NO 6 | NOVEMBER 2015
Top job in Paris Thomas Sterner is a visiting professor at a storied French institution POSTDOCS WITHOUT RIGHTS
EDUCATOR WHO CONSTANTLY RENEWS
GIVE CHILDREN MORE POWER
Scholarships instead of employment
Anne Farewell wants independent students
Expand democracy to all citizens
This is how we’ll attract tomorrow’s researchers and teachers N E X T AU T U M N , the Swedish Government will present a new legislative proposal concerning research in Sweden. This is meant to take affect from 2017 and contains, according to Minister for Higher Education and Research Helene Hellmark Knutsson, several major changes. When the minister spoke recently at SUHF’s 20th anniversary, she described some of the Government’s goals for the next legislative proposal concerning research. One is that it will run over the course of ten years, instead of the current four years. Another is that it will also encompass teaching and educational programmes, unlike today where it encompasses only research and innovation. If the Government’s goals become a reality, the preconditions for obtaining a coherent long-term policy for research, education and innovation, increases. R I G H T N OW , there is a big rush at all Swedish
educational institutions, plus at research councils and other interested parties, to comment on the legislative proposal concerning research. Meanwhile, discussions are underway in the government-appointed preparatory investigatory commission, with its 15 representatives from the academic world, to study research in Sweden. In order to create a successful higher education policy that is sustainable over time a long-term and a predictable plan is required. An important part of the long-term nature lies in the increased base funding; something I know has the support of several stakeholders outside of our sector. That even higher education should be included in the legislative proposal concerning research I hope will give the Government an incentive to review the possibility for universities and other institutions of higher education to be able to use national state resources for research and education as an overall allocation. This is an urgent issue of autonomy, and important in order to develop the interaction between education and research.
FOTO: JOHAN WINGBORG
A MAGAZINE FOR EMPLOYEES OF THE UNIVERSIT Y OF GOTHENBURG
November 2015 E D I TO R - I N C H I E F A N D P U B L I S H E R
Allan Eriksson 031 - 786 10 21 firstname.lastname@example.org E D I TO R A N D V I C E P U B L I S H E R
Eva Lundgren 031 - 786 10 81 email@example.com
It would also strengthen the individual educational institution’s freedom of manoeuvre and strategic ability in terms of career positions, gender equality, research infrastructure, and not the least the ability to take a broad perspective in terms of research. Included in this is both the research driven by curiosity as well as the applied research (or practical research) which in fact go hand in hand together.
P H OTO G R A P H Y A N D R E P R O D U C T I O N
Johan Wingborg 031 - 786 29 29 firstname.lastname@example.org G R A P H I C F O R M A N D L AYO U T
Anders Eurén 031 - 786 43 81 email@example.com
T R A N S L AT I O N
international perspective, the competition for researchers/teachers is increasing. In order to be able to recruit the best is therefore a priority. As for the base allocation, successful countries have a significantly higher proportion than Sweden. This puts them in a better situation with improved preconditions to be able to plan for and develop a competitive activity, for which the recruitment of researchers and teachers, and their employment conditions, is an essential factor. The importance of clear career paths in order to attract the next generation of researchers and teachers is crucial for the individual educational institution and for Sweden overall as a knowledge nation. International research analysts emphasise that there must be a Swedish “tenure track,” an established career path for researchers who want to pursue a career in academia. From the University of Gothenburg, we propose to the forthcoming legislative proposal concerning research a uniform “tenure track” system with a six-year employment contract, like what exists at many major universities in other countries. With such a system in place, we also increase the opportunities for enhanced mobility between higher education institutions nationally and internationally. S E E N FRO M A N
AT T H E SA M E time, the ability for the University of Gothenburg to recruit externally increases. Since 2012, the external recruitment of teachers has substantially increased and at the aggregate level is as much as 40 percent of the international recruitment. It’s a brilliant development that shows the taking of a major strategic responsibility on the part of our institutions. Let us continue on that path. How important the rush that we and others are now involved in will be, remains to be seen. Ultimately, it is the national Government and Cabinet that will determine the contents of the next legislative proposal concerning research.
Charles Phillips , Semantix The text on the conferment was translated by the editors. ADDRESS
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Anne Farewell, lecturer at the Department of chemistry and microbiology. Photo: Johan Wingborg
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Educator who constantly renews Anne Farewell wants that the students themselves should come up with the issues that are important. THE VICE-CHANCELLOR
2 We need to attract the best! NEWS
4 Serious sense of insecurity for foreign postdocs. 6 Big commitment to refugees among GU’s employees 7
Odontology puts GU on the map.
8 Thomas Sterner becomes guest professor at prestigious institution. PROFILE
10 Anne Farewell wants students to do research.
13 GU is not able to get rid of its large surpluses. REPORT
14 Give children the right to vote and change society! says ethics professor John Wall. 16 David Altman, the new Segerstedt Professor, argues that popular referendums can renew democracy.
Childism makes society better John Wall would like to see that children’s rights are taken more seriously.
18 Migration – this year’s theme during Global Week! 19 Cheer at the Sahlgrenska Academy over the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. 20 Report from the year’s biggest event.
8 Top job in Paris Thomas Sterner is a visiting professor at a storied French institution.
The Editors: Postdoctoral researchers neglected W H E N W E FI R ST heard about postdoctorates who are funded with scholarships, it came as a surprise. We are talking about a group of highly qualified people who fall outside the social safety net. On the one hand, this is a way for the departments to finance mostly foreign postdocs, which is good both for the department and for those wishing to gain international experience. For those who come from a developing country, the money they receive is relatively high, on par with what an employed postdoctor receives after taxes.
When everything works out fine, it is certainly not a problem. But the system of scholarship is a major insecurity for postdocs as they are not employees, but rather are considered students who engage in research. It is admittedly a limited period, but during this period they have very few rights. B U T T H E N T H E S IT UATI O N looks even worse internationally. In the recently published book The Social Life of Nanotechnology, researcher at the Gothenburg Research Institute Mikael Johansson, has written a
chapter dedicated to the world of work among nanoscience researchers around the world. He has i.a. done field studies among nanotechnology researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Chalmers University of Technology, and the University of California. His conclusion is that the majority work 60–90 hours a week, they have hardly any vacation time, are working evenings and weekends, and on top of that have a surprisingly low income. He is surprised that these highly educated people, who mostly come from middle class homes, accept
so poor working conditions. Those with scholarships have the absolute poorest conditions. W IT H I N T H E R E S E A RC H community, the bosses can hire and fire people, and determine their area of research. And in the end, it is they, the bosses, who receive the glory and honour – so shows Mikael Johansson’s study. Finally for now, we would like to thank everyone who responded to the GU Journal’s readership survey. The results of the survey will be presented in our next issue.
