But if it were not for mankind, we would probably have elephants in Skåne.
GUJournal SØREN FAURBY PAGE 14
INDEPENDENT JOURNAL FOR THE STAFF AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GOTHENBURG #4 OCTOBER 2018
WAR AND DEATH MICHAEL AZAR TAKES ON THE FATE OF MANKIND
After Vision 2020 The plan so far REPORT
Upcoming new course for researchers in dangerous regions REPORT
Popular professor – Ernst Nyström
VICE-CHANCELLOR The Vision – A Joint Endeavour HIS AUTUMN IS the time to take a step
I think it is important to find methods that enable wideranging organisational involvement.
closer to a new vision for the university. A new vision will be developed to replace our well-known Vision 2020, which I know was preceded by sterling work. Vision 2020 still has an important function in elucidating the role of the university in society and public discourse. The vision establishes the values upon which we are based and highlights our core values, such as the university’s independence, openness and global community engagement. AFTER 2020, a new vision is needed to highlight the long-term focus of the university’s education and research. A vision lays the foundation for the university’s joint priorities and assures us that the university is well-equipped for the future and for solving societal challenges. The autumn will be about determining the scope of our future efforts concerning our vision. What will our working methods be? What documentation do we need in the form of global analyses, comparisons with other third-level institutions as well as other facts and knowledge? Subsequently, in 2019, the vision itself will be developed. The new vision will be adopted by the university board before the end of 2019. Then, in 2020, we will have time to implement the new vision before it comes into force on January 1, 2021. The world is changing rapidly, and we need to ensure that the university’s future vision both
captures the university’s traditions and values, and is also relevant and useful in current and future social contexts. A proper global analysis of factors impacting us, nationally and internationally, will be necessary, but an analysis of our own qualities and strengths compared to other third-level institutions will be essential as well. IN TERMS OF working methods, I think it is impor-
tant to find methods that enable wide-ranging organisational involvement. University management, deans and department heads will be involved in determining the scope of the process and the working methods during the autumn. We want to find ways of working that make it possible for our employees and our students to get involved and contribute. Although I am aware that not everyone is overjoyed about the opportunity to participate in these activities, the opposite is unthinkable. Our efforts in relation to our vision must be built on broad commitment, otherwise it will never make it off the page and remain entirely without relevance. It is my intention and my aim that our future efforts to formulate our vision will be a joint effort involving the entire University of Gothenburg.
Photo: JOHAN WINGBORG
MASTHEAD Autumn is a time for retrospection RECENTLY, WE RECEIVED the news that Arvid Carlsson had passed away. He was 95 years old and was active right up to the end. The GU Journal interviewed him for its first issue this year, which was to be his last interview. By reason of his death, we have asked his close colleague Elias Eriksson, Professor of Pharmacology, to write a special commemorative piece for the GU Journal. He writes that one lesson that can be learned from Arvid’s successes is that he always went his own way and pushed his
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own agenda with perspicacity and integrity, without adapting to current research policy trends. ”…his efforts also illustrate the importance of independent thinking for scientific success…”. RETROSPECTION IS A theme
in this issue of the GU Journal. The issue includes articles about the Sinologist, Bernhard Karlgren, who was Vice Chancellor of the University of Gothenburg in the 1930s; the women’s history collections that are now 60 years old and
Doctor Ernst Nyström, who suffered a massive stroke eight years ago. In addition, we celebrate the fact that famous Gothenburg personality, Martin Fritz, has held his doctorate for fifty years. Despite his 81 years, he is still as industrious as ever with another book about Gothenburg’s history. Martin was also Deputy ViceChancellor from 1996–2002, first under Jan Ling and later under Bo Samuelsson. What he is most pleased about from his long career is the construction of Nya Pedagogen, which was
preceded by passionate protests from neighbouring residents, but which ultimately came to be greatly appreciated. THIS ISSUE’S personality is
Professor of the History of Ideas, Michael Azar, who believes that history is ever present. Even the ancient Greeks realised that the past will catch up with us. Michael Azar encourages us to read Sophocles. “The dead walk again on the legs of the living.”
Søren Faurby, has studied 5,831 mammals.
Photo: JOHAN WINGBORG
CONTENTS NEWS 04–23
04. Planning for new vision. 05. Ambigious effects of internationalisation. 06. All AI work will be coordinated. 08. Safety training for field researchers.
20.Michael Azar is interested in the fate of mankind.
REPORT 14–29 14. Where are the Euopean elephants and rhinos? 16. Cooperation between SND and Ethiopia. 18. Out of Europe and into Africa. 20. In memoriam: Arvid Carlsson. 21. The standard-bearer of popular science. 24. Visit by Sir David Attenborough.
New vision will extend to 2030? The Sustainable Development Goals are the focus of attention as the University of Gothenburg is developing their new vision. Perhaps it will extend to 2030, which would align with the UN goals. ”This is a lofty ambition, but it would be interesting to try out the idea,” says Vice Chancellor Eva Wiberg.
1, 2021, it will be full speed ahead.” Even though no decisions have been made, Eva Wiberg says she would like to test the idea of having a vision that extends until 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda. ”I think that we have the courage to do it, but it will require milestones that can be followed up individually.”
