MEETING. Göran Landberg, deputy vice-chancellor responsible for research issues, and his predecessor, Staffan Edén, who now leads the ongoing quality evaluation project known as RED19, were invited to the general academy meeting held at Medicinareberget at the beginning of the week.
Sahlgrenska Academy Dean Agneta Holmäng began by welcoming everyone and also took the opportunity to introduce our new pro dean, Henrik Hagberg. Göran Landberg then made a short presentation about the new Research Board established at the University of Gothenburg, for which he serves as the chair.
“It’s a good idea to have a Research Board at a university of our size,” Göran Landberg commented during his presentation. “It gives us a superior ability to create a broad faculty representation and an opportunity to take advantage of the collaborative aspects that are often associated with research work.”
Taking inventory of current research issues
The Research Board is a drafting and advisory body for the vice-chancellor. The board deals with strategic research and collaboration issues. Accordingly, Fredrika Lagergren, deputy vice-chancellor responsible for issues regarding outreach and cooperation, is also vice chair of the board.
Research Board members are representatives of the faculties appointed by the faculty boards. Sahlgrenska Academy is represented by Assistant Dean Lena Carlsson.
The Research Board, which is a board and not a council, was established at the beginning of the year and began its work by taking inventory of the issues that are important for the individual faculties.
“We are well on our way but are not quite finished,” Göran Landberg said. “There may be a common need to possibly revise strategic co-financing. We have an effective system today, but there are always details that can be discussed.”
In addition to co-financing, the board may deal with issues such as infrastructure, the Swedish Higher Education Authority evaluation and development of the ethical aspects of both doctoral studies and research. Another topical issue for the board is RED19, the evaluation of research that is under way, which the general academic meeting also dealt with.
“RED19 will generate a large amount of information at all levels, and it will be exciting to see what the evaluation can provide.”
A tool for organizational development
When Agneta Holmäng introduced the next speaker, Staffan Edén, she recalled the great effort that the previous research evaluation, RED10, entailed for the institutes. Staffan Edén’s message, however, was that this evaluation will not be nearly as much of a burden, and that RED19 should not be regarded as a benchmark, but rather as a useful tool for our organizational development. By way of background, the Swedish Higher Education Authority was commissioned by the government to further develop the national quality assurance system so that it also includes quality assurance of research. Several other higher education institutions have also initiated similar projects, and Staffan Edén cited Uppsala University, but also our own higher education institution, as forerunners in Sweden.
The work on RED19 has already been set in motion, with a literature review and interviews of hundreds of people within the University of Gothenburg to draw lessons from the work on RED10 and to get input on what criteria should be included in the evaluation and what consequences the organization thinks that the investigation should have.
“We can see that operations are generally positive and feel that it is important for the evaluation to help and not to hinder development. It’s important that the preparations are carried out properly and that the evaluation takes into account the fact that different parts of the university have different circumstances by taking the whole mission into account. The organization doesn’t want work with the evaluation to be too much of a burden either, and it wants the results to be used for quality development,” Staffan Edén concluded.
RED19 will evaluate research at the department, faculty and vice-chancellor levels. For some departments, including within Sahlgrenska Academy, subsections will be evaluated separately in consultation with the department. In some cases, departments that are very small will be merged into a larger unit for evaluation. Centers of expertise and research and infrastructures, including Core Facilities, will be included in the respective host unit’s evaluation.
The evaluation will be based on background materials, self-evaluation and external review. The background material is information on personnel, finance, bibliometrics and research education from 2013 to 2017. The self-evaluation will primarily provide a description of ongoing research. It will also provide a picture of how the organization itself assesses the standing of its research in an international perspective, of leadership and career structures within the unit, of its academic environment as a whole and of its academic culture.
“Attention will also be given to third stream activities as well, and to how your research contributes to the betterment of society. Here you get the opportunity to think about what contributions you make to society,” says Staffan Edén.
Self-evaluation will be carried out in the fall, and the project will make material available to facilitate the work. The self-evaluation will then be analyzed by external experts and result in recommendations.
Help from our friends
Work on RED19 has been under way for just over a year and has come a long way.
“We have already appointed a large share of the panels. Here at Sahlgrenska Academy the process is somewhat delayed, because you gave a lot of thought to how you want to be evaluated. It’s important that the organization itself can have an impact on these decisions,” Staffan says.
Claes Dahlgren, who has worked for a long time on the evaluation of clinical research that the Swedish Research Council conducted, stated that good transparency is important: “Those who submit information need to know what instructions the assessors receive, because this has a lot to do with how they conduct their self-evaluation.”
Pro Dean Henrik Hagberg also commented: “We are free to suggest who the experts in our field should be and suggest people that we believe are good. In that case, we of course choose people with whom we have a relationship and whom we think seem to have sensible opinions.”
Staffan Edén adds: “The panels as a whole should include people with clearly defined experience to ensure the correct profile. But actually, the idea is that the external assessors should be friends who will help us to develop our organization.”
According to plans, the preliminary report from RED19 will be completed in June 2019.
You can read more about the Research Board at the University of Gothenburg here: https://medarbetarportalen.gu.se/organisation/universitetets-organisation/forskningsnamnden
You can read more about the ongoing work with RED19 here: https://medarbetarportalen.gu.se/Project/current+projects/red19/
TEXT AND PHOTO: ELIN LINDSTRÖM CLAESSEN