Postdocs live in insecurity They see themselves as researchers, but in reality they are here as students. We are talking about the large group of postdocs who are forced to live on scholarships for up to two years. “The group is both invisible and without rights,” explains Saco’s Chairman Martin Selander. M O ST P O ST D O C S , the majority of whom come from other countries, are at the Sahlgrenska Academy, but they also can be found to some degree at the Faculty of Science. Some estimates suggest that there are about 50, other estimates report that they actually number close to 150. Although all scholarships must be granted in a competitive process and the documents registered in a journal, the institutions lag in their reporting. One of the postdocs GU Journal has spoken with does not want to be publicly identified, for fear that it could hamper the possibilities of continuation. “Most postdocs in our department have a scholarship the first two years. We pay no income taxes, receive no vacation pay, and have no protection if we become unemployed or take parental leave. The only thing we have is insurance. Nor may we teach, which means we do not obtain the pedagogical experience that is necessary to obtain regular permanent employment. We are not even to be found on the official website. As a postdoc with a fellowship, one finds oneself in a legal grey zone, as we are neither a student nor an employee.” Upon arrival here last spring, a contract for three months at a time was offered, where the idea was that it would be extended until the limit of two years had been reached. “My academic supervisor promises every time that I will be here longer than three months, but there is no written or oral cont-
ract, nor a study plan. When I was finished with my graduate studies, I had absolutely no idea that I as a postdoc I would be again regarded as a student.” B U T T H E Y D O not blame their research advisors, who are busy actively seeking funding in international competition, while at the same time the group must be supported in
research environments. 99 percent of them are insured through via Kammarkollegiet, the Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency.” But Saco’s (the Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations) Chairman Martin Selander does not mince his words. “This is an abomination. We are opposed to that fellowships are provided to such a
»Who can plan their research activities three months at a time?« ERIK ALLARD
order to function. Postdoctoral researchers who are on fellowships may simply be a way to get two researchers at the price of one. At the Department of Biomedicine, there are 16 post-doctoral students with scholarships and 15 at the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology. Head of Department Agneta Holmberg points out that her department is very careful to follow the administrative procedures and the Vice Chancellor’s decision. “Most of the fellowships are for 12 months, but some will be extended to for up to 24 months. These fellowships are included in our international work, which we are very proud of, where we offer postdocs the opportunity to come here and study in good
highly qualified group of individuals instead of employment. Many come here with promises of a contract of two years, which later is found out to be a fellowship for three or six months at a time. Many feel cheated and betrayed. There’s no guarantee that there will be a continuation, since quite often there is no written contract between the academic supervisor and the fellow.” E R I K A LL A R D, the Swedish Association of Professional Scientists ombudsman for university staff, is of the opinion that the issue has become more relevant as a result of increased academic mobility and increased exchanges with other countries. “Postdocs have become a forgotten
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“We really care about the postdocs”
”We as a trade union can not represent these individuals, as they are not employees,” s tresses Martin Selander, Chairman of Saco.
group. An A team and a B team have been formed, with those who are on scholarships often being regarded as less worthy, not included socially, and being given poorer opportunities to do a good job. This insecurity makes them feel bad and therefore often perform less than their colleagues. It may therefore reasonably be asked whether fellowships remain a sensible way to save money, or if it’s a stupid-savings measure that ultimately is likely to give the university a bad reputation.” A S C H O L A R S H I P I S formally speaking a gift. When someone has been granted a fellowship, the provider, in this case the university, cannot make any demands for benefits in return. There is no obligation to work, which is of course to the disadvantage of the employer. Erik Allard has heard it being referred to as a three-month contract. “Who can reasonably plan their research activities three months at a time? It is simply not justifiable. A reasonable precondition
for conducting meaningful research is that the planning is based on a programme for a minimum of two, however preferably five, years. Especially in fields where laboratory work is required, one must be able to afford to pursue high-risk projects with occasional failures along the way in order to achieve something good in the end. I see very few benefits with scholarships.” conduct excellent research, the conditions of employment must also be excellent, he stresses. “It is our opinion that all postdocs should have proper contracts with the same employment benefits as everyone else. If Sweden is to maintain its reputation as a prominent research nation, it is vitally important that we can attract the best, and we can only do that by offering decent working conditions.” One postdoctoral fellow GU Journal spoke with suggests that GU centrally, along with the faculties, create a fund. “The co-financing of postdocs’ salaries could be done in this way.” I F O N E I S TO
“O U R G E N E R A L P O S ITI O N is that we want to offer stable employment. But we can not all at once abruptly scrap the fellowships, because that would mean that fewer postdocs would be able to come here. The fellows contribute much to the University of Gothenburg and their stay here is immensely valuable.” So remarks Olle Larkö, the Dean of the Sahlgrenska Academy. Olle Larkö emphasises that the postdocs are a very heterogeneous group and that funding varies. “Fellowships can be a welcome addition in the general financing. But of course we must be a good employer and take care of those who Olle Larkö come here and treat them in a decent manner. For many postdocs, this is a way to get involved in the research.” That the fellows are not covered by the social safety net in Sweden is a problem, admits Olle Larkö. “There is a grey zone here and we try to solve it pragmatically. We therefore require that the grant recipients have adequate insurance. But the big problem is not financing but rather what happens afterwards. We cannot hire everyone, but we should nevertheless be better at helping them progress in their career. Certainly many would be of great value in the field of health and medical care, where there is currently a shortage of qualified personnel.”
FACTS “Fellowships for postdoctoral are paid to researchers who have been invited to carry out research taking place at GU within a research field.” The fellowships may be paid out for a maximum of two years. There may be no agreement relating to an employment relationship. The fellow’s activity should be seen as education. The academic supervision of the recipients of fellowships occurs at the faculty/departmental level. According to a decision of Dean Olle Larkö, an agreement must be in place between the fellow and the host institution, which must indicate, among other things, personal information, the purpose of the studies and period(s) it encompasses, the academic supervisor(s), and insurance. Even though the positions are for one or two years, the fellowships are normally paid three months at a time. The announcements for open positions must be advertised and successful applicant determined via a competition.
So far, the staff at Department of Political Science has collected nearly SEK 130,000 for the victims of the refugee crisis. Their request to encourage other departments to do the same thing has several successors at GU. T H E P O LITI C A L S C I E N TI ST S’ call in the previous issue of GU Journal, but especially in social media, has attracted considerable interest and led to several institutions around GU launching similar initiatives. Helena Olofsdotter Stensöta, an associate professor of political science, says that it was the pictures of the lifeless Syrian boy Alan that made her act. “I was very disturbed by the image: the boy on the shore who was carried away in the arms of an aid worker. I really felt that it could have been one of my own children. Things like this should not happen. At a university, you cannot reallocate resources, for example, cancel trips, as many companies have done. So I wrote a petition to set aside private funds, which received unexpectedly big support.” I N T H E PE TITI O N we urged employees to donate 5-10 percent of their monthly salary to an organisation that works to help people in need. It was up to each individual to decide which organisation they wanted to support. “We don’t want to get into discussions about which organisation is best,” says Helena. The university cannot remain unaffected facing a major refugee crisis, she says. “As a part of the University of
Gothenburg, we want to collectively take a stand for human dignity in the current crisis.” Since then, Helena has received a number of e-mails from others who started up a similar collection of money. Among other things, the Stockholm Resilience Centre has raised over SEK 80,000 and the Department of Languages and Literatures at the University of Gothenburg donated over SEK 23.000. Similar initiatives are underway at the School of Global Studies and departments at the Sahlgrenska Academy. of Psychology has accepted the challenge and so far has collected SEK 62,000 to be distributed to various organisations. “We chose to accept the challenge since it is important to stand up for our core values and that prosperity also brings responsibility. I think many at our Department, as well as all around Sweden, feel a frustration that many people suffer in the current refugee catastrophe. We at the Department can contribute as a collective group as we are colleagues in a very privileged situation”, explains Head of Department Jesper Lundgren, who posted an anonymous survey in GUL, where employees can state how much they have given and to which institution. A L S O T H E D E PA R T M E N T
»So I wrote a petition to set aside private funds, which received unexpectedly big support.« HELENA OLOFSDOTTER STENSÖTA
PHOTO: AFP/GET T Y/NILUFER DEMIR
More money collected for refugees At the School of Business, Economics and Law staff party on 11 September, Katarina Renström, along with other colleagues at the Department of Economics, launched the initiative: School of Business – Let’s make a difference. In only one evening, close to SEK 19,000 was donated. The goal is to collect SEK 200,000 over a period of three months. The campaign will continue in the autumn with a variety of activities and seminars. The plan is that the campaign should end with a big auction. The School has decided to primarily support Save the Children (Children on the Run) and secondly Doctors Without Borders’ work with refugees. What consequences the refugee crisis will have on education will be discussed at a staff meeting at the end of September at the Faculty of Education. For this, a special project group has been formed which will suggest measures, mission and a budget. In addition, they have received more than 20 proposals for concrete activities on what should be done, in the short and long term. “ E D U C ATI O N I S O N E of society’s most positive means to respond to the challenges that we face in view of the upcoming migration and which affects the entire educational system,” remarked Dean Åke Ingerman. The petition has also received international attention, reports Helena Olofsdotter Stensöta. “In The Netherlands, a former employee has started a campaign at Amsterdam’s European Law School. It’s nice to hear this at such an extremely difficult time.”
