Research that reaches out

Is it possible to talk to a 12-year-old about your research without compromising on seriousness and scientific validity, and without being scared of doing so?

Yes, I think you can and I hope you can. Otherwise, that is something we need to practise. In any case, I think it is important to aim to make yourself understood, and in that way make your research accessible to more people than just those who are like-minded.

Research communication is a crucial part of our mission to collaborate with society around us. It not only justifies our existence since we are funded by tax money and are therefore obliged to show a broader, tax-paying public what we do with the money; it also gives us a voice in the debate and highlights the role that the research being carried out at KTH Royal Institute of Technology plays in terms of social development. Regardless of the form it takes, communication boosts our results – in terms of both reaching out to society and providing benefit.

This report from the Swedish Research Council, which presents the views of some researchers regarding research communication and open science, makes for interesting reading: link

It makes it clear that one of the reasons researchers choose not to prioritise the process of communicating about their research is the lack of time available, and a second, perhaps more decisive reason is the lack of a reward system for anyone choosing to talk about their research and make it accessible to a wider audience in this way. This means that this kind of communication is not regarded as worthy of merit – but that said, it is increasingly sought after during the process of applying for grants.

The point that research communication has been considered to do little for the researcher’s academic merit rating has also been made repeatedly in several different studies over the past 15 years. Since both resources and commitment are required to carry out research communication, and because time is limited, people tend to prioritise the research they are doing for obvious reasons. This is the case despite the fact that everyone at the same time is aware of the significance of the communication – particularly from a democratic point of view.

Another interesting matter highlighted in the above report is the will not only to talk about the results of research, but also the role of research in a broader perspective as well as the whats, the whys and the hows.

Communication is worthy of merit, and more researchers should view the process of sharing their findings as a natural and integral part of their research. Many research funding bodies make communication a specific part of each project. This is especially true in the case of major research programmes. So it cannot be avoided.

When a researcher engages in communication, it is important for them to maintain a balance and present both sides of an argument. As researchers, we all know that there is always another side to the results of our research. A researcher will gain credibility if they themselves discuss this side as well.

KTH benefits overall from the research we conduct being made visible. Raising the profile of our research leads to greater awareness of KTH and boosts the attractiveness of the university as an educational, research and collaborative centre of learning.

 

Foundation year programme paves the way to KTH

A motion has finally been presented regarding higher education access programmes  (http://www.regeringen.se/remisser/2018/05/remiss-av-promemorian_behorighetsgivande-hogskoleintroducerande-utbildningar/ in Swedish. Where KTH Royal Institute of Technology is concerned, it is primarily courses known as foundation year programmes that are of interest and that we are working hard to retain.

For many years we have offered such preparatory programmes aimed at students lacking special admission requirements or who wish to repeat chemistry, physics and mathematics prior to embarking on an engineering programme. I have already previously discussed this form of education  that we deem important. The memorandum now being circulated also presents the opportunity of combining courses that offer access to higher education with courses that meet general and special admission requirements.

The fact that the opportunity to offer foundation year programmes is here to stay is excellent news. It gives individuals the chance to choose – not only young people coming straight from upper-secondary education, but also those wishing to change their specialisation later in life.

According to the motion being circulated, students will not apply for and commit themselves to a subsequent programme, but will have a place that is guaranteed for two years. This gives universities greater flexibility in terms of planning. There is an associated risk that KTH will lose foundation year students who were previously bound more closely to KTH. But the situation is similar to that at other universities, where they have seen that foundation year (foundation semester) students apply elsewhere instead.

In KTH’s earlier motion responses in which the issue has been addressed, we referred to the fact that this may mean that students make more discerning choices when they have completed their year and know more about what they are getting into and wish to apply for. During their foundation year programme, students have the chance to see that there are many different engineering programmes at KTH, which is perhaps less obvious before spending some time here.

The question KTH needs to consider is whether we should also arrange courses that enable students to meet general admission requirements. This may apply, for example, to courses in Swedish and English that train students in academic literacy skills. For some students, it is a lack of linguistic knowledge in particular that causes difficulties at the start of a programme. So being able to focus on Swedish and English prior to demanding engineering and architectural studies is not a bad idea. The same may apply to students on Master’s programmes, with them needing to become more proficient in English.

