’s and the world’s most famous professor of international health, Hans Rosling, lived a life under the shadow of his own serious disease. This did not stop him from working relentlessly toward his goal of improving health and the living conditions of humankind – a goal that resonates perfectly with the overall vision of KI.

Hans moved on the global scene with statistics and large numbers, but he did so with deep respect for the individual. He was a real humanist and altruist. I think he would give his full support to this quote by Martin Luther King: “Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman”.

Karolinska Institutet is now in the process of drawing up a new strategy plan. In our new strategy we will look far ahead, all the way to 2030. 2030 is also the time horizon of UN’s sustainability development goals. This is no coincidence, of course. By looking ahead to 2030 we will remind ourselves that KI’s vision – to contribute significantly to the improvement of human health – should be seen in the context of the world at large and with due attention to the wellbeing of future generations.

In short: KI must be more visible on the scene of global health and more attuned to the sustainability development goals. Our mission must be to work for better health, sustainable development, and a fair and tolerant society – in Stockholm, in Sweden, in the Nordic region, and in the world at large. By setting up these ambitions – and by realizing them – we are truly honoring the legacy of Hans Rosling.


In English below.

KI-ledningens institutionsbesök fortsatte förra veckan och ger värdefulla inspel till vårt arbete med Strategi 2030. Vid samtliga besök framkommer många både gemensamma och helt olika utmaningar för framtiden, som jag kommer att få anledning att återkomma till. Det är också fantastiskt inspirerande att möta alla medarbetare, se gärna en film från några av våra institutionsbesök.

Efter besöken på institutionen för laboratoriemedicin och Institutet för miljömedicin har vi nu även besökt institutionerna för folkhälsovetenskap, medicinsk biokemi och biofysik, klinisk neurovetenskap, medicinsk epidemiologi och biostatistik och fysiologi och farmakologi.

Forskargruppernas villkor och möjligheter står förstås i centrum för våra diskussioner på institutionerna, desto viktigare blir det att också lyfta engagemanget för utbildningen. Karolinska Institutet är inte bara ett forskningsinstitut utan ett fullvärdigt universitet där utbildning och forskning ska gynna varandra och samverka. I mötet med studenterna på olika kurser och program framträder ett brett engagemang. Läs mer om mitt möte med studenterna på institutionen för folkhälsovetenskap.

Träff med professorskollegiet

Något som redan är tydligt för mig är Karolinska Institutets behov av en mer långsiktig finansiering. Det blir uppenbart i mötet med forskarna, och det blev ett av diskussionsämnena även för torsdagens professorskollegium. Kollegiet träffas två gånger varje termin och alla KI:s professorer samt professorer emeriti bjuds in.

Diskussionen kom att handla om prioritering, organisation och finansiering där vi behöver säkerställa vår akademiska frihet ur ett långsiktigt perspektiv. I dag är vårt universitet beroende av extern och ofta kortsiktig finansiering vilket sätter den akademiska friheten under press.

Långsiktig strategi

Därför ska den nya strategin ha en tidshorisont som sträcker sig ända fram till 2030. Ett sådant långsiktigt perspektiv kräver av oss att vi tänker kreativt och nytt. Och ett långt tidsperspektiv kommer att rikta uppmärksamheten mot de yngre forskarnas karriärvägar och understryka betydelsen av forskarutbildningen och grundutbildningen. Att 2030 också är tidshorisonten för Förenta Nationernas ”Sustainable Development Goals” kommer att inspirera oss när vi tar oss an de globala utmaningarna.

Visiting CNS, institutionen för klinisk neurovetenskap.

Håkan Westerblad, FyFa, institutionen för fysiologi och farmakologi.

In English.

Long-term planning essential to academic freedom

Over the past week, KI’s management has continued its round of departmental visits, obtaining valuable input into our work on Strategy 2030. Each visit reveals many challenges to be addressed in the future, some common to all departments and others entirely unique, which I shall have reason to return to. It is also wonderfully inspiring to meet so many colleagues, so please take a moment to view a video on some of our departmental visits (above).

Following on from our visits to the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Institute of Environmental Medicine, we have now visited the Departments of Public Health Sciences, Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Clinical Neuroscience, Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Physiology and Pharmacology.

While the conditions and opportunities for research groups are of course central to our discussions with departments, it is increasingly important to highlight our commitment to education. Karolinska Institutet is not only a research institute but also a fully functioning university in which education and research must complement and benefit one another. In meetings with students on a range of courses and programmes, their broad engagement stands out. Learn more about my meetings with students at the Department of Public Health Sciences.