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Odontology puts GU on the map How is it that the University of Gothenburg has fallen so low in the THE and QS rankings? Now we know why. GU gets few votes in the academic reputation surveys which weigh pretty heavily in these rankings. If it had not been for Odontology, which gives a lift as a world-class area, GU would had fallen even lower on the lists. I N T H E TI M E S H I G H E R Education rankings in 2013, Lund University had 20 points for educational programme reputation and 26 points for research reputation. GU got only 8 points in both categories. “We get significantly worse outcomes than other Swedish educational institutions which we compare ourselves with. There really shouldn’t be such a great difference in fact,” comments Magnus MacHaleGunnarsson, investigator at the Grants and Innovation Office, who during the summer purchased a selection of all survey responses as the basis for Thomson Reuters’ Academic Reputation Surveys in 2010-2014.
reputational surveys commissioned by Times Higher Education, which are sent out to academics who have published articles in any of the journals included in Web of Science. In these, four simple questions are asked: Where is the best research in the region? Where is the IT ’ S A B O U T T H E
best research in the world? Where is the best educational programme in the region? And where is the best educational programme in the world? “The survey asks for the best universities in the world within the respondent’s discipline, i.e. which educational institution is considered to have the highest number of worldleading research environments. So then it is obvious that most of the votes ends up being for a few top universities.” W H E N M AG N U S
MacHale-Gunnarsson studied what fields at GU during the years 2010-2014 received the most globalresearch votes, the result was Magnus clear. Odontology MacHale(Dentistry, Oral Surgery Gunnarsson & Medicine) ended up at the top with a total of 55 votes. Educational science got 27 points, biology 9 points, and political science 8 points. “The schools which stand out in the measurements are the large and broad world-leading environments. This suggests that Odontology has such an environment, but also so does educational science. Odontology is in third or fourth place in the world in terms of publications per year.” But it does not come as a surprise to the head of department Annika Ekestubbe
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“Of course it is very nice and we are glad to hear that Odontology in Gothenburg lifts the entire GU’s reputation.” This is because we have worldleading research environments within several areas and thus a very good international reputation. We have been ranked high before: 2nd in the world. In the latest QS rankings, we came in third place “overall;” the Karolinska Institute was at the top. However, if one examines the scientific “research impact,” we are second after the University of Michigan and the second after Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in “citations.” in both these categories the Karolinska Institute ends up far behind.” Both the Times Higher Education World University rankings and QS rankings have been subjected to much criticism, among other things for lack of representativeness. In 2014 data was collected from nearly 8,000 responses. But how many questionnaires are actually sent out, is something that Thomson Reuters refuses to disclose. “ IT I S PRO BA B LY because the response rate is embarrassingly low. My guess is that it is at 10-15 percent. This is a really shaky measurement with great validity problems,” states Magnus MacHale-Gunnarsson, who believes that there to be a reason that universities go up and down the lists like a yo-yo.
Global Evening, 19 November at 7 pm. We welcome visiting researchers and international staff to Ågrenska villan for an evening of food and drink.
At www.gu.se/welcome there is information and advice relevant for preparing the stay in Gothenburg and everyday life here, e.g. permits, insurance, civic registration, banks, spouses support, child care, tourist information etc. Send the link to your international guests and they can prepare their stay in advance. For more information, see our Calendar at www.gu.se/welcome
Combined, the Swedish universities get relatively few votes in comparison with the top universities, which are estimated to have received several thousand votes. In 2014, Karolinska Institute received the most votes (178) of the nine universities that Magnus MacHale-Gunnarsson examined. Second place went to Uppsala University with 124, and third place to Lund University with 112. Then it is a good jump down to the other educational institutions. GU received a total of 42 votes, on par with Chalmers and Linköping University. G U G E T S M O ST global research votes primarily from Western Europe and secondarily from North America. These votes may then be divided into six broad subject areas, which shows that GU gets a larger share of their votes from “Clinical, Preclinic & Health,” almost as many votes as the University of Lund and Uppsala University. A full 60 percent of the votes in this area come from Odontology. “If one is to draw far-reaching conclusions from the results, we can say that it is thanks to Odontology that GU is saved,” observes Magnus MacHale-Gunnarsson.
Read the report: “The University of Gothenburg in Thomson Reuters’ Academic Reputation Surveys.” Report: 2015/627. .
In the academic salons of Paris A month before the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, Professor of Environmental Economics Thomas Sterner arranged a workshop where several of the world’s leading climate scientists participated. The venue for the meeting was the Collège de France where he just became a guest professor. “My French friends are looking at me with both admiration and a certain disbelief, because this is one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the entire world.” O LLÈG E D E FR A N C E was founded in 1530 by François I as an alternative to the conservative Catholic Sorbonne. The institution resembles an academy; it only has 54 professors and conducts no regular classroom instruction. Instead, one gives lectures on every subject thinkable, free and open to anyone at all. In addition, one finds worldclass research laboratories and libraries here. “During the year in Paris, I will be responsible for holding nine lectures. Each lecture aims to provide an introductory overview and is followed by a seminar to which I have invited a French colleague. It is a way to broaden my network of contacts, for making new acquaintances is an essential part of the joy of spending some time abroad.” Thomas Sterner held his inaugural lecture on 22 October. It dealt with what instruments can be used to solve the world’s
environmental and resource problems and is based on a couple of recent papers published in Nature and in Nature Climate Change. “In addition to interesting content, it was also important to have a beautiful language because the lecture will be printed and given out as a small booklet. The audience consisted of 450 people. I was offered to bring 150 of my own guests, but I don’t even know that many people who understand the language. My French is actually quite fluent but not so elegant, so I really have to spend some time finding the right wording.” T H E PR E PA R ATI O N S for the guest professorship have been meticulous. For example, months prior to the installation Sterner received e-mails several times a week from five ladies who, with exquisite politeness, asked for a biography, a publications list, other material to post on the web, details prior to issuing press releases, and information about the inaugural lecture. “One finds among the previous holders of my visiting professorship the British economist Nicholas Stern, author of the famous Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. Until recently, Roger Guesnerie was this renowed higher education and research establishment’s only economist. As now he is over 70 years, he has been replaced by Philippe Aghion, who won the appointment over the publicly more wellknown Thomas Piketty.” However it was with Roger Guesnerie who Thomas Sterner, on 29–30 October, organised a workshop with the world’s leading climate scientists, a month before the UN Climate Summit in Paris. Found among the participants was the colourful Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Ségolène Royal. “The meeting resembled the one I arranged at the Gothenburg School of Business, Economics and Law last year: Beyond the IPCC – the future climate research. A special edition of the journal
Thomas Sterner is guest researcher during a year at the Collège de France in Paris where he will give public lectures on climate and enivironment.