THE CURRENT VISION 2020 is still va-
There have been comments that cooperation has played a less significant role in vision 2020. What do you say about that?
lid until the end of December 2020, but work on the new one is already beginning. Eva Wiberg is enthusiastic about the task: ”It is a privilege to be involved in creating a new vision that builds upon the one we have.” It is extremely important that the future vision is a joint endeavour. The current vision 2020 document was preceded by a tremendous amount of groundwork, where around 1,000 people from various departments at the University of Gothenburg participated in different ways. But according to Eva Wiberg, there is uncertainty as to whether the process will be exactly the same this time. ”It is of utmost importance that we base it on a broad commitment. But we are not starting from scratch. We will of course learn the lessons from last time and work hard to present a proposal. The first step is that we establish the scope during the autumn and determine the working methods in order to get started in earnest in 2019. The plan is for the university board to make a decision on the vision before the end of 2019. Then we have the entire following year to implement the vision and break it down into operational plans. When it comes into force on January
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”Cooperation, like sustainability and wider recruitment, cuts across all our operations. I think we need to focus more on the importance of cooperation for research and education and to clarify our role in the public discourse.” What weaknesses do you see in our current vision? ”I do not want to critique the vision, but merely state that it has been good and has engaged a lot of people, and a tremendous amount of work has been carried out. But times change. However, I think it is worth reflecting on how the vision was divided into three separate parts: research, education and health and safety. How does that tally with the ambition to create complete academic environments and how does it tie in with cooperation and internationalization? That is something we should consider.” And what is its greatest strength? ”It is based on our values and highlights our core values, which involve the university’s independence, openness and global community
engagement. I think it has created a certain amount of calm in the institution and that is something to which everyone can relate. The major benefit is that there have been goals that were possible to follow up as well as operational plans. In this respect, the University of Gothenburg has come further than other third-level institutions. The vision has been a way of reaching all the way to the periphery of our system.”
We will find effective designs and forums where people who are not in managerial positions can be heard as well. The goal is to develop a vision that everyone can relate to. EVA WIBERG
But why is it important to have a vision at all? ”I am convinced that, as a global university, we must have a vision that is progressive and anchored in the social context in which we live. But it is also important for our ability to deal with a changing world. Universities are facing major challenges, not least new proposals on resource allocation systems and internationalization. I mean that a vision sets the scope for the university’s operations.” Do you see a risk that a vision ultimately ends up being a powerful but empty slogan about being the greatest, the best and the most beautiful? How will the University of Gothenburg stand out? ”There is always a risk of that, but it still says something. All major universities strive to provide worldclass education and research. Those kind of self-confident, catchy one-liners say very little. The University of Gothenburg has many strengths, such as its work on sustainability and global goals, and we can build on that.”
Too fragmented to resonate Ambiguous – that is Vice Chancellor Eva Wiberg’s view of today’s internationalization efforts at the University of Gothenburg. A new strategy is about to be launched, but first, the board will await the government’s interim report on the universities’ future internationalization efforts.
SINCE BECOMING VICE CHANCELLOR
of the University of Gothenburg in 2017, Eva Wiberg’s ambition has been to develop their internationalization efforts. ”We have been awaiting Agneta Bladh’s investigation on how to increase the internationalization of third-level education institutions. When it is ready and has been sent out for review at the end of October, we will comply with the directives and proposals contained therein.” She thinks that the current internationalization efforts are a bit too fragmented. ”We want to conduct coordinated efforts where education, research and collaboration interact with international issues. It is important that we do not work in silos.” The major challenge is to increase the international presence of students, lecturers and researchers
at home, says Eva Wiberg. ”We also need to create conditions so that it is easy for our students and staff to get out into the world. In addition, we need to see how we can reward those who have been abroad and encourage more researchers to travel and be inspired by new environments, by encouraging more people to take sabbaticals, for example.” THE CURRENT internationalization
policy is from 2014 and that work was led by the then internationalization advisor Björn Hettne, Professor of Global Studies. Eva Wiberg points out that it is high time to develop a new strategy. ”Of course, the world has changed a lot since 2014, not least the implementation of tuition fees for non-EU students. We now need to discuss joint ventures in order to maximize
”The new internationalization council will look at the common good and draft proposals that strengthen the university’s internationalization efforts,” Vice Chancellor Eva Wiberg says.
the impact throughout our operations.” The vice chancellor now wants to propose an internationalization council, with representatives from all faculties, whose task it is to find out what can be gained from more cooperation and joint ventures. The council, according to the vice chancellor, should work to improve the conditions for internationalization. ”I want a body that can prepare matters and secure support for them before I make a decision.” Eva Wiberg hopes that the new national commission of inquiry will give considerable autonomy to third-level institutions. ”I assume that the government believes that third-level institutions will continue to have an independent position on these issues.” ALLAN ERIKSSON OCTOBER 2018 GUJOURNAL
Hopes to coordinate all AI work at GU #AI@GU was the name of a workshop held at the end of August, which was organized by the University of Gothenburg’s management team, together with the Grants and Innovation Office. In order to further strengthen the field, management is also planning an AI coordination group. AT THE MOMENT, a considerable
amount of money is being spent on artificial intelligence, nationally and internationally, both in research and education. This autumn, for example, Vinnova is increasing its annual AI investment of SEK 150 million by an additional SEK 50 million a year, an investment that will continue for 10 years. At the same time, the European Commission plans to spend SEK 200 billion on research in the field of AI within a two-year period. “This is technology that provides new opportunities in almost all areas,” says Fredrika Lagergren Wahlin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Collaboration, and responsible for the University of Gothenburg’s AI partnerships. The financial market has been automated, healthcare uses intelligent systems, our cultural heritage is digitized and social workers have begun to use the technology to make decisions about things such as income support. The University of Gothenburg is already conducting a lot of research and providing trai-
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ning in the field, and there is considerable demand for our expertise. At the same time, those of us who work within the university also need skills training. One example of a government initiative is Datafabriken, a new arena at Lindholmen, where academia and the business community will collaborate on AI. And last spring, seven universities, including the University of Gothenburg, received a total of SEK 40 million from the government for skills training within AI, for both the private and the public sector, which face major transformations in terms of digitalization. “THE UNIVERSITY Board of Educa-
tion has recently discussed how these courses should be coordinated,” says Fredrika Lagergren Wahlin. My suggestion is not to waste a lot of time building a large organisation, but rather to enlist the help of Folkuniversitetet in order to get started quickly. It is so far just an idea, no decisions are taken.