Meeting with the Professors’ Collegium

Something that has already become abundantly clear to me is Karolinska Institutet’s need for more long-term funding. This is obvious in meetings with researchers and was one of the topics for discussion at Thursday’s Professors’ Collegium. The Collegium meets twice each term and all KI professors and professors emeritus are invited to attend.
Our discussions covered prioritisation, organisation and financing in the interests of ensuring our academic freedom from a long-term perspective. Today, our university is dependent on external,often short-term, financing – something that places undue pressure on academic freedom.

Long-term strategy

This is why our new strategy will have a time horizon extending all the way to 2030. The implementation of such a long-term strategy will make demands on our creativity and innovation. A long-term perspective will also draw attention to the career paths of our younger researchers and underline the importance of postdoctoral and undergraduate education. That 2030 is also the time horizon for the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals will only serve to inspire us as we take on these global challenges.

In English below.

Det finns ett behov av att ställa sig frågan: vem har ansvar för att förverkliga de ambitiösa globala hållbarhetsmål som Förenta Nationerna slår fast i 2030 års agenda? Jag talar om FN:s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG:s).

Min övertygelse är att vi alla har ett ansvar. Därför gladde det mig särskilt att dagens institutionsbesök som gick till Institutet för miljömedicin, IMM, kom att handla bland annat om hållbarhetsmålen. Prefekten, professor Ulla Stenius, slog genast fast: ”Vi bör fokusera på prevention, vi kan inte vänta på att folk blir sjuka”. Hon syftade särskilt på det tredje hållbarhetsmålet, att säkerställa hälsosamma liv och främja välbefinnande för alla i alla åldrar.

Studenterna, morgondagens ledare

Universitetens engagemang för att se till att resan mot hållbar utveckling blir framgångsrik, är precis vad som krävs. Under besöket på IMM presenterades forskning som handlar om hur miljö och levnadsvanor påverkar människans hälsa – riskbedömning och prevention inom forskningsområden som exempelvis luftkvalitet och buller, arbetsmiljö, astma och allergi, och nanotoxikologi.

Vad som är lika viktigt är utbildningen, och IMM tar ett stort ansvar. Här utbildas studenter på grund-, avancerad och forskarnivå inom epidemiologi, miljömedicin och toxikologi. Utbildning är grogrunden för kommande generationer, morgondagens ledare. Vi ska stärka kvaliteten i utbildningen och incitamenten för alla våra lärare och utbildningsledare, och det kräver av oss att vi tänker nytt. Vi måste kunna attrahera och rekrytera studenter från hela världen.

Jämställdhet bör avspeglas bland professorerna

Det var även glädjande att träffa så många av IMM:s yngre forskare, de flesta kvinnor, och höra om deras projekt. Låt oss i det kommande arbetet Strategi 2030 med kraft skapa förutsättningar för tydliga karriärvägar för juniora forskare. Vi måste hålla fast vid jämställdhetsmålet så att en rättvis balans mellan kvinnor och män blir tydlig också bland våra framtida professorer.


Jag vill här ta tillfället i akt att framföra mina varmaste gratulationer till årets tre Nobelpristagare i fysiologi eller medicin. I dag beslutade Nobelförsamlingen vid Karolinska Institutet att priset ska delas lika mellan Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash och Michael W. Young för deras upptäckter av molekylära mekanismer som styr cirkadisk rytm. Jag ser fram emot Nobelföreläsningarna i december.

Läs mer om Nobelpristagarna i fysiologi eller medicin.

In English.

We all have a responsibility for the sustainability goals

We need to ask ourselves the question: who is responsible for realising the ambitious global sustainability goals that the United Nations has set in its 2030 Agenda? I am referring to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

I am convinced that we all have a responsibility. I was therefore particularly happy that my department visit today, which took me to the Institute of Environmental Medicine (IMM), among other things took up the topic of the sustainability goals. Professor Ulla Stenius, who heads the institute, stated immediately that “We should focus on prevention, we can’t wait until people fall ill”. She was referring in particular to the third sustainability goal of ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all people of all ages.

The students, tomorrow’s leaders

The universities’ commitment to ensuring that the journey towards sustainable development is successful is exactly what is needed. During my visit to IMM I was shown research that looks at how environment and living habits affect people’s health – risk assessment and prevention in fields of research such as air quality and noise, work environment, asthma and allergies, and nanotoxicology.