Environment and Resource Economics about the meeting was presented in Paris, and thus linked the two events together.” The climate change conference in Copenhagen six years ago was seen as a fiasco, Thomas Sterner reminds us. “This year it is likely that the 195 participating countries will attempt to set more realistic goals. The risk is, however, that each country gets the right to decide for themselves what to do, which hardly will lead to sufficient efforts. Throughout the climate summit, I will participate in lectures, and be commenting on what is going on.” That it is still possible to reach agreement, is shown by the EU, which recently decided that by 2030, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 as the base year. “Sweden should be proud of its carbon dioxide tax, which is both high and reasonably comprehensive. France has made three attempts to
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THOMAS STERNER WORKING AS: Professor of Environmental Economics at the School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg. CURRENTLY: Visiting professor at the prestigious Collège de France, 2015-2016. FAMILY: Wife and three children. INTERESTS: Cheese, fishing, skiing and dancing.
people however have very serious concerns about. But as said, renewable energy is being developed continuously and the day it becomes fairly easy and cheap to conduct a sensible climate change policy, and the fossil fuel lobbyists thereby lose influence, it will be perhaps may possible to have a successful vote adopting a really tough climate agreement.” One problem, however, is that an environmentally-friendly way of life is often perceived as a complicated hassle, Sterner notes.
introduce something similar: the first time the proposal was voted down; the second time it was adopted, but later was blocked by the Conseil Constitutionnel, France’s constitutional court. Now the proposal has been re-adopted, but as their national government also pledged not to raise taxes, that will mean that the energy tax also goes down.” Thomas Sterner in particular. One is that the countries of the world will not succeed with the goal of preventing global warming increasing more than 2 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels. “The second is that we perhaps may achieve some sort of climate change objectives, but in an undemocratic manner, for example that the United States and China will agree on the applicable provisions, while other countries may only join up. This can also lead to serious problems, mainly in the poor world, which might be forced T WO T H I N G S WO R RY
»The glimmer of hope is however new technology, especially solar power...« to buy technology they really cannot afford and that they do not get the room to manoeuvre they are actually entitled to.” Professor Sterner prefers to regard himself as an optimist. But this is hard to be when it comes to climate change. “The glimmer of hope is however new technology, especially solar power, which works surprisingly well and also costs less. Another proposal is what is known as geoengineering, or ‘climate engineering,’ which includes sending out particles in the atmosphere that results in sunlight being reflected away; something that most
“O F CO U R S E W E cannot take the steaks out of the mouths of people or force people to use public transportation, but there should be ways to make environmentally-friendly choices more obvious. When I received this professorial chair, I thought, for example, at first it would be nice to take the train when traveling down to Paris. I’ve done this many times before. But now the situation with connections has deteriorated; today it requires 4-6 changes, including one in Essen at three o’clock in the morning. Of course my many airplane flights gives me a guilty conscience.” During his year in Paris, Thomas Sterner will reside in the immediate vicinity of the Collège de France, in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, near the Sorbonne, the Panthéon and the Musée de Cluny. But even if the Latin Quarter attracts many universities, cultural institutions and interesting buildings, there is another place that he likes to visit. “It is Jardin Tropical, a forgotten park full of exotic sculptures and buildings whose purpose once was to show off France’s greatness as a colonial power. It is of course not as popular today, which has led to that many monuments are in a crumbling state of disrepair. But for me, the area is a little, overlooked oasis, which nobody remembers any longer; but I love to stroll around in.”
TEXT: EVA LUNDGREN PHOTO: JOHAN WINGBORG
She wants students who do research “The fight against antibiotic resistance is a battle without an end,” explains Anne Farewell, researcher in the field of molecular biology. Her online course delving into this crisis, which has evolved into one of the greatest threats to human health, is almost ready for release. Now she becomes the University of Gothenburg’s first “Excellent Teacher”.
H E C IT Y O F B U FFA LO in the northeastern United States lies on the border to Canada, near the Niagara Falls. This is where Anne Farewell grew up and where her first scientific interest, which was all about blood, began. “My mother worked as a hospital technician, and when she explained how the blood cells function, I thought this was really interesting. But as my family was not very well-off, and as I hadn’t received scholarships and also worked hard at a job alongside with my studies, I had never been able to continue in my studies.” However, it was during her studies at the
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different parts of the world, who among other things are examining yeast cells at their computers at the lab. That she was appointed the University of Gothenburg’s first “Excellent Teacher” is not surprising given that she has twice been awarded pedagogical prizes, in 2005 and 2014. become an excellent teacher, similar to the way one becomes an associate professor. An additional qualification especially in my favour was probably the course in scientific pedagogy that I give at the Pedagogical Development and Interactive Learning (PIL) unit. Since I teach people who take the course because they have to, but who might not really be all that interested, it’s is a particular challenge”. As an Excellent Teacher Anne Farewell will, among other things, be included in GU’s new teaching academy. “Next year, I also will spend two months working on an educational project. But GU is full of talented people. I’m only the first of what I hope will be a long line of ‘Excellent Teachers’”. But that Anne Farewell succeeded so well as a teacher is, in some ways, quite unexpected. “I had no experience at all in giving lectures, neither as a graduate student nor postdoctoral fellow, when I started teaching at GU. And since I’m from the United States, nor did I know much about the Swedish system. The idea was that I would give lectures, but I didn’t know how I would find out if students had really learned anything or not. So I decided to try out new ways of teaching.” What is referred to as “Interrupted Case Study” is one of the methods that Anne
“O N E A PPLI E S TO
University of Rochester that Anne Farewell became interested in molecular biology in earnest. “To study DNA and how genes are turned on and off was so interesting that I thought I could go on working with this the rest of my life without ever getting bored. So I continued on with my studies, and eventually received a PhD at the University of Michigan.” Anne Farewell came to Sweden in 1993, mostly because she wanted to experience something different. At first, she was in Uppsala and then Lund, before she arrived in Gothenburg. Now she works at the Lundberg Laboratory on Medicinaregatan and has her hands full of students from all
Anne Farewell wants students to think as a resarcher from the beginning.
Farewell introduced at the University of Gothenburg. “First the students get background information about an experiment. Then they discuss which issues the data raises and work on it further. At a predefined moment, they are interrupted by the teacher who checks that everyone is on track and understands the task. This means that the students get a kind ownership of their own project; it is they themselves who decide how the results should be interpreted and how they should proceed. In this way, they learn at a much deeper level than if they had simply followed ready-made instructions. For the fun of laboratory work is of course finding things out by oneself.” The students also read proper research articles, which they then present to their fellow students, who contribute with questions. “ I N T H E B EG I N N I N G , most students focus on
getting good grades. But as they become more confident in thinking and reflect on their own, they will also begin working on the project because they are actually interested.” The best comment she has gotten from a student is: “This was the hardest course I’ve ever been in, but also where I learned the most.” The worst comment was: “I am so happy that this is over now so I can go to another course where I don’t need to think.” “Two perspectives, yet both statements reflect the way I teach. For it does not matter whether it is history or mathematics or another subject, each discipline has its own research methods that students should learn already at the beginning level of studies.”
»In the early 1970s it was thought that we did not have any need for more different kinds of antibiotics therefore research on new products stopped ...« ANNE FAREWELL For Anne Farewell, teaching and research are intimately related. Her own particular area of research, antibiotic resistance, she began to devote herself to after giving a course for her undergraduate students. “Microbiology is an enormously huge field of research. It is therefore impossible to teach everything, but one may select a particular theme to work from. At one point I decided to start from antibiotic resistance and therefore had to put myself in the research field. That was when I realised how interesting it was and how my previous knowledge could be utilised here too. Antibiotic resistance is not some problem that we’ll see a long way in the future. On the contrary, many of the world’s countries are already severely impacted.” we have good access to health and medical care, good hygiene, and in addition have a ban giving livestock medicine for preventive purposes. Therefore, antibiotic resistance is not yet a serious problem here as it is elsewhere in the world. In countries with poor healthcare, there is widespread resistance to antibiotics and the risk is great that we will find ourselves in the same situation as a hundred years ago, when people could become seriously ill and even die of simple infections.” Bacteria are formed everywhere, also as a so-called a biofilm inside a catheter or in bodily tissues. There they become even more difficult to access for both the immune system and drugs. “The research underway today concerning antibiotics is intense but unfortunately it has not always been so. In the early 1970s it was thought that we did not have any
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need for more different kinds of antibiotics therefore research on new products stopped for almost 40 years. Now we have realised that we need to develop new medicines all the time, because bacteria are constantly mutating. Mankind will always be one step behind, so the goal is not to eradicate the bacteria’s resistance. Instead, it is about delaying the evolution while trying to develop new medicines.” Anne Farewell is working on applications for two new research studies, and is also part of a project that sought funding from UGOT Challenges, with Joachim Larsson as the main applicant. Among other things, it deals with testing out an online course that she has developed. “At first it was only meant as a MOOC, a Massive Open Online Course. But since earlier this year GU decided not to invest in MOOC I worked on it. It will be available before the end of the year for anyone who is interested and requires no special prior knowledge.” That a course for students inspires research which then leads to an online course for the general public; that is exactly how the university should work, so says Anne Farewell. R I G H T N OW
“ R E S E A RC H STI LL has a higher status than teaching, not least because research provides external funding. But I think that something is about to happen. That more and more young people realise the importance of also being a good teacher. For although it is difficult to obtain sufficient time, is probably the ideal that most senior researchers are also involved in teaching. “
ANNE FAREWELL WORKS AS: Assistant Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology. CURRENTLY: Is the University of Gothenburg’s first “Excellent Teacher” RESIDES: In Kungsladugård. FAMILY: Husband, three cats. L ATEST BOOK READ: That which does not kill us – Millennium 4. L ATEST MOVIE SEEN: Avengers: Age of Ultron. FAVOURITE FOOD: Crayfish. INTERESTS: Video ames such as Anno 2070 g and Diablo 3. Also likes to sew patchwork quilts.
