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Evaluation of research quality

In the academic world all researchers work hard to discover new findings, which will lead to great improvements in the scientific world. The leadership at universities monitors the success of groups/department with respect to the research quality. At KTH, this has been done at research evaluations (RAE) in 2008 and 2012.  It is not exactly clear when the next evaluation will be done, but a good guess is that it will take place in 2020.

Currently, I am in Helsinki to take part in a one week research evaluation of the materials science and metallurgy research at Aalto University, RAI2018. As a matter of fact I am also joined by our Head of School Jan Wikander, who has been invited to evaluate the mechanical engineering research at Aalto University. Overall, 45 scientist from all around the globe have been invited to this exercise. It is a very interesting experience that provides me and Jan with important input which we can share with the ITM researchers, so that they can be better prepared for a future evaluation at KTH.

One important thing with the evaluation is that each department should be compared to peers at other benchmark universities. Thus, there is not a focus on comparing department’s performances on a university level. This is very good since there exist different ways of publishing research results, having an impact on society, etc. So the focus should be on comparing how each department performs in comparison to similar departments elsewhere.

Aalto University is a fairly new university which in 2010 merged arts, business and engineering into one new school. What we have seen so far they have already been able to create new exciting collaborations. Maybe one interesting example is the production of textiles from forest-based raw material rest products that has been developed by engineers. Then, the art scientists have used these materials to produce fashion clothes that already have been shown on so called “cat walks”. Maybe later the business school will create business models on how these fashion clothes, produced based on recycled product, can be branded as a sustainable fashion!?

Overall, it seems like Aalto University has created an atmosphere which stimulates collaboration between different research groups and scientist. During the interviews it is clear that both PhD students and faculty thinks that laboratories have opened up so that basically everyone has access to all experimental equipment. Maybe something for us to think about…..

Pär Jönsson, Vice Head of School