Close on the heels of a hectic and hugely rewarding Nobel week I see a need to reflect on the prerequisites for the groundbreaking research that we have been celebrating over the past few days. Academic freedom – not least – is a conditio sine qua non for scientific progress and societal development.
“Universities are the guardians of two foundational ideas to our societies—liberty and equality”. I could not agree more with the words of Editor-in-chief Professor Richard Horton in The Lancet. Universities must actively stand up for the core values on which our existence is based: academic freedom, institutional autonomy, human rights, equality, liberty, and the never-ending pursuit of knowledge. Moreover, we me must stand up against oppression and support those of our peers and fellow scientists who live and work under unfair and inhumane conditions. In my latest blog post I expressed my continued and unwavering support to scientists and students whose working conditions – or even lives – have been taken away from them by war or authoritarian regimes.
Work begins at home
While we must uphold our global perspective, we must never forget that in our quest to safeguard the values of liberty and equality, work begins at home. The Swedish Equality Ombudsman (DO) recently released a report that highlighted the need for universities to take active measures to prevent discrimination and ensure equal opportunities. Whilst KI did not feature as one of the universities that were part of DO’s review, we are examining the report and taking note of the findings and recommendations.
The quest for liberty and equality ought to permeate everything we do. At KI we constantly strive towards the goal that we set out in our Strategy 2030 – namely that KI “must strive to secure equal conditions and career paths for all employees”. As part of that ongoing work, we have initiated several activities that I would like to mention specifically.
Initiatives and activities at KI
WISE is short for Women in Science and Education and is a KI-wide network for researchers and teachers who identify as women. The network brings women together on career-related issues. During the past year WISE has arrange two types of activities; WISE Pro, which is a series of lunch-time interviews with women professors, who share their experiences and advise, and WISE forum, which is a series of seminars where experts and decision-makers within KI meet to discuss matters that have an impact on the careers of women researchers and teachers. Moreover, WISE also arranges more informal and social activities that allow for the sharing of experiences and knowledge.
In 2022 KI launched FIELD – Fellows in Equal Career Development, a mentorship programme with the aim to enable junior researchers and teachers to promote equal opportunities in career development at KI. I am very pleased to see that 16 mentees and 6 mentors from various departments have been recruited to the programme for 2022-2023.
In October I wrote a blog post about a pilot student survey on equal opportunities and to prevent discrimination that was sent to first and second-cycle programme students at KI (except for new intakes and students on freestanding courses), in order to gain better insight into the student experience. The results of the survey, as well as the survey format itself, are currently being analysed and will be presented to the Committee for Higher Education shortly.
We must be active participants
In conclusion, as academics and as a university we must be active participants in the mission to achieve equality and liberty, both at home and in the world around us. I am proud of the initiatives and activities that are ongoing here at KI and I encourage staff and students to get involved. Only though constant, on-going, long-term involvement and efforts from us all can we live up to our role as guardians of equality, liberty, and academic freedom – the very prerequisites for groundbreaking research.