Because intelligent systems are used in an ever widening context, it is difficult to get an overview of everything that is happening. For that reason, the management team at the University of Gothenburg organised an AI workshop on August 28, which was open to all employees. “THERE WERE A lot of interesting
comments and suggestions. The idea is that this and future workshops
Facts On August 28, the #AI@GU workshop was held for all Uni versity of Gothen burg staff who work with AI in some way. The workshop will result in an AI network. Are you interested in information on what is going in the AI-field? Contact sigridur. firstname.lastname@example.org.
”AI is an appropriate area for collaboration,” says Fredrika Lagergren Wahlin. Photo: JOHAN WINGBORG
will form the foundation for an artificial intelligence network. Those of us in management cannot take it upon ourselves to decide how research and education in the field will develop. This is something that everyone working with the issue must do, preferably together. In order to gather all the expertise in the field, management is also planning to put together an AI coordination group. It will be a rather informal group of
people who, in variety of ways, are familiar with these issues. There will also be administrative support.” AI is by its very nature interdisciplinary, Fredrika Lagergren Wahlin points out. “THIS MAKES IT an appropriate area
for collaboration within the University of Gothenburg, but also for collaboration with other third-level institutions of course. We already
have two joint institutions with Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences and Computer Science and Engineering, that work with algorithms and intelligent systems, amongst other things. In addition, we collaborate on AI with the other universities in the region. Of course we also collaborate with wider society, just as we have always done.” EVA LUNDGREN OCTOBER 2018 GUJOURNAL
Field researchers may r Photo: JOHAN WINGBORG
How do researchers prepare for field work in dangerous or unsafe environments? In Sweden, there is still no university course covering such issues. But now, representatives of the University of Gothenburg have contacted MSB, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, to initiate a collaboration concerning field safety courses. THIS SPRING, Henrik Jemtelius, Seni-
or Safety Advisor at MSB in Karlstad, visited the University of Gothenburg to meet with Security Director Jörgen Svensson and Isabell Schierenbeck, Professor and Assistant Head of Department at the School of Global Studies, who are both committed to improving safety while conducting field work. Although nothing has been decided yet, a first step towards collaboration has been taken. Recently, MSB submitted a proposal to the government for an expanded budget in order to be able to support third-level institutions by providing safety courses and risk assessments. ”Conducting field studies in authoritarian regimes and areas affected by conflict has always entailed risks,” Isabell Schierenbeck points out, whose main field of research is the Middle East. ”However, in recent years, a couple of shocking cases, including a doctoral student who was brutally murdered in Egypt and a student who was imprisoned in Iran, have raised awareness about the fact that safety in the field must be taken seriously.”
IT IS PARTLY about personal safety
for researchers and students. ”But equally important is to not risk the safety of the people who researchers encounter on site, such as research assistants, so-called fixers, interpreters and research subjects,
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Destruction of Beirut after the war 2006.
receive safety training Photo: ALLAN ERIKSSON
including interviewees. Unlike university staff, they cannot just leave the country if, for example, the political situation becomes threatening. Furthermore, the responsible handling of collected material, computers and other technical equipment is also important, so that information does not fall into the wrong hands.” Training about risks and risk management prior to field expeditions could form part of other knowledge transfer about the area. Jörgen Svensson
”THE RISKS VARY significantly depending on the type of field work or the region in which the researchers are working,” Isabell Schierenbeck points out. ”But general training, designed for researchers and doctoral students, could provide a foundation for the institutions to build upon. And the training should also be combined with a support system during the field work itself. For example, it could be that researchers arrange in advance to call a specific contact every evening or that they use an app that pinpoints where they are. However, not all researchers want to be controlled in this way, or they worry that such a system would be very bureaucratic,
and perhaps, would instead complicate the possibilities of performing effective field work. But for that very reason, it is essential that we create a support system that is convenient and easy to use.” Security Director Jörgen Svensson agrees about the importance of safety training and other forms of support during field work. ”The University of Gothenburg’s safety policy is very clear and states, for example, that it is part of the managers’ health and safety responsibility to conduct risk analyses and determine acceptable levels of risk. However, good safety guidelines are
The risks vary significantly depending on the type of field work or the region in which the researchers are working. ISABELL SCHIERENBECK
not enough, they must also be complied with. Shortcomings in safety procedures are not due to unwillingness on the part of managers, but rather that they may not really know what to do, as well as to the fact that researchers are often independent and arrange their own trips. That is why we need to give this careful consideration, to make it easy to do it right. To ensure the progress of our safety efforts, they must become systematic and form a natural part of our everyday activities.” Can the University of Gothenburg not organise training and other forms of support on their own? ”Well, that would require a lot of resources, Jörgen Svensson explains. Instead, I strongly believe in collaboration with MSB. Their tasks already include providing security support to other authorities, therefore it should be reasonable that this support also includes training for universities. And if the University of Gothenburg takes the lead on this, surely other institutions will eventually benefit from the collaboration.” EVA LUNDGREN
Hi there … ISABELL SCHIERENBECK! You are a coauthor of the book SAFEResearch in Hostile Environments that will be published next year. Tell us about it!
”It is a practical manual with checklists for research ers who are planning to do field work in dangerous re gions. A number of chapters
cover safety before, during and after field work. Another chapter discusses digital security and data manage ment. ” Why did you write the book?
”Partly because very little has been written about rese archer safety in the field, and partly because safety issues have become increasingly important. Not least, it is important to protect the infor mants, interpreters and other
people who assist research ers locally in the region. To do this effectively, you constant ly need to perform new risk analyses of the context in which you are working: what was harmless a few years ago may not be any longer.” For whom is the book intended?
”It is for researchers and doctoral students, is easy to use and the idea is that it will help researchers reflect on their research from a safety
perspective before, during and after a field trip. The book is the result of a collaboration between researchers, journa lists and human rights acti vists and has five editors: in addition to myself, Ellen Lust at the Department of Political Science in Gothenburg, Kevin Koehler at King’s College Lon don, Jannis Grimm at Freie Universität Berlin and Ilyns Saliba at WZB Berlin Social Science Center.”