What is equally important is education and IMM takes great responsibility. Here students are educated at foundation, advanced and post-graduate level in epidemiology, environmental medicine and toxicology. Education is the foundation for future generations, tomorrow’s leaders. We are going to strengthen the quality of our education and the incentives for all our teachers and programme and course directors and this requires that we think in new ways. We must be able to attract and recruit students from all around the world.

Equality should be reflected among our professors

It was also gratifying to meet so many of IMM’s younger researchers, most of them women, and hear about their projects. Let us in our coming work on Strategy 2030 put energy into creating prerequisites for clearly defined career paths for junior researchers. We need to uphold our equality target so that we achieve a fair and distinct balance also among our future professors.


I would here like to take the opportunity to express my warmest congratulations to this year’s three Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine. Today the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet decided to award the prize to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young for their discovery of molecular mechanisms that control circadian rhythm. I am looking forward to the Nobel lectures in December.

Read more about this year’s Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine.

In English below.

Tillsammans med Karolinska Institutets ledning, prorektor och universitetsdirektör, har jag nu påbörjat turnén som ska gå till samtliga institutioner.
Fredagens besök, det allra första, gick till institutionen för laboratoriemedicin, Labmed, på campus Flemingsberg. Här tonade bilden fram av engagerade lärare och forskare som hela tiden arbetar nära kliniken, ofta med kombinationstjänster på KI och Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset.

Medarbetarna på Labmed först ut i institutionsturnén. Foto: Ulf Sirborn

Här byggs framtidens laboratorium

I samarbetsytorna mellan oss finns alla möjligheter för translationsforskningen, med närheten till patienterna i både utbildning och forskning. Här har vi också utmaningar: bland annat att skapa bättre struktur för att universitetets och sjukhussidans samarbete ska fungera optimalt.

På vårt campus Flemingsberg ser vi fantastisk infrastruktur växa fram. Framtidens laboratorium inkluderar ombyggnationer av Alfred Nobels Allé 8 (ANA8) och nya forskningshuset Neo. Miljöerna ska stimulera till kreativa möten och anpassas till verksamheternas utveckling. Det skapar helt nya möjligheter för forskning och utbildning i samverkan med vården – en laborativ lärandemiljö, samutnyttjande av avancerad utrustning för forskargrupper och ny behandling för patienterna.

Lärandets utveckling fråga för strategin

Tillsammans med KI-medarbetarna på Labmed diskuterade vi många fler utmaningar att arbeta med framöver. Inte minst för utbildningen där våra utbildningsledare lägger ner stort arbete för att förbättra och utveckla lärandet, till gagn för våra kurser och program, för studenterna och hälso- och sjukvården. Men många gånger saknas den incitamentsstruktur som belönar utbildningsledare för deras ansträngningar. Studenter förtjänar en evidensbaserad utbildning och de allra bästa forskarna och lärarna som utbildar dem. Lärarna behöver därför karriärvägar som är framkomliga. Utveckling av medicinsk pedagogik, av lärande och digitalisering blir viktiga komponenter i arbetet med vår nästa strategi – Strategi 2030.

Jag ser fram emot de kommande 21 institutionsbesöken för fler tankar och inspel som kan föra Karolinska Institutet framåt.

In English.

The visits give us valuable input to Strategy 2030

Together with Karolinska Institutet’s management team, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor and the University Director, I have now begun a tour of the university that will take in all departments.
Friday’s visit, the very first, was to the Department of Laboratory Medicine (Labmed) on the Flemingsberg campus. Here I got a picture of committed teachers and researchers who work in close proximity to the clinic at all times, often combining duties at KI and Karolinska University Hospital.

Maric Björklund och Elin Sundqvist at Labmed, first department to be visited on the Vice-Chancellor’s tour. Photo: Ulf Sirborn

The laboratory of the future takes shape

In the collaboration interfaces between us there are endless opportunities for translational research with proximity to patients in both education and research. Here we also face challenges, among other things to create a better structure for the collaboration between the university and the hospital to function optimally.

On our Flemingsberg campus we can see a fantastic infrastructure taking shape. The laboratory of the future includes conversions of Alfred Nobels Allé 8 (ANA8) and the new Neo research building. The environments are intended to stimulate creative encounters and will be adapted to the development of the activities housed there. Entirely new opportunities are being created for research and education in interaction with healthcare – a laborative learning environment, co-utilisation of advanced equipment for research groups and new treatments for the patients.