Last year, Anne Farewell was back in the US for one term, as a Stint Scholar at Williams College in northwestern Massachusetts. “Williams College is a small liberal arts college with incredibly talented teachers and super ambitious students. Here, is it really the teaching that is in focus, and discussed all the time – at lunch, in the hallways, everywhere. The students know that they belong to the elite and the teacher never needs to remind them to read to prepare for the next class session. And it’s fantastic, but at the same time, these students are extremely busy and many aren’t feeling so well. Swedish students, who don’t have to pay tuition for their education and have time available for other activities, have it much better. Actually, Anne Farewell is quite satisfied with that she, over twenty years ago, happened to end up in Sweden, now living in Kungsladugård. Last year she married her partner with whom she has been with for the past ten years, and has three cats that run in and out. in the US, I perceived myself as being very far to the left politically; in Sweden, I find myself politically more in the middle. I prefer a society where I have to pay what admittedly is high taxes, but where people do not have to starve, kids have free health and medical care, and where I can walk down the street at eight o’clock in the evening without having to be afraid. In a country where even vulnerable people have it fairly decent, criminality is reduced and the social climate becomes softer, which benefits everyone. Work is important, but in Sweden one realises that also leisure time is important. Behind the Swedish term “lagom,” hides a whole philosophy that I like really a lot.”
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TEXT: EVA LUNDGREN PHOTO: JOHAN WINGBORG
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Increased surplus cause for concern Despite many new employees, the university will have a surplus again this year. Increased grants and new allocation income is one reason; another explanation is that the transition is taking longer than expected. “We will not reach all the way,” says CFO Lars Nilsson, expressing his regrets. T H E FI N A N C I A L results have again been revised. At midacademic year, the figures pointed to a deficit of SEK 30 million at year end. There are now indications that it instead will be a surplus of SEK 20 million. “New money continues to flow in, a total of SEK 93 million in the increased revenue from grants. We do not have time to distribute what we receive,” comments Lars Nilsson. On the bright side, personnel costs have increased by SEK 77 million. So far this year we have 188 more FTEs compared to the same period last year. More than 100 of them belong to the category of teaching and research staff. For the first time in years, the number of graduate students is also increasing, by a total 39. A N OT H E R R E A S O N for the improved financial outcomes is related to changes in politics and policy. The new national government altered the distribution of new educational slots and among other things gave the University “free educational slots,” which meant that the faculties had no time to make adjustments in time. The internal review shows that all faculties reported better than expected financial outcomes. This applies particularly to the three faculties which at mid-year received SEK 14 million extra in the form of higher price tags within the humanities, social sciences and teacher training education.
“When we put out new money, it takes at least half a year before the money starts ticking.” Even the Central University Administration, which in recent years has been forced to make pretty substantial cutbacks, is included here, with a surplus of SEK 15 million this year. “ I N T H E PL A N adopted by the Governing Board, the Central University Administration’s share of the total costs have already fallen from 7.1 percent to 6.4 percent. Considering the current economic situation one must ask whether it is sufficient. So far, the savings only occurred at the central level and that was never the Governing Board’s intention.” Lars Nilsson believes that GU should have a more stable system for the monitoring. “We have neither a worse nor a better financial management than other institutions of higher education, but it is a weakness that we cannot make more realistic forecasts. Otherwise follow-up rests on a weak foundation,” remarks Lars Nilsson. S I N C E 1 9 9 9, the University of Gothenburg has seen increasing surpluses. At year-end, GU will have an accumulated surplus of almost SEK 1.1 billion. “This is a large number,” observes Lars Nilsson. “In the plan for the period up to 2020, we can afford to spend SEK 100 million over our income every year and still have a
»New money continues to flow in…« LARS NILSSON
buffer of SEK 500 million. We have devoted the past four years to talking about the problem, but so far nothing tangible has occurred. Unless the trend reverses, the Vice Chancellor and Governing Board can threaten to take the money back.” S U C H T H R E AT S also come from the national government. “If the higher price tags do not lead to improved quality and reduced student
class sizes, the national government will not give us more money, it is as simple as that. We also face another challenge: to make the adjustments facing us with the coming years’ large-scale retirement. What if we could advantage of the good times by employing in advance more people who can work in parallel with the senior teachers.” ALLAN ERIKSSON
Human rights should encompass children “Democratise democracy so as to include all citizens,” urges John Wall, professor of ethics from the United States. He is the philosopher who stirred the debate by arguing that voting rights should apply to everyone, including newborn infants. O H N WA LL coJohn Wall comes from Rutgers University, in Camden, New Jersey, and came to Gothenburg to participate in the conference Growing with Design that took place 14-15 October. He barely had time sit down with a cup of black tea in the café at HDK before he started explaining the term he has coined, “childism.” “Democracy is based on the idea that everyone should have the possibility to participate and to have influence. But even in the most highly developed societies, onethird of the population lacks this possibility, namely children and young people.”
To come to Sweden to lecture on children’s rights feels a little strange to him, he admits. “Sweden is a pioneering country, the United States is unfortunately very far behind; capital punishment for children didn’t disappear until in 2005, children can still get life imprisonment, and the situation with child health is that it does not receive much public concern. And after Somalia, on 1 October this year, ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United States remains the only country in the world not to have done so.” Yet, John Wall believes that not even Sweden pays sufficient attention to a deli-
berative child-centred perspective, where society is seen through the eyes of children. “I often use the comparison of how women’s rights evolved during the twentieth century, since this is such a clear comparative example. First, women fought for the right to vote, then later also for equal rights in other issues. But eventually a new kind of feminism evolved with a somewhat different perspective about what gender equality actually is and what it means to be human. Issues never previously discussed came up in political debate, such as flexible working hours, social protection of the elderly and of course everything that has to do with the care and well-being of children. Women’s entry into public life led to a somewhat new type of society.” T H AT E V E RY H U M A N being has specific rights, regardless of parentage, nationality or personal ability, is a thought originating in the philosophy of the Age of Enlightenment. But for Locke, Rousseau
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and Kant, it was only for the human adult, John Wall points out. “That the right to vote in particular is also important for children is due to the fact that without this, one is a second class citizen. Sure, other people can act on one’s behalf in a variety of contexts, but it is not the same as having the possibility to participate and have influence oneself personally.” T H E CO M I N G A B O U T of the women’s right to vote is usually explained by the fact that more and more women began working in industry and joining labour unions around the beginning of the previous century. “But many children also engage in gainful employment and help support the family, perhaps not so much in Sweden but in other countries. Children are among the world’s poorest and most marginalized people, but they have little direct power of their own to change their situations.” The voting age is 18 in most countries, but in some countries, such as Brazil, Austria, Bosnia- Herzegovina, and several German states, one has the possibility of voting at age 16, John Wall points out. “It’s hard to argue that one particular age is better than another, because it really is incomprehensible why one must have reached a certain age at all. For example, in the German Bundestag, the right to vote at birth has been debated and proposed, although no resolution has yet been adopted. The German idea is that in the beginning voting rights would fall to the guardian who then determines when the right will be transferred to the child. My suggestion is a bit more radical, namely that the child himself/herself should be allowed to decide when he or she thinks that he or she is ready to vote. This may occur at the age of ten, or perhaps as early as when the child is five.”