OCTOBER 2018 GUJOURNAL
Maybe it is because of his father, who came from Lebanon, that Michael Azar so often writes about death and war.
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Existing is inheriting If the diverse writings of Michael Azar, Professor of the History of Ideas, have a common theme, it is man’s ability to navigate through brutal conflicts. “Perhaps it has something to do with my father, who came to Sweden from conflict-ridden Lebanon in the 1960s. But who knows why you choose to focus on one thing rather than another?”
Text: EVA LUNDGREN Photo: JOHAN WINGBORG
TO EXIST IS TO inherit, explains Michael Azar when I ask why you should study, of all things, the history of ideas. We are in his study on Bengt Lidnersgatan 7, which is lined with books from floor to ceiling – even the sofa is cluttered with piles of books – but in a corner I also spot a guitar. ”The words we use, the laws we live by, the institutions we are subject to, the issues we struggle with; whatever we do, we enter a historical terrain that determines our opportunities or lack thereof and that gives us our image of the world. The history of ideas offers a mirror through which people can see themselves in a sharper and broader light. At best, studying the history of ideas can be a cure for the banal and stupefying narcissism that all of us fall into from time to time. The subject is so important that it should be compulsory in schools, maybe even as early as middle school.” Historical insight shakes our very foundations, says Michael Azar. ”The history of ideas is not only about what people OCTOBER 2018 GUJOURNAL
Michael Azar’s next book is about fate and therefore also about death.
thought and believed in the past, but also what opportunities there were to perceive things differently. How could slavery be so widely accepted in antiquity? Why did women have to “keep silence in the churches”? How could people think that way when we do not do so today? Historical knowledge makes it difficult for us to think in simple terms and provides critical perspectives on all the notions we harbour, whether they involve the humanities, natural sciences, economics or something else.” THE IDEA OF the nation is such a notion that may be particularly important to be able to spot when ultra-nationalist movements are growing in influence all over Europe. ”Man is a vulnerable creature. He wants to be seen, loved and, moreover, see evidence of this in the form of various kinds of privileges. In turbulent times, group affiliations tend to strengthen, especially those that emphasize that you are of greater value and should have more influence than others. It is these kinds of emotions that extreme right-wing movements exploit, as the groups they are currently attracting do not feel that there are any better alternatives. The success of right-wing populism is also a result of the fact that classical liberalism seems to have allied itself with the beneficiaries of globalisation, while the left seems to have given up all attempts to fundamentally change society. It has opened the doors to the very simple-minded and regressive identity narcissism that the ultra-nationalist
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right emphasize as a kind of all-embracing solution to life’s difficulties.” Michael Azar was born in Örebro, but grew up in Tynnered with a father who had left a turbulent Lebanon. ”ALTHOUGH HE WAS already in Sweden when the long
civil war began in earnest in 1975, it still affected him deeply as his father was killed and his entire family was forced into exile; most of them ended up in Canada. The war left its mark on us children, even though we did not really understand it then, despite the fact that we often sat in front of the TV watching the terrible news from the country. As recently as a few days ago, when I saw the Lebanese film The Insult, I began to wonder if it is my father’s background that leads me, even when I write about completely different things, to always gravitate towards war and death.”
BECAUSE BOTH HE and his brothers, Christian and Ro-
bert, have PhDs in different subjects, you might think that Michael Azar comes from an academic family. But he tells us that the home in which he grew up was not a particularly bookish one. ”It was actually our mother who encouraged us to continue studying. And thanks to the occasional inspirational teacher, I became interested in subjects such as history, literature, philosophy and religion. I particularly remember my first upper-secondary school teacher in philosophy, Kjell Arne Martelius. During
”The dead walk again with the legs of the living” Name: Michael Azar Professor of the History of Ideas, author and playwright. He is also co-founder of the magazine Glänta and the culture and education project the Clandestino Institut. Selection of books: Liberty, Equality, Fratricide (2001); Sartre’s War (2004); The Colonial Boomerang (2006); Death in Beirut (2007); A Noble Death (2013); Comprendre Fanon (2014); The Birth of America (2015). Lives: In Linné Family: Wife and two children aged 3 and 1. Has most recently read the book: Le Monde d’Homère by Pierre Vidal-Naquet. Has most recently watched: The Insult by Ziad Doueiri Most looking forward to in the autumn term of 2018: Giving my new course on Plato’s The Republic at an advanced level.
our first lesson, we had to write down what we were absolutely certain of and then he spent the rest of the lesson quashing all our assumptions. He did so very successfully and I think it shaped my thinking for the rest of my life. ” After upper-secondary school, Michael Azar began to study law. ”I WAS PROBABLY most interested in understanding the
origins of laws and the foundations of their claims for legitimacy, but soon I realised that I had come to the wrong place and instead switched to philosophy, the history of ideas and international relations.” In 1993, he was involved in the creation of the cultural magazine, Glänta. Seven years later, he wrote his doctoral thesis on the French debate about the Algerian war from 1954–1962. He also had time to tour Europe as a solo guitarist with the reggae band Nazarene and was involved in the establishment of the Clandestino Institut, a cultural association for various kinds of events pertaining to democracy and post-colonial themes. Because colonial ideas remain, including in the cultural sector. – “The past is never dead, it’s not even past”, the American author William Faulkner declared. We would like to believe that there are distinct cut-off points in history – and preferably that we ourselves represent them – as we leave the past behind us in favour of a sort of zero-point of pure rationality and autonomous
thinking. However, all my research shows how the past criss-crosses our lives and perhaps especially at the points where we think that it does not. Hence, my interest in the significance of the unconscious in our lives and in our history that exposes the dark forces that control us.” Highlighting new expertise and critical perspectives on fundamental social issues is important, says Michael Azar. That is why he frequently takes part in public discourse, most recently with articles in GP about Philip Roth, the nuclear bomb and Emmanuel Macron. But for the past ten years, he has also been writing drama, which he teaches as part of the Theatre Studies course. ”IT ACTUALLY STARTED with me accepting a commissi-
on for a play by a director who had heard me lecture on a few occasions. It was a privilege to try out this wonderful craft, of which I had no mastery whatsoever. This resulted in the play Deadline that was performed in the autumn of 2008 at the Angered theatre. Two years later, my play Jag är en annan premièred and has since been performed in about twenty theatres in Greece. Now I’m writing a third drama, Den andra scenen.” Plato and Aristotle are all very well, but in the classic battle between philosophy and poetry, Michael Azar values authors like Sophocles and Shakespeare just as highly. ”A skilled playwright can, in one simple exchange, shed light on as much as it may take a philosopher many hundred pages to conclude. Sophocles’s drama Oedipus Rex, for example, shows how no man can get to know himself independently of others, and that is an insight that academic philosophy was not capable of really articulating until modern times. At the moment, I lecture about both Sophocles and Plato and, to my surprise, I have to say that I learn more about the human condition and the foundations of knowledge from Sophocles, who is extremely sensitive to the tragic dimension of the human condition, something that is a central theme in my current research.”