Development of learning a question for the strategy

Together with the KI people at Labmed we discussed many more issues to tackle in the near future. Not least as regards education, where our education managers work hard to improve and develop learning, to the benefit of our courses and programmes, of the students and of health and medical care. But the structure of incentives that rewards education managers for their efforts is often lacking. Students deserve evidence-based education and the very best researchers and teachers to educate them. The teachers therefore need career paths that are accessible. Development of medical education methods, of learning and of digitisation are important components in our work on our next strategy – Strategy 2030.

I am looking forward to the coming 21 department visits to get more ideas and input that can carry Karolinska Institutet forward.

In English below.

I dag deltog jag vid nyckelöverlämningen till den nya forskningsbyggnaden Bioclinicum i Solna. Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset och Stockholms läns landsting fick ta emot nyckeln till den nya forskningsbyggnaden för att förbereda sig för öppningen i januari 2018.

Linda Lindskog, Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset och Stanley Holsteiner, Nya Karolinska Solna-projektet med nyckeln till Bioclinicum. Foto: Carin Tellström

Här skapas nu ett forsknings- och utbildningskluster mellan Karolinska Institutet och Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset, där cirka 100 forskningsgrupper kommer att arbeta under samma tak. Här får vi den närhet mellan forskningen och patienterna som är helt avgörande för ny behandling, diagnos och prevention.

Grundforskning och klinisk forskning binds samman

En fysisk bro kommer att binda samman Bioclinicum med forskningslaboratoriet Biomedicum där grundforskning kommer att bedrivas på Karolinska Institutets sida av Solnavägen. Bron blir också symbolisk för samverkan och för en infrastruktur i världsklass. Den kliniska forskningen hävdar sig redan mycket väl på Karolinska Institutet och kommer nu att kunna förstärkas ytterligare inom ett antal områden. Ett kliniskt träningscenter, KTC, ger personalen träning i simulerade vårdmiljöer med den senaste teknik- och kommunikationsutrustningen.

Tjäna patienterna på etisk grund

Det som vi måste vara observanta på är att patientflödena på sjukhuset verkligen kopplas till forskningen och utbildningen. Utan denna närhet, som är förutsättningen för den translationella forskningen, kan vi inte få den interaktion mellan forskning, utbildning och vård som till sist ska komma patienterna till del.

Bioclinicum erbjuder enorma möjligheter för translationsforskningen. Vårt uppdrag blir att använda de nya teknologierna för genombrott inom medicinsk behandling, men inte utan att diskutera de etiska frågeställningar som detta medför. När avancerad teknologi ska möta och tjäna patienterna och samhället är det viktigt att ständigt reflektera över vår värdegrund. Då kan vi lyfta svensk livsvetenskap och hälsoforskning till nya höjder.

Maria Ankarcrona, universitetslektor och forskare vid KI stod för en av presentationerna vid nyckelöverlämningen. Foto: Carin Tellström

Ole Petter Ottersen vid måndagens nyckelöverlämning. Foto: Carin Tellström

In English:

The key to success presupposes proximity to the patients

Today I participated at the handing over of the keys to the new research building Bioclinicum i Solna. Karolinska University Hospital and Stockholm County Council received the keys to the research building to prepare for its opening in January 2018.

A new research and education cluster between Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital is being created here, where about 100 research groups will work under the same roof. This will give us the proximity between the research and the patients that is absolutely crucial for new treatment, diagnosis and prevention.

Basic research and clinical research are tied together

A physical bridge will link Bioclinicum with the Biomedicum research laboratory, where basic research will be carried on on Karolinska Institutet’s side of Solnavägen. The bridge will also be symbolic of interaction and of a world-class infrastructure. Clinical research already holds a very strong position at Karolinska Institutet and will now be able to be further strengthened in a number of areas. A clinical training centre, KTC, gives the staff training in simulated care environments with state-of-the-art technical and communication equipment.

Serves the patients on an ethical basis

What we have to keep an eye on is that the patient flows at the hospital are actually linked to the research and the education. Without this proximity, which is the prerequisite for the translational research, we cannot achieve the interaction between research, education and care that will ultimately benefit the patients.