John Wall usually hears is that children have neither the competence nor the experience to be able to vote. They quite simply have not had the time to learn much about the economy or about how society works. “The idea that one must somehow obtain qualifications or prove themselves able to vote, for example via literacy tests, has only led to injustice. In the United States, for example, significantly fewer African Americans voted before the adoption of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, which then prohibited discrimination. But if we believe that adults should not require special knowledge in order to be able to vote, why should a child need it? It’s a double standard. And the assertion that children do not have any experience is not true. They know more about the school than most adults do, and in many countries have extensive experience of being poor, working, or armed conflict. Furthermore, when it comes to the Internet and other new technologies, which are increasingly important in our societies, children and adolescents often know much more than most adults.” Another argument one often hears is that O N E O B J EC TI O N
the child is dependent and might simply vote like their mother and father do. “We like to think that voting is a purely autonomous choice. But we know that this is not really so. Married couples tend to vote more similarly over time, young adults vote the same as their parents 92% of the time, and people tend to vote similarly to their families, cultures, classes, and so on. People exist in different networks of interdependence which affects what they do, not least how they think politically. Admittedly it is true that some people are more dependent than others; but should, for example, an elderly person dependent on family care therefore be deprived of their right to vote?” seen as a stage that people must go through on their way to becoming an adult, John Wall reminds us. Childism instead appreciates the child for what he or she is right now. “Those who are children now will admittedly have adult’s rights quite soon. But children as children, with all the experience they have, can give society new insights precisely because they are children. And the greater the variety of individuals who have their say is, the richer, more complex, more inclusive, and overall better and more just a society we get. That is the wager of democracy.” Most people whom John Wall has spoken with regard voting rights for children see it as a rather absurd idea, including even John Wall’s own daughter. “When she was 15 years old, I asked her if she would like to vote, and she just laughed and said that she and her friends were not responsible enough to vote. But, I think, if she had had the right to vote, she would have thought of herself as a potential voter and been prepared to use it. So it has been with all rights; they are perceived as unreasonable in the beginning, even by those who would benefit from the reform, but eventually more and more people rethink their attitudes.” C H I LD H O O D I S O F T E N
O N LY W H E N H U M A N rights also include children do they become fully human, thinks John Wall. And the fact that children would transform our society if they had more influence, he is convinced of. “There are currently about 30 countries in the world that have children’s parliaments, and here children as young as five vote on issues of importance to them. Often they are most concerned about getting reasonable funding for schools, better child health care services, or improving water and sanitation. But they are also interested in larger issues such as the environment; it is their future that is at stake. And perhaps children as a group would have us think differently about crime and punishment: that it is better to emphasize rehabilitation than punishment. And so a whole new discussion of global issues would take off ...”
TEXT: EVA LUNDGREN PHOTO: ALLAN ERIKSSON
Some milestones in terms of children’s rights 1920 International Save the Children Alliance. 1924 Geneva Declaration on the Rights of the Child. 1959 UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child. 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
JOHN WALL John Wall is a professor at Rutgers University, Camden, in New Jersey, and among other books has written Ethics in Light of Childhood (2010). His new book Children’s Rights: Today’s Global Challenge, will be published next year. Professor Wall participated in t he Growing with Design conference that ran 14 - 15 October. The organiser was the master’s degree program Child Culture Design at the HDK – School of Design and Craft, an educational programme that attracts students from all over the world.
People’s indifference threatens democracy People’s apathy and indifference. This is the biggest threat to democracy today. “The medication might be more direct democracy,” advises Professor David Altman, holder of this year’s Torgny Segerstedt Chair.
eternally hidden springs up in both fighting spirit and protests. The turned-on windscreen wipers instil hope in all people streaming towards the polling stations; finally they will have their say. “It was there and then my passion for democracy was born,” explains David Altman. He was twelve years old in those days and accompanied his mother to the polling station. Today he is one of the world’s leading experts on direct democracy, a professor of political science at Pontiticia Universidad Catolica de Chile, and now this year’s holder of guest the professorship in Torgny Segerstedt’s Memory at the University of Gothenburg. “The people won! I still remember the euphoric happiness when we ran into the streets. Half a million citizens B U T W H AT I S
IT I S A S U N N Y S U N DAY in November 1980. Despite the beautiful weather, the windscreen wipers on the cars in the streets of the Uruguayan capital city Montevideo are on. The wiper blades go back and forth over the windows; a veiled protest, somewhat like an index finger wagging: No, no – no, no! It is election day. It will be the first elections held here since the military junta seized power in the country eight years earlier. Since then, the population has lived in fear. All political activity had been banned and those who dared to protest against the military dictatorship have been thrown in jail, tortured and in many instances, executed. Nevertheless the junta wants to let the people have their say on this sunny Sunday in November. The military regime wants to introduce a new constitution and intends to let the people vote on the matter. Political propaganda for the “Yes” side covers every single plank, wall and bus shelter in Montevideo. Advertising for the “No” side is strictly prohibited.
new indicators of democracy from 1900 until today, which are collected in a new database. Democracy experts from all over the world are in turn associated with the project. “The Institute here at the University of Gothenburg is so amazing, it is permeated by thinking with a global perspective and the professorial chair really gives me the opportunity to concentrate on my research.” “Especially as my kids cannot come and disturb me,” adds David Altman with a laugh. With his family at home in Santiago, Chile, the professorial chair results in some commuting. David Altman now alternates his time between the universities in Santiago and in Gothenburg. But he is used to traveling. His career has taken him through investigative studies in Uruguay, Israel and the US to his current position in Chile.
David Altman is convinced that direct democracy is extremely important to enable people to feel involved, which also strengthens democracy.
filled the main avenues and everyone sang the national anthem.” David Altman is still affected by the memory. We meet at the V-Dem Institute at the Department of Political Science and he is quickly googling up the pictures showing how the people went into the streets as democracy arose once again in Uruguay, that day in his childhood. “Today I am convinced that direct democracy is extremely important to enable people to feel involved, which in turn strengthens the representative democracy,” he remarks. J U ST H OW T H E two different systems, representative democracy and direct democracy, can coexist in parallel with each other and benefit each other is an important aspect of his research. David Altman is researching, among other things, the consequences of people’s engagement in politics via citizen initiatives and popular referendums. Questions he hopes to be able to deepen his knowledge of
DAVID ALTMAN AGE: 47 years. OCCUPATION: Professor of Political Science. FAMILY: Wife and two children, 11 and 8 years old. RESIDES IN: Santiago, Chile. CURRENTLY: This year’s holder of the visiting professorship in Torgny Segerstedt’s Memory.
In many democratic countries, voter turnout is declining. Do we take democracy for granted too much today?