Historical knowledge makes it difficult for us to think in simple terms ... MICHAEL AZAR
DIVINE PROVIDENCE, the blind laws of nature, the
genes, the passions, the conditions of production, serendipity, original sin – various thinkers throughout the ages have emphasized different forces of fate to describe humanity’s predicament. ”And the Greek tragedians had a great understanding of the way in which events of the past come back to haunt the living in the present, and we are left with legacy’s noose around our neck. The dead walk again with the legs of the living. What the title of my new book will be? The working title is Ödesfabriken. Från Adam och Eva till Atomåldern.”s OCTOBER 2018 GUJOURNAL
Where are the European elephants? Text: EVA LUNDGREN Photo: JOHAN WINGBORG
What areas are natural habitats for elephants, rhinoceroses and leopards? Sweden, among others. This was revealed in new research involving the compilation of large amounts of data on all known mammal species, 5,831 in total, that have lived on the planet over the past 130,000 years. PHYLACINE KALLAS DATABASEN som PHYLACINE is the
What would the world have looked as without us? SØREN FAURBY
name of the database and it is based on extensive work by researchers from the universities in Gothenburg and Aarhus who compiled data on all the living and extinct mammals to have lived on the planet over the past 130,000 years. Their work included reviewing a large number of DNA databases, data from fossil excavations as well as maps and articles about extinct animals in museums. The animals have been tagged with different pieces of information, such as when they became extinct or disappeared from a particular area, where they are now, size, and how they lived. Using an advanced algorithm, researchers have then calculated where these extinct species would have been located if they were alive today. But they can also show that many of today’s large mammals had a much more extensive habitat than they do at the present time. – The database has simply given us a new understanding of what is natural for different species, Søren Faurby, project research leader, explains. For example, many people believe that elephants have adapted to living in warmer regions since that is where they live today. And of course, it may be that the individuals that exist today have lost the ability to live in a colder climate. But if man had not existed, the northernmost boundary of their habitat would have been somewhere in Skåne; beyond that mammoths would have taken over.
THE LION IS ANOTHER example of a species that today is
predominantly located in Sub-Saharan Africa. – However, lions have previously existed in most of Africa, Southwest Asia and even in Southeast Europe;
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they even lasted well into Antiquity. There have also been other species of lions, which are now extinct, such as cave lions that until about 10,000 years ago roamed around most of Europe and throughout Siberia. Another example is the closely related American lion that existed in most of North America. At one time, leopards also roamed the forests and mountains of Europe. In Australia, most large mammals became extinct about 50,000 years ago, when man arrived, Søren Faurby says. – It is hard to imagine the fauna that existed there at the time: seven-metre long lizards and kangaroos weighing over 200 kilos; if they were able to jump, it must have made a thunderous noise. In America, Europe and Asia, several large mammals became extinct as well, even if it occurred later, 20,000–15,000 years ago. Add to this all the species that have disappeared worldwide over the past 250 years. – EXAMPLES OF LARGE animals that existed in North America before humans include elephants and horses, but also other animals, such as enormous armoured creatures that weighed one tonne. Climate change is the most frequently discussed threat to humans today. But for other animals there are far greater dangers, stresses Søren Faurby. – Excessive hunting or fishing, agriculture, urbanisation, invasive species and diseases, pollution, altered environments due to the construction of dams and the like – according to a study by the journal Nature, all these phenomena pose a greater threat to biodiversity than climate change. Why then is it so important to know where the habitats of lions, tigers, rhinoceroses, hyaenas and elephants would have been had human beings not disrupted the environment? – One prerequisite for understanding what the current spread of the human race might entail for the future is to find out what it brought about in the past. What would the world have looked like without us? But
The blue color shows areas where brown bear, leopard, tiger and lion are today, the red color shows where they would have been, had it not been for humans. The grey areas show where the now extinct cave lion and American lion would have lived. Søren Faurby is projcet research leader for the database PHYLACINE.
The PHYLACINE database the database can also be used to try to restore biodiversity. What would happen if, for example, elephants were reintroduced to the French countryside? They have lived there before, so it should work. They would open up the landscape like the big animals they are. Søren Faurby is less convinced about using genetic engineering to bring back extinct animals. – I have nothing against a billionaire investing his fortune in such a project, but research funds should not be spent in that way. Increasing biological diversity, at least to some extent, I think is a much better idea. The PHYLACINE database requires some technical skill to use, but it is accessible to everyone.