Bioclinicum offers enormous opportunities for translational research. Our task will be to use the new technologies for breakthroughs in medical treatment, but not without discussing the ethical issues that this entails. When advanced technology is to meet and serve the patients and society, it is important to constantly bear our fundamental values in mind. Then we will be able to raise Swedish life science and health research to new heights.

In English below.

Som ny rektor vid Karolinska Institutet är en av mina viktigaste uppgifter att säkerställa att det finns både arbetsglädje och en god arbetskultur i vår organisation. Ett bra verktyg för att kunna göra det är den medarbetarundersökning som vi ber våra medarbetare att svara på under hösten. Startskottet gick den 20 september då undersökningen skickades ut, med frågor om arbetsklimat och ledarskap, och med frågor om medarbetarnas uppfattning om organisationen och visioner och mål för vårt universitet.

Karolinska Institutet har allt att vinna på att ständigt arbeta med och följa upp arbetsmiljöfrågorna. Den senaste medarbetarundersökningen gjordes 2014 och gav ett viktigt underlag till hur medarbetarna upplever såväl arbetsglädje som diskriminering och mobbning. Tre år är en lång tid och jag ser fram emot svaren i årets undersökning.

Kvalitet och trivsel hänger ihop

Det centrala är att KI ska kännetecknas av högsta kvalitet i alla delar av verksamheten. Engagemang och trivsel är avgörande för det – möjlighet till egenkontroll och självständighet i arbetet, ett ledarskap som uppmuntrar och inspirerar, och ett öppet klimat som välkomnar diskussion och utbyte av erfarenheter.

Det här är självklart en utmaning för akademin där medarbetare konkurrerar om finansiering och tjänster. Det är en utmaning också därför att trycket har blivit större från statsmakterna och samhället i stort på nya resultat och lösningar på kort sikt. Ett gott akademiskt ledarskap och en etisk medvetenhet som genomsyrar organisationen behövs som fast grund.

Resultatet viktigt för Strategi 2030

Resultatet från medarbetarundersökningen tar vi med oss i arbetet med Strategi 2030 där vi kommer att lägga särskilt stor vikt vid ett hållbart ledarskap. Därför hoppas jag att så många medarbetare som möjligt svarar på medarbetarundersökningen 2017.

In English:

I am looking forward to the results of our employee survey

As new vice-chancellor of Karolinska Institutet one of my most important tasks is to ensure that people in our organisation enjoy working here and that we have a sound work culture. An excellent tool for this is the employee survey that we ask our employees to fill in this autumn. This year’s survey began on 20 September when the questionnaire was sent out, containing questions about work climate and leadership and how our employees perceive the organisation and our university’s visions and goals.

Important basis for work environment matters

Karolinska Institutet has everything to gain from constantly working with and following up matters on the work environment. The most recent survey in 2014 provided important information about job satisfaction, health and about discrimination and bullying. Three years is a long time and I am looking forward to the results of this year’s survey.

The main objective is that KI should be characterised by the highest quality in everything we do. Commitment and enjoyment are crucial – possibilities for self-checking and independence in one’s work, leaders who encourage and inspire, and an open climate that welcomes discussion and exchange of experiences.

A challenge at a university

It goes without saying that this is a challenge in an academic surrounding where people compete for funding and appointments. It is also a challenge because of the increased pressure from the State and society at large to produce new results and solutions in the short term. A good academic leadership and ethical awareness that permeates the organisation are needed as a firm foundation.

We will take the results from the employee survey with us in our work on Strategy 2030. A sustainable academic leadership is particularly of great importance. I therefore hope that as many employees as possible will take part in the 2017 survey.

Last week I had the privilege to attend the symposium “Molecular Life Sciences” in celebration of the centennial of Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (KAW). It all took place in Aula Magna at Stockholm University.

Professor Svante Pääbo in Aula Magna. Photo: Knut och Alice Wallenbergs Stiftelse, Magnus Bergström

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has contributed to world-class research for 100 years. During the course of the day we listened to outstanding researchers from leading universities abroad and from our own universities here in Sweden.

Thanks to the foundation’s commitment over the past century Karolinska Institutet has been able to finance research centres, research projects and not least equipment for medical studies. Much of the funding has gone to life science. During the past few years alone, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has invested approximately 2.5 billion SEK in this field.