“Yes, perhaps. In Uruguay, memories of the dictatorship are still there. It was a dark time, but there was also something beautiful about it. The line between good and evil was clear, and we were of course the good guys.” “We made small protest actions, went out and banged on pots in the dark, listened to banned Cuban music. It was a time of dreams, idealisation, and it felt like we could literally take on the emerging democracy,” recounts David Altman. The force and power that comes from the grassroots, from the people, is something that he always carries with him and which today permeates his own research. What is it with direct democracy that fascinates you the most?
as holder of the Torgny Segerstedt professorship. His work at the Varieties of Demo cracy (V-Dem) Institute is however nothing particularly new. For several years now, David Altman has had a connection here as a regional project leader focusing particularly on direct democracy. V-Dem is an international research project aimed at developing
“Just this; that every individual in a society has in fact the possibility to influence. An individual can start a petition, demand a popular referendum and push through a change. But it requires of course that the laws of your country are written in a way makes this possible.” David Altman takes up his home country Uruguay, plus Switzerland, as good examples of countries where
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direct democracy is widely used, and where it had great impact. One example was when the Swiss people put a spanner in works and slowed the progress with the purchase of the Swedish JAS fighter planes via the launching of a referendum and voting against the deal. Something that would not be possible in Sweden, where referendums are only consultative, which among other things became apparent for the Gothenburgers after the vote on the congestion charge. Despite the resident’s rejection, the tax remains. “The risk is that people stop caring since they can’t make a difference anyway,” said David Altman. “Or that frustration becomes destructive. You burn cars and throw stones instead of getting involved in the political process.” The gap between a general election four years in the future and the issue you’re passionate about here and now is too large, he says. And if there is no political party who is fighting for your specific issue, a parliamentary election can be seen as rather pointless. “People’s indifference is the greatest threat to democracy,” notes David Altman. “With direct democracy one can lift the lid and release some steamy dissatisfaction. Frustration can lead to action when one really has the power to effect a change.” Direct democracy is no magical panacea, but can at least serve as a kind of medicine to the people’s apathy, he believes. And it is even more important today when people feel increasingly distanced from power. Doesn’t direct democracy pose problems for representative democracy, for instance that it leads to greater political chaos? No, quite to the contrary, argues David Altman. It contributes instead to a greater freedom to negotiate within representative democracy. “It forces elected politicians to reconcile conflicting demands and differences, to haggle. They make an effort to have a better dialogue with their political adversaries and be more willing to negotiate when the threat of a decision-making popular referendum is there. What the future holds for democracy is in turn difficult to predict. But all citizens must realise that life in a democracy entails both rights and obligations. Democracy does not progress further all by itself. “Schools, the news media, politicians, all have a very important function to get individuals to get involved. Not the least in a country like Sweden, where the inhabitants have it relatively well,” so observes David Altman. TEXT: KARIN FREJRUD
»We made small protest actions, went out and banged on pots in the dark, listened to banned Cuban music. It was a time of dreams, idealisation, and it felt like we could literally take on the emerging democracy.« DAVID ALTMAN
FACTS/ VI SITING P ROFE SSORSHIP IN TORG NY SEG ERSTEDT’S M EMORY The visiting professorship was established in 2003 by the Torgny Segerstedt Memorial Foundation. The holder is appointed for one year and will represent disciplines related to democracy, freedom of expression, human rights or religion. Among the former holder of the visiting professorship are former Minister of Education and Culture Bengt Göransson and the UN’s Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.
The new Big Data World How will Big Data, i.e. the huge amount of information that the Internet has given rise to, transform research, cultural life and the community-at-large? That was the question during an international symposium last summer at Visual Arena Lindholmen. T H E CO N FE R E N C E , which took place 25 and 26 June, consisted of 11 very diverse lectures and subsequent discussions. The introductory speaker was Carrie Figdor, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Iowa. “The Internet contains information of approximately 8 zettabytes, thus an 8 with 21 zeros, and the volume of data doubles every two years. If all of this information was organised in patterns, it perhaps could challenge established beliefs and conceptions, such as what is uniquely human, our mental capabilities.” A N I L S E T H , Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, began his lecture with the poem All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace, which is about a paradisiacal future where mammals and computers live side-by-side. “Descartes argued that animals are only unconscious machines. La Mettrie developed the argument further to that man also is a soulless machine. But I personally think the opposite; that we have self-consciousness precisely because we are machines who want to stay alive. So if we want to create robots with self-awareness, they must have some sort of physiology so that they have an interest in living further. How does the brain manage its own “big data”? Via continually anticipating what will happen: “I predict myself, therefore I am.” Paul Verschure, professor at the Catalan Institute of Advanced Research, took the NSA’s attempt to
control big data as an example of a rather meaningless activity. “Big data is a waste of time if you do not have an idea of what the information will be used for, how it can change the world, that is what science is really all about.” During the conference, two researchers from the University of Gothenburg also participated: Staffan I. Lindberg, Professor of Political Science, showed general statistics regarding the world’s democratic development, and Palle Dahlstedt, Associate Professor of Applied Information Technology, presented an example of how a composer can work with modern technology. “ T H E P U R P O S E O F the symposium was to get into a deeper discussion of how big data can affect research and perhaps even the perception of human identity,” explains Urban Strandberg, Associate Professor of Political Science, who along with Christian Munthe, Professor of Practical Philosophy, arranged the conference. The symposium attracted some seventy attendees, but was also recorded by Media Technology at the University of Gothenburg. This has meant that interest has spread. “For example, Marcia McNutt, Chief Editor of Science, has been in touch,” explains Urban Strandberg. And now Theo D’Haen, Editor of the European Review, is planning a special issue with articles based on the participating researchers’ presentations. Big data is simply a giant question which interests more and more people, both domestically and internationally. For additional information, as well as access to the videos, click here: http://cergu.gu.se/Events/ konferenser/big+data+june+2015.
ExtrActEd frOm prOGrAmmE
09:00 Interstellar (E)migration – Space Travelling and Extra-terrestrial Colonization
tHis yEAr’s tHEmE is GLOBAL miGrAtiOn in tHE WOrLd, sWEdEn And GOtHEnBurG
Participants: Maria Sundin, Andreas Johnsson, Thommy Eriksson and Maria Nyström.
13:00 Possibilities and Challenges
LOcAtiOn: pEdAGOGEn, BuiLdinG A, västrA HAmnGAtAn 25
Participants: Ingrid Höjer, Oksana Shmulyar Gréen, Thomas Erhag, Karin Zelano and Claes Haglund.
12:45 Forced Migration – Challenges, Politics and Humanitarian Actions Moderator: Ulrika Knutson, other participants: Ingela Winter-Norberg, Lisa Pelling, Madelaine Seidlitz and Göran Larsson.
15:00 The relation between citizenship and human rights Moderator: Ulrika Knutson, other participants: Elisabeth Abiri, Henry Ascher and Helena Holgersson.
17:45 Expressing migration through art and personal histories Medverkande: Pooneh Rohi, Klara Björk and Linda Sternö and other participants from Kameran som verktyg.
09:00 Economic effects and diverse positions in the Swedish job market Participants: Joakim Ruist, Klara Öberg, Michele Valsecchi, Maria Eriksson Baaz and Robin Biddulph.
15:15 Being “the Other” in a Swedish Teacher Training Programme Participants: Zahra Bayati.
17:45 A Swedish welfare state for all? Historically and today
16:00 Journalism and Human Dignity: People who have taken action for migrants and human rights Moderator: Ann Ighe, other participants: Christian Catomeris, Desiree Chalmers, Interpreter, Amanda Peterson, Sara Stendahl and Linda Sternö.
18:30 Getting involved: Art, resistance and the transgression of borders Moderator: Ingrid Hedin Wahlberg, other participants: Khaled Harara, Linda Karlsson Hammarfelt, Jonas Simonson and Edgar Platen.
e: ramm ll prog e The fu lweek.gu.s globa
Participants: Gellert Tamas.