The database includes all the known 5, 831 mammals, living and extinct, from the past 130,000 years that have existed on the planet and is based on a compilation of a large number of DNA databases, data from fossil excavations, maps and ar ticles about extinct animals and much more. The senior researcher is Søren Faurby, Universi ty of Gothenburg. Other contributors are Alexandre
Antonelli, University of Gothenburg, and Matt Davis, Jens Christian Svenning, R.Ø. Pedersen and S.D. Schowa nek at Aarhus University. Link to the database: https:// github.com/MegaPast2Futu re/PHYLACINE_1.2 Link to the article The Phylogenic Atlas of Mammal Macroecology: https:// esajournals.onlinelibrary. wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ ecy.2443.
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Cooperation SND and
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between EfD For two industrious weeks, two data managers from Ethiopia have been attending a training course in Gothenburg. The project is a collaboration between SND, the Swedish National Data Service, and EfD, the Environment for Development Initiative, and aims to make all the research from the network accessible worldwide. “Researchers do not live forever, but their data will,” Yabebal Ayalew explains. SAMUEL ABERA and Yabebal Ayalew are data managers at the Environment and Climate Research Center – a collaborative partner of EfD – an international network based at the Stockholm School of Economics. The comprehensive programme, which was held at the beginning of September, was put together by Iris Alfredsson at SND and consisted of one
to two courses a day involving most topics within the field of data management: how research data is made searchable and replicable, metadata management, depositing, law and confidentiality. “SINCE JANUARY 1, SND has
been run by a consortium comprising seven universities with the University of Gothenburg
acting as the host university,” explains Iris Alfredsson. “Our task is to support making data accessible and in doing so, EfD has served as a pre-pilot. There are many important issues, including how to handle the restrictions that must also be in place in relation to accessibility and retention, which is a growing problem. Initiating collaboration with colleagues from other parts of the world is of course extremely beneficial.” MAKING RESEARCH data
openly available has become an increasingly hot topic. Last spring, the European Commission took additional decisions on how to make research data openly available and many journals are also demanding open data. “As of this year, EfD has also introduced as a requirement that researchers seeking funding must submit a data management plan,” Gunnar Köhlin, Managing Director of EfD, explains. “The fact that SND offers a simple and fully-developed system for how to do this will make it easier for all of us.” The two-week course ended
on September 14. Now, the real work begins for Yabebal Ayalew and Samuel Abera: launching a research support unit in line with the SND model at the Environment and Climate Research Center in Addis Ababa. This unit will eventually provide data management support and advice to all EfD centres around the world. “WHAT I APPRECIATE most
about the course is that it was so hands on,” says Samuel Abera. ”The focus was not on lectures, but on discussions and practical information regarding how to actually do it. The course is over now, but the cooperation with SND will continue.” We live in an information society, Yabebal Ayalew points out. “But without data there is no information. Research organisations produce a tremendous amount of knowledge, but in order for it to be useful, it must be preserved and be searchable. SND has a simple structure for doing this, which we are very pleased to now be able to pass on.”
Text: EVA LUNDGREN Photo: JOHAN WINGBORG
After two weeks, full of information, Samuel Abera and Yabebal Ayalew are prepared to pass on their knowledge to others in the EfD-network.
EfD (Environment for Development) is a research network of environmental econo mists, whose secretariat is at the Department of Economics, with partners in 12 countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, In dia, China, Vietnam, Chile, Co lombia, Costa Rica, the USA and Sweden. EfD is collaborating with SND (the Swedish National Data Service) on a project that will make the network’s research data more accessible to researchers all over the world. OCTOBER 2018 GUJOURNAL
Out of Europe Over the past ten years, about 150,000 Portuguese people have moved to Angola to create a better life for themselves. “North-South migration is quite unusual. The fact that it is this extensive signifies something completely new in European-African history,” explains Lisa Åkesson, Social Anthropologist, who wrote a book about the phenomenon. OIL. THAT WAS THE REASON,
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after 27 years of civil war, that Angola experienced tremendous growth at the beginning of the 2000s, which caused migrants from all over the world to travel there to help build the country. In 2007, which was a record year, the economy was expected to grow by 27 percent. Financial crisis. That was the reason why many Portuguese people, including the well-educated, were affected by major pay cuts or became unemployed. “Angola was a Portuguese colony for 500 years, from the 1470s to 1975. After the collapse of the colonial empire and the ensuing civil war, relations between the countries have been strengthened once again, in political and economic terms as well as in terms of family relations,” says Lisa Åkesson. She has been interested in Angola for many years after working there for Sida and has just published the book: Post-colonial Portuguese migration to Angola: Migrants or Masters? Previously, it was not uncommon for Angolans to go to
What did this mean for the relationship between migrants from the former colonial power and their ”hosts” in the former colony?
Portugal to escape the war and create a better life for themselves. However, with peace and the huge oil boom, those roles were reversed. Angolan businessmen bought into Portuguese companies to the extent that many believed that the whole of Portugal was about to be bought up by Angola. “AT THE SAME time, thousands
of Portuguese people went to Angola to earn money. What did this mean for the relationship between migrants from the former colonial power and their “hosts” in the former colony? What had changed and what remained the way it always had been? These were
questions that interested me and it was the reason why I was in Angola from 2013–2015 and interviewed more than 60 construction workers, bank officials, teachers, engineers and other professionals to find out more about what workplace relations were like.” LISA ÅKESSON SOON noticed that old memories from colonial times remain, despite all the political and economic changes. “Portuguese people who had either lived in Angola previously or had family members who had, could talk about painful departures from the country. At the same time, Angolans could testify to how badly they were treated under the Portuguese regime, where employers could even beat their employees. However, younger people perceive the colonial times as something very remote with which they have no real relationship.” MANY STEREOTYPICAL views about both Europeans and Africans are being perpetuated, says Lisa Åkesson. “On the one hand, the Portuguese often regard the Angolans as work-shy and ignorant, which are classic colonial stereotypes. On the other hand, the companies that Portuguese people work for are often owned by Angolans, with whom it is important to have good
North-South migration Lisa Åkesson’s book Postcolonial Portuguese Migration to Angola: Migrants or Masters? is published by Palgrave Macmillan. The War of Independence began in 1961 and Angola became independent in 1975.