Long term and flexible funding

External funding comes in different flavours. In my mind, the KAW foundation has identified a recipe that works and that should stand as a model for others to follow. The funding is long term and flexible, allowing researchers to freely test, develop and pursue their own ideas. Such a recipe is conducive to science breakthroughs, in stark contrast to short term funding that typically and inadvertently fosters incremental research. I also give my strong support to the Foundation’s uncompromising and unwavering attention to quality, engendered by a rigorous review process, input from an expert advisory board, and a close dialogue with the host institutions.

Benefits society beyond Swedish borders

In the first session of the symposium we were introduced to the 100 year history of the KAW foundation and learned that the Foundation was established “for the betterment of Sweden”. In hindsight we can safely say that the Foundation has benefitted society far beyond the Swedish borders. Research sponsored by KAW has brought Sweden to the fore. But excellent research also serves the world and the humanity at large.

To keep its leading international position Karolinska Institutet needs to ensure that its career paths are attractive to talented students and young researchers from our own country and abroad. In this perspective the Wallenberg Academy Fellows programme stands out as particularly important. Many of our researchers have been sponsored through this programme and I trust that many more will benefit from it in the years to come.

Fundamental research is required

It is with gratitude and appreciation, and with expectations of continued success, that I congratulate the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation on 100 years of nation building. Seen from the outside – and now from the inside – I realize how important the Foundation has been in bringing Sweden to the international forefront of fundamental research. While new insight has a value in itself, fundamental research is required to meet the enormous challenges that we are facing today, as a region, as a nation, and as a world.

Read more on Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation 100 years

Meet KI researcher Marie Carlén: “Funding from KAW gave the freedom to focus on complex research projects“

“Ledande forskare i livsvetenskap talade i Aula Magna“, symposium den 15 september i firandet av KAW 100 år.

In English below

I rapporten Exit Poll for Doctoral Students 2013–2016 har våra nyexaminerade doktorers uppfattning om forskarutbildningen vid Karolinska Institutet sammanställts. Resultaten i rapporten har jämförts med motsvarande resultat från 2008–2012.

Det är glädjande att se att jämförelsen så tydligt visar en positiv utveckling:

Fler är nöjda med sin forskarutbildning (92 procent 2016 jämfört med 87 procent 2008–2012).

Fler skulle rekommendera sin handledare till blivande doktorander (93 procent 2016 jämfört med 73 procent 2008–2012).

Och fler är nöjda med stödet från institutionens studierektor och administratörer.

Självklart måste vi även ta kritik och missförhållanden som framkommer i rapporten på stort allvar. Det är vårt absoluta ansvar som universitet.

Handledare måste få grönt ljus

Vi ser att 14 procent av doktoranderna i 2016 års Exit poll någon gång under sin forskarutbildning har upplevt någon typ av ojämlik behandling, diskriminering, kränkande särbehandling och/eller trakasserier. Detta är en lägre siffra än tidigare år, och visar att åtgärder som har satts in har gett resultat. Men vi kan inte nöja oss med det. Ojämlikhet, diskriminering och trakasserier är något vi ständigt måste följa upp och motverka. En god akademisk arbetsmiljö är en förutsättning för kvalitet i såväl utbildning som forskning.

Karolinska Institutet tar nu flera steg på vägen mot kvalitetsförbättringar. Styrelsen för forskarutbildning har sedan hösten 2017 infört en ny åtgärd kallad ”grönt ljus”. Syftet med grönt ljus är att säkerställa att det finns förutsättningar för en god forskarutbildning för samtliga doktorander. För att få grönt ljus måste institutionen godkänna att en handledare ska få initiera ett nytt doktorandprojekt och rekrytera en ny doktorand. Institutionen gör en bedömning av huvudhandledarens lämplighet, bland annat tidigare track-record och om det finns tid för handledaren att handleda en ny doktorand. Institutionerna bedömer även om det finns finansiella resurser för att ta emot en doktorand.

Viktig del för Strategi 2030

Efter genomgången forskarutbildning vid Karolinska Institutet ska en doktorand ha en hög kompetens inom medicinsk vetenskap och vetenskaplig metodik, samt vetenskaplig spetskompetens inom det forskningsfält som avhandlingen behandlar.

Vi ser hur viktigt det är att fråga doktoranderna om detta mål har kunnat uppnås. Det ger oss som universitet mycket värdefull information om hur vi ständigt kan utveckla, förbättra och stärka kvaliteten i vår forskarutbildning. Exit Poll ger oss ett kraftfullt verktyg och kommer att vara en viktig del i vårt arbete med Strategi 2030. Till 2030 – och helst ännu tidigare – ska Karolinska Institutet ha en lika stark internationell position för sin grundutbildning och forskarutbildning, som för sin forskning.