AlSO vISIT THE ExHiBitiOns AS wEll AS tHE miGrAtiOn futurE LAB wHICH wIll BE unDErwAy In PEDAGOGEn All THrEE DAyS
Global migration the theme of Global Week Pictures that migrants have taken themselves, the relationship between citizenship and human rights, hip-hop, and the opportunity to live on a distant planet. What is this all about? It’s about this year’s Global Week, of course. consecutive year, the University of Gothenburg organises a program of global goodies for anyone interested: for students, for prospective students, and also for staff and visitors of all kinds. What is new this year is that the “week” only lasts for three days, and that all the events and arrangements will take place at Pedagogen. The theme – Global migration in the world, Sweden and Gothenburg – is more relevant than ever. Among others, the hip-hoper and rapper Khaled Harara will talk about what it’s like to be a musician in his native Palestine. “Music and culture are among the most FO R T H E S I X T H
effective ways to combat society’s ills. And hip-hop and rap is precisely about rebelling against authority.” Another of the participants is Zahra Bayati, a senior lecturer in pedagogics. “My lecture is about how human conditions and migration looks in the Swedish teacher training education. Among other things, I will discuss stereotypes and racist conceptions and their consequences in different pedagogical activities, from kindergarten to university.” B U T W H Y LI M IT yourself to the Earth? Even though it is far in the future, perhaps man will eventually be able to establish bases on the Moon, for example, or even on Mars, explains astrophysicist Maria Sundin. “Where the line between science fiction and science goes, it is not always so easy to tell.” The Swedish welfare state will be discussed, by among others the journalist Gellert
»Hip hop and rap is about resistance.« KHALED HARARA
Tamas, and the migration industry will be debated by Jesper Bjarnesen and Anja Karlsson Franck. And Honorary Doctorate Ulrika Knutson will be the moderator when issues concerning civil and human rights and today’s migration are discussed. T H E R E W I LL A L S O be exhibitions and a workshop that Masters’ students from the School of Design and Crafts have arranged. “It is called The migration Future Lab and is a way to explore, via various scenarios, what migration is and can be, explains Oriana Haselwanter. Among other things, we will have an inspiring lecture at two o’clock every day. The workshop will provide different perspectives, and be visually but also physically interesting. Who can participate? Anyone who wants to!”
GUJOURNAL 6 | 2015
Shout of joy over the Nobel Prize around him. Nobody is better than he is at identifying biological issues, reformulating them as chemical challenges and finding a simple solution that reflects back on biological processes. Most of the work he has done is easy to follow and understand for that reason.” Professor Lindahl has continued to collaborate with the University of Gothenburg over the years. He was made an Honorary Doctor of
When the Nobel Prize was announced Monica Olsson was even happier than Tomas Lindahl.
A shout of joy echoed through the hallways of Medicinareberget last Wednesday noon when the news came that Tomas Lindahl had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. It was definitely the highpoint of the year for Monica Nilsson, who has worked at his side on many occasions. “Thomas is an incredibly able researcher who taught me everything I know about proteins,” she smiles. “I wouldn’t be surprised if I was more thrilled by the announcement than he was.”
diately assigned a project to sink her teeth into. “At first I felt like a nobody,” Ms. Olsson says. “The place was chock full of leading international researchers who held Tomas in extraordinary regard.” colleague was an American postdoctoral researcher who had never worked with proteins in a laboratory before. Though he disagreed with her occasionally about how to set up an experiment, he acquiesced every time because he knew that Professor Lindahl trusted her implicitly. “I knew that Tomas always had my back,” she says simply. Researchers typically ask laboratory assistants to redo an experiment when they fail to obtain the expected results, but Professor Lindahl was of a different ilk. “He would simply say, ‘Of course you know more about it than I do’ and leave it at that,” Ms. Olsson recalls. Per Elias, Professor of Medical and Physiological Chemistry, chimes in that Professor Lindahl is a highly regarded researcher and more than deserving of the Nobel Prize. “He has a knack for coordinating research projects and his visionary approach causes others to flock
»He respects and honors people who do their job well.« MONICA OLSSON
H E R C LO S E ST
W E R E IT N OT for Professor Lindahl, Ms. Olsson would certainly have retired at the age of 65. At 72, she remains a popular and esteemed laboratory assistant at Medicinareberget, now as a member of the team directed by Maria Falkenberg and Claes Gustafsson. She was Professor Lindahl’s right-hand lab assistant in 1978-1982 when he was affiliated with the University of Gothenburg. “Those were highly rewarding and enjoyable years,” Ms. Olsson says. “Tomas has a dry, British-like sense of humor that always tickled my funny bone.” S H E R E M E M B E R S picking up large quantities of neck sweetbread from a slaughterhouse in Varberg for laboratory experiments. Three kilograms were needed to ensure a sufficient supply of protein. With today’s modern methods, only a fraction of that amount is needed. Ms. Olsson goes to get a printout of
a 1980 scientific article about incorporation of a methyl base formed as the result of alkylated DNA into a special enzyme referred to as Ada. Published by the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the article was seminal when it comes to research about DNA repair. Ms. Olsson was the principal author. Professor Lindahl had entrusted such responsibilities to lab assistants before, but he went out of his way to make it clear that she was the best person for the job. “ H E R E FU S E S TO be impressed by a string of degrees or all the years you have spent in school,” Ms. Olsson says. “He respects and honors people who do their job well.” Once Professor Lindahl had found his footing as research director for the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, he asked Ms. Olsson whether she would like to work with him for a year. This was 1987. The position came with attractive terms and she was imme-
Medicine in 1991 and took part in an international panel of experts (RED10) that assessed research quality at the university in 2010. And Ms. Olsson is just as invaluable to him as ever. More than once he has asked her to come to England and help him determine whether the results reported in an article that he is reviewing are actually correct. Read the article that Ms. Olsson and Professor Lindahl wrote for the Journal of Biological Chemistry in 1980: “Repair of Alkylated DNA in Escherichia Coli” http://www.jbc. org/content/255/22/10569.long Tomas Lindahl. Photo from The Francis Crick Institute. TEXT AND PHOTO: ELIN LINDSTRÖM CLAESSEN
Solemn and suistanable This year’s conferment ceremony was no exception. Equally solemn, colorful and beauti ful as usual. But still a little different. No meat was served during the day and for the first time there were more female honorary doctors. HE CEREMONY
began, according to tradition, with an academic procession where the vice-chancellor and deans with doctorates and honorary doctorates, and marshals who carried banners and flags, marched in to the tones of William Byrd. Then followed a nearly three-hour ceremony where 155 new doctors and 15 honorary doctorates received their insignia and the audience’s applause. Suisanability was the theme at this year’s conferment ceremony at the Swedish fair. Most clearly, this was the opening number in which the percussion ensemble performed the 42nd Street on pet bottles, old cans, metal pipes and rusty car rims. The ViceChancellor Pam Fredman emphasised that the university’s role is to contribute to a better future. “Half of the life in the oceans have disappeared since the 1970s, 10 percent of all girls in the world don’t get the chance to education and many people still die from diseases that are treatable. It reminds us not only of global challenges and injustices, but clarifies that work on a sustainable
society is a matter of survival”. The conferment act is a colorful spectacle that is planned in every detail, nothing is left to chance. This also applies to the performences by musical students from the Academy of Music and Drama. Anders Wiklund, who holds the title director mucices, explains that the music should fit in with the ceremony’s various parts and serve as resting points. In the throng, between the ceremony and the banquet, Ulrika Knutson passes by. She has been awarded an honorary doctorate at the Faculty of Arts. “I feel honored that I as a professional journalist can receive this prestigious award. The ceremony was dignified, delicate and beautiful. The thing that impressed me most was that despite the solemnity promoters radiated warmth and personality”. Then followed the banquet, with inpirational speeches of thanks, great food and drinks. The theme also characterized the food, which was organic, fair and local. The party continued with dancing into the wee hours. TEXT: ALLAN ERIKSSON PHOTO: JOHAN WINGBORG
The abridged version of the University of Gothenburg staff magazine, GU Journal. Issue no 6 November 2015.