relationships. It is also essential to maintain good relations with government officials and have all one’s papers in order. Some informants say that the police are constantly looking for white people who do not have visas or work permits from whom they can demand bribes.” MANY PORTUGUESE people also believe that Portuguese colonisation was never particularly harsh or racist, unlike colonialism in other countries, Lisa Åkesson says. “They base their belief on the notion that Portuguese colonizers were better at integrating with the local population than the British or the French were, for example. But
there is absolutely no historical evidence that Portugal was a particularly benevolent colonial power.” Neither do the Portuguese want to be called “migrants”. “Other immigrants, like the Congolese, are migrants, not the Portuguese, who think they almost belong in Angola.” What do the Angolans think about the Portuguese? Well, they are often singled out as domineering, arrogant and reluctant to listen to the advice of Angolans. “THEY ARE ALSO upset by the
fact that the Portuguese are paid higher salaries than the Angolans, even if they lack experience, and are promoted
faster to managerial positions. And they are critical about the fact that the Portuguese mostly employ their own relatives and friends. One positive thing about the Portuguese, however, is that they are good teachers, according to some Angolans. Thus, from both sides there is dissociation but also recognition.” SINCE 2014, oil prices have
collapsed while the economy in Portugal has improved, says Lisa Åkesson. “Many people who have been in Angola just to earn money fast or because a managerial job is good to have on one’s CV, have had to leave the country, some without even having been paid their final
salary. But families with long established roots in Angola often stay, such as those who met a partner there and started building a future.” PORTUGAL HAD A number of
African colonies including Mozambique, Lisa Åkesson explains. “That is another place where Portuguese people have gone to find work recently. That migration is the focus of my new project, which also involves a large number of interviews. It is expected to continue until 2020.”
Text: EVA LUNDGREN Photo: JOHAN WINGBORG OCTOBER 2018 GUJOURNAL
IT WAS 1959 when Arvid Carlsson took up a professorship at the newly established Faculty of Medicine in Gothenburg. He had studied medicine in Lund, where he wrote a thesis on the skeletal system. However, during a short period as a research fellow in the United States, he became interested in a completely new field of research: the neurotransmitters of the brain. From a University of Gothenburg perspective, it may seem a little vexing that Arvid, when he arrived, had already made the discovery for which he was later awarded the Nobel Prize, i.e., that dopamine acts as a neurotransmitter and controls mobility. But unlike many Nobel laureates, whose fame stems from one single discovery, Arvid’s achievements were characterised by continued important contributions. Thus, he was the first to understand that antipsychotic drugs block dopamine receptors, and the first to develop an SSRI type antidepressant. What characterized Arvid’s endeavours was the practical benefits they provided. The Nobel discovery resulted in an effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease. His studies in antipsychotic pharmacology enabled the development of substances with milder side effects. It is undoubtedly due to SSRIs – which still currently constitute first-line treatment for both depression and anxiety disorders – that the number of suicides has declined significantly. And it was Arvid’s good advice that paved the way for the pharmaceutical company Hässle’s spectacular success in the 1970s, when they developed the blood pressure drug Seloken (Lopressor) and the ulcer drug Losec. ARVID’S SERIES OF successes were the result of a distinctive talent: he could, like few others, identify the important issues, ignore current dogmas, and see a pattern in seemingly disparate observations. But one crucial aspect was his never-failing interest in scientific problems, on which he – by declining managerial positions and time-consuming honorary commissions – was always able to focus. His last article, about the new compound OSU6162, was published the same month he died, at the age of 95. As a friend of collegial governance, Arvid sometimes expressed critical views regarding developments within the University of Gothenburg, but he remained faithful to our institution, and gladly acted as its figure head when asked. And there are many at the University of
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Photo: JOHAN WINGBORG
A giant of science has left us Gothenburg who can testify from personal interactions that Arvid never showed the slightest trace of conceit; intellectual problems – not prestige or position – were what truly mattered to him. Another of Arvid’s sympathetic qualities, which made interacting with him so heartening, was his manifest optimism about current developments; he was always confident that great progress was imminent, both within his own field and within science as a whole. FROM A RESEARCH policy perspective, one political
lesson to be drawn from Arvid’s successes is that the discoveries bringing the greatest benefit to humanity are often the unpredictable results of curiosity-driven, fundamental research. It is also worth noting that Arvid’s successes were never preceded by any strategic local or national investments in his field, and neither were they necessary. By virtue of his results, he succeeded anyway, through the regular channels, to obtain the funding he needed to finance a research group of appropriate size. And his efforts also illustrate the importance of independent thinking for scientific success. Throughout his professional life, he often went against the tide and pushed his own agenda with perspicacity, integrity and authority. Instead of anxiously adapting his research to current trends, he was the one who created trends for others to follow. Few are granted the good fortune during their lifetime to make such a difference to so many. A man of honour and a giant of science has left us.
ELIAS ERIKSSON Due to the death of Arvid Carlsson, the GU Journal has asked Professor Elias Eriksson to write a commemorative piece.
No third place for the third task Text: ELIN LINDSTRÖM CLAESSEN Photo: JOHAN WINGBORG
The view on popular science has changed radically – from being seen as a necessary evil, many researchers now think that it is o bvious to share their knowledge. Today, the Book Fair and the S cience Festival are just some of the places where researchers meet the public. One of them at the University of Gothenburg, who paved the way, is the physician Ernst Nyström, today 77 years old. We met him in his home in Fiskebäck.