In English: 

Our doctoral students’ responses make us better

The results of the Exit Poll for Doctoral Students 2013–2016 survey presents our recently graduated PhDs’ opinion of doctoral education at Karolinska Institutet. The results are compared with the corresponding results from 2008–2012.

It is gratifying to see that the results so clearly show a positive development.

More are satisfied with their doctoral education in 2016 (92 per cent compared to 87 per cent in 2008–2012).

More would recommend their supervisors to doctoral students (93 per cent in 2016 compared to 73 per cent in 2008–2012).

And more are satisfied with their department’s director of doctoral studies and administrators.

It goes without saying that we also have to accept criticism and the shortcomings that come out in the report very seriously. That is our absolute responsibility as a university.

Green light to ensure quality

We see that 14 per cent of the doctoral students in 2016’s Exit Poll have at some time during their doctoral education experienced some kind of unequal treatment, discrimination, bullying and/or harassment. This is a lower figure than in previous years and shows that measures that have been taken have given results. But we cannot be satisfied with that. Inequality, discrimination and harassment are matters that must be constantly followed up and prevented. A good academic environment is a prerequisite for quality in both education and research.

Karolinska Institutet is now taking several steps towards quality improvement. From autumn 2017 the Board of Doctoral Education has introduced a new measure called “green light”, the purpose of which is to ensure that prerequisites exist for good doctoral education for all doctoral students. In order to be given a green light the department must give its approval for a supervisor to initiate a new doctoral student project and recruit a new doctoral student. The department makes an assessment of the main supervisor’s suitability, including his or her track record and whether he or she has time to supervise a doctoral student. The departments also assess whether they have the financial resources to receive a doctoral student.

Important for our Strategy 2030

After completing doctoral education at Karolinska Institutet, a doctoral student shall have high competence in medical science and scientific methods and cutting-edge scientific competence in the field of research that their thesis concerns.

We can see how important it is to ask the doctoral students if this goal has been attained. This gives us as a university a great deal of information about how we can constantly develop, improve and strengthen the quality of our doctoral education. The Exit Poll gives us a powerful tool and will be an important part of our work on Strategy 2030. By 2030 – and preferably even sooner – Karolinska Institutet is to have as strong an international position for its education as for its research.

In English below

Just nu pågår diskussioner om var den europeiska läkemedelsmyndigheten (The European Medicines Agency), EMA, ska placeras efter det brittiska utträdet ur den europeiska unionen. Sveriges regering satsar för att EMA ska flyttas från London till Stockholm med placering i Hagastaden, Stockholm.

Sverige och ytterligare 18 av EU:s 27 medlemsländer har ansökt om värdskapet.

Jag håller med Sveriges regering om att placeringen här i Sverige skulle gynna EMA och de europeiska medborgarnas tillgång till innovativa och säkra läkemedel.

Kraftfält för forskning och innovation

Med den omedelbara närheten till Karolinska Institutet, Science for Life Laboratory och det nya Karolinska universitetssjukhuset ser vi inget mindre än ett kraftfält för forskning och innovation i den här delen av Europa. Science for Life Laboratory samlar forskare från fyra värduniversitet: KTH, Stockholms universitet, Uppsala universitet och Karolinska Institutet och är en nationell resurs.

I vår omgivning etablerar sig och växer små och medelstora företag inom life science.

Det svenska Läkemedelsverket i Uppsala är en av de mest aktiva partnerna till EMA redan i dag och är därmed en värdefull tillgång.

Redan i dag finns också smittskyddsmyndigheten Europeiskt centrum för förebyggande och kontroll av sjukdomar, ECDC, i Stockholm.

Synergieffekter och starkare folkhälsoskydd

Sammantaget är möjligheterna till synergieffekter mycket stora och kan bidra till ett starkare folkhälsoskydd, samtidigt som EU kan spara resurser.

EMA:s uppgift är att utvärdera och övervaka läkemedel. Dess syfte att ge EU:s medborgare snabb tillgång till nya läkemedel med största säkerhet.

Min uppfattning är att den miljö vi har här i regionen, med lång erfarenhet av forskning och utveckling skulle gynna den processen – och ge positiva effekter för Sverige.