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The magazine existed from 1995 to 2004 and circulated both within and outside Sahlgrenska Academy. The editor was Carina Elmäng, who then was the faculty communications officer and who now is also sitting in the balcony in Fiskebäck with Ernst and me and his wife, Kerstin – or Sassa, as everyone who knows her calls her. “You’ve always been a very good judge of character,” Sassa says to Ernst, who nods in agreement. “You knew people everywhere and had a fantastic network of contacts,” says Carina. “You could always give me tips about who I could talk to, and we discussed whatever subjects we were interested in.” Ernst Nyström with his wife Sassa and Carina Elmäng. THE BRAIN IS TRULY a mysterious or-
gan. The major brain hemorrhaging that afflicted Ernst just over eight years ago was nearly fatal. When he had recovered somewhat, the words were gone – often replaced by numbers. Ages, distances, numbers, years. “Ten!” Ernst exclaims. He laughs and taps with his index finger on the postcard on the table in front of him. The picture shows some members of the team of researchers at the University of Gothenburg who together provided the answers in the Alltinget Swedish radio program for so many years. Ten years.
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FOR MANY YEARS Ernst served as
publisher of Corpus, the popular science magazine, which first was published by the Faculty of Medicine and later was transitioned to serve the entire Sahlgrenska Academy when the new faculty was formed.
You could always give me tips about who I could talk to, and we discussed whatever subjects we were interested in.
NOW AND THEN journalists ask the most peculiar questions about humans and the body, and information officers like ourselves could always count on Ernst probably already knowing the answer, or else knew who could provide it. He has always liked the challenge of explaining what seems difficult in an understandable way, even for children and young people, who often posed the most unexpected questions. Why do you get a headache when you eat ice cream? Why can you get a lump in your throat when you see a sad movie? He lectured at the Internatio-
nal Science Festival and answered questions when school groups were invited to Sahlgrenska Academy, provided tips about interesting colleagues and got them to appear at education and outreach events and for interviews. That was not always easy 15–20 years ago, but it’s significantly better today when more and more recognize the value of being seen and heard outside the Academy.
THE POSTCARD IS still on the table.
Carina Elmäng chosing pictures with Ernst Nyström.
Ernst points to the picture, and we return to the topic of the Alltinget radio program. The panel members were a fun bunch to work with, recalls Ernst, and some of them still meet and have lunch together sometimes. On occasion Alltinget re-emerges at the Gothenburg City Library at lunchtime and answers the public’s questions. “Ten!” he repeats. There were 10 delightful years with Alltinget. There was giggling and laughter in the radio studio before the On-Air light was lit, and the questions were about everything between heaven and Earth. Although Ernst was the medical expert, he didn’t hesitate to also respond to entirely different questions that interested him, such as those about space, aircraft, animals and nature. “I remember listening to the radio and hearing you get the question about whether dogs have a sense of humor,” Carina says to Ernst with a smile. “You answered no. I didn’t agree with you at all because I know that dogs have a sense of humor, and we went around and around on the issue after the program.” Ernst laughs, nods toward Amy, his dog on the balcony floor, and lets us know that he would have given a different answer today. Because of course dogs have a sense of humor.
Photo: CARINA ELMÄNG
Facts Ernst Nyström obtained his PhD at the Karolinska Institute. His dissertation was a study on the separation of diffe rent fat-soluble substances. He moved to Gothenburg in 1970, and became pro fessor of medicine in 2000. At the same time, he worked as a surgeon at Sahl grenska Hospital where he met patients with various hormone disorders. In 2007 he was awarded the Ångpanneförening award for his successful dissemination of knowledge. In 2010 Ernst Nyström retired.
Rehabilitation has produced good results, and the words are slowly coming back more and more. Ernst says he understands everything we say. He can put his thoughts into words and make himself understood by combining words with numbers and body language. It works pretty well. But sometimes there’s a hitch. “It becomes almost like a quiz here at home when I don’t understand what Ernst means,” says Sassa. “Do we have it at home?” “Is it in the fridge?” “Can we drink it?” TWICE A WEEK Ernst goes to the
Ernst Nyström with his dog Amy.
Ernst Nystrom received his PhD at Karolinska Institutet with a theoretical dissertation on separation of different fat-soluble substances. He moved to Gothenburg in 1970 and became professor of medicine in 2000. In parallel, he worked as a chief physician at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, where he met patients with various hormonal disorders. His knowledge of chemistry and hormones were combined when he wrote his acclaimed overview of what happens in the body when we fall in love, which also became
the starting point for a whole series of popular lectures for the public. In 2007 he received the Ångpanneföreningen (the Steam-Boiler Association) award for his successful dissemination of knowledge. We drink coffee on the balcony of Ernst and Sassa’s newly built apartment with views of Fiskebäck’s marina. The couple’s dog – Amy, a Welsh springer spaniel – takes advantage of the chance to rest for a while behind her master’s chair. Muted tones of 1940s jazz emanate from the living room.
aphasia association and speech practice. A friend who is a speech therapist also helps him once a week to reclaim even more of his verbal ability. “It must be frustrating to not be able to express what you are thinking,” I say, and Ernst replies, still smiling: “It is what it is, pure and simple.” Running and skiing were his major interests, and perhaps he has his good physical condition to thank for the fact that he is still alive and that the rehabilitation is having such good results. Or maybe it’s his inexhaustible positive outlook on life that has become his salvation, says Sassa: “Sometimes when it’s raining and windy, I can look out the window and say, ‘Oh, what bad weather!’ to which Ernst responds, ‘But it’s good inside.’” That’s Ernst in a nutshell. OCTOBER 2018 GUJOURNAL
THE MOMENT WHERE: Gothenburg Botanical Garden. WHO: Sir David Attenborough. WHEN: September 6, 2018.
Brief description: Ninety-two-year-old Sir David Attenborough, known from television programmes such as Life on Earth, The Living Planet and The Life of Mammals, visited Gothenburg to receive an honorary award and speak at The Perfect World Foundation’s climate conference. In connection with his visit, he also became an honorary member of GGBC, Gothenburg Global Biodiversity Centre. He is pictured here with his diploma, together with GGBC’s Director, Alexandre Antonelli, Professor of Biodiversity, and GGBC’s coordinator, Allison Perrigo. Photo: Johan Wingborg
The official independent newspaper of the University of Gothenburg. Welcome to the first autumn issue.