För oss som verkar här skulle det innebära att vi får ännu bättre möjligheter att skapa kontakter med andra delar av life science-forskningen i Europa. Därför bidrar vi gärna till ansökan om EMA. Beslut väntas fattas den 20 november av Allmänna rådet, som består av ministrar med ansvar för EU-frågor från alla EU:s medlemsländer.

Den svenska ansökan kan du läsa här.

Sweden is prepared for the EMA

Discussions are currently going on as to where the new European Medicines Agency, EMA, should be located following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. The Swedish government has submitted its official offer to host the EMA. The offer guarantees the smooth relocation of the EMA and its staff from London to Hagastaden, Stockholm.

Sweden and another 18 of the EU’s 27 member states have applied to host the agency.

I agree with the Swedish government that locating the EMA here in Sweden would benefit the EMA and European citizens’ access to innovative and safe medicines.

Force-field for research and innovation

With immediate proximity to Karolinska Institutet, the Science for Life Laboratory and the new Karolinska University Hospital, we see nothing less than a force-field for research and innovation in this part of Europe. The Science for Life Laboratory brings together researchers from four host universities, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University, Uppsala University and Karolinska Institutet, and is a national resource.

Small and medium-size companies in the field of Life Science are being set up and growing in our immediate surroundings.

The Medical Products Agency in Uppsala is one of the EMA’s most active partners already today and is thus a valuable asset.

The Agency for Communicable Disease Control and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) are already today located in Stockholm.

Synergies and stronger public health protection

All in all, there are enormous possibilities for synergies and these can contribute to stronger public health protection, at the same time as the EU can save resources.

The EMA’s task is to evaluate and monitor medicines. Its purpose is to give the EU’s citizens fast access to new drugs with the greatest safety.

It is my belief that the environment we have in the region, with long experience of research and development, would benefit the process – and have positive effects for Sweden.

For us who work here it would mean that we would have better possibilities to create contacts with other areas of Life Science research in Europe. We are therefore very happy to back the government’s EMA application.

A decision is expected to be made on 20 November by the General Council, which consists of ministers with responsibility for EU affairs from all the EU’s member states.

Read Sweden’s application here.



Yesterday KI hosted a symposium on cooperation and collaboration in research and higher education – “Kunskap i samverkan”. This symposium is part of a series of meetings that were initiated by the Ministry of Higher Education and that serve to follow up on the white paper published in November last year.

Ole Petter Ottersen at the KI symposium Kunskap i samverkan. Photo: Erik Cronberg

There is no doubt that society will benefit from a more extensive and seamless interaction between academia and public and private actors. This will require an academic leadership that is attentive to increased expectations yet steadfast and uncompromising when it comes to ethics and academic freedom. My reflections on this issue were just published in Times Higher Education Journal.

Fundamental task of academic leadership

As I see it, the most fundamental task of academic leadership is to safeguard academic freedom, trust and tolerance in the face of increasing outside pressure. We as universities must accept and even welcome increased expectations from the government and the society at large, but at the same time ensure that these expectations are met by nurturing unbridled curiosity and frontier research, rather than by imposing new directives and regulations. When it comes to internal conflicts and crises, good academic leadership implies that these are met by responsibility, transparency and culture building and not by increased bureaucracy and control.

It requires leadership on the part of the universities to ensure that the focus on technology development is matched by research on how new technologies are absorbed and put to good use by the individual and the society at large. History is rife with examples of how progress has been hampered when technologies are introduced in societies that are ill-equipped to handle them. Ethics, and insight from the social sciences and the humanities are required for technologies to successfully drive development and new economies.  Standing alone, new technologies are fragile edifices.

A collegial advisory board

As I see it, academic leadership is inextricably intertwined with collegiality. I have suggested that a collegial advisory board be established at KI, so as to ensure that research and teaching are duly taken into account. This idea appears to be embraced by the KI board although no formal decision has been made as yet.

The increased pressure on the universities and the increased expectations of their performance naturally translate into a demand for innovation and for excellence in research and education. Increased expectations should also encourage the universities to serve as breeding grounds for academic leaders that can cope with the complexity and challenges at hand. As I state in my piece in THE Journal: Universities must rise to the occasion and offer leadership programs that attract and groom those that see a future career at the vibrant interface between academia and the society at large.

It is with this thought in mind that I look forward to KI’s leadership program this fall!