Those on the new programme are afforded student status, which is good. At the same time, this may entail greater costs for certain universities. As far as I can see, no new funding will be provided in support of the now expanded possibility of providing preparatory programmes and foundation year programmes. This means that KTH needs to carefully analyse the proportion of such programmes in relation to our regular programmes.

It is initially difficult to see that the motion is in line with lifelong learning. I think mainly younger people who have been away for a few years after completing upper-secondary education will take advantage of the opportunity to refresh their knowledge. But this is lifelong learning too!

A clear benefit is KTH’s ability to work to an even greater extent on widening recruitment and participation by now being able to provide a foundation year programme (or foundation semester) along with courses that enable students to meet general admission requirements, even for groups that are perhaps afraid to choose a prestigious education at KTH. When approached wisely, a course, semester or foundation year can give a student a taste for studying and the courage to submit an application, even if neither of their parents is an engineer, architect or graduate.

KTH gains broader opportunities to show how exciting and rewarding an education in engineering or architecture can be. Also, in KTH’s experience, students who have completed a foundation year programme are more motivated and have better study habits, which leads to greater success in terms of finishing their studies within the time limit. And this is essentially good for everyone!

 

 

The importance of inspiring role models

Being an international university means maintaining good relationships with other universities around the world. Last week, the Deputy President, the University Director, heads of schools, KTH Senior Advisor International Strategies and I visited Munich.

The purpose of the visit was to strengthen our relationship with the Technical University of Munich (TUM). A lot of collaboration with TUM is already underway in many areas of research, and around 10 students from KTH Royal Institute of Technology go there on short or slightly longer exchanges every year. KTH also hosts several students from TUM.

Global relations involve maintaining close contact and cooperation with our peers, but also being a role model for universities that want to improve as well as interacting more with international universities that serve as role models for KTH.

Today KTH has five international partner universities, and we are currently in discussion with Queen Mary University of London about the possibility of it becoming a sixth such partner to us.

There are numerous European universities in networks such as CESAER  and CLUSTER , so we already have many collaboration contacts in Europe.

But TUM is of particular interest for a number of reasons, not least because it is ranked No. 1 in Germany. TUM has a faculty of medicine that contributes to the university’s high position in international ranking lists.

Otherwise, TUM and KTH are similar in terms of their respective technology domains. But there are also differences, as Germany’s federal states have an independent role and they also strongly support their universities. Our impression is that TUM is a relatively rich university. This is apparent in the way professors are recruited there and then granted access to numerous associated services and laboratories when they take up their positions. That’s hard for KTH to match.

The systematic work being done to ensure worldwide visibility is very interesting. TUM has offices in every part of the world, which are usually staffed by locals. To them, being represented in Brussels is a given. These offices around the world are mainly used to recruit students, but also to help establish research contacts.

TUM has a fully-developed international campus in Singapore .TUM is present there as an independent company, because just as in Sweden, state funding cannot be used outside the home country’s borders. But via this company structure, TUM provides both first cycle and second cycle courses and study programmes. In Singapore, the organisation is funded by tuition fees and by German companies located there.

The students come primarily from Asia, and companies tend to provide resources because of their need for educated staff. The TUM company was established 15 years ago and our impression is that it is doing well. TUM in Singapore is located in the same building as MIT and other international centres of learning. Having a company that operates as an international campus is an interesting set-up, but is not something that Swedish universities like ours are allowed to do – at least not yet. Over the years, various initiatives have been taken at KTH that could be likened to having a campus outside Sweden.

Establishing outposts abroad can be risky and must, of course, provide the university with clear added value. The basic principle that state funding must remain in Sweden is self-evident. And if a different setup is to work at all, it is important that it can be financed locally on-site – where the campus is located.

We also visited TUM’s innovation unit, the Entrepreneurship Center, which is located just outside Munich, in Garching. An impressively large area is set aside there for MakerSpace, where all manner of workshop equipment is available. KTH also has many such workshops. The inspiring thing was discovering that companies (both large and small) can become members by paying a fee, which gives them access to all the equipment. This secures funding for the activities, which of course benefits TUM as a university.

And, as the icing on the cake, KTH organised an alumni event one evening. The Munich Alumni Chapter is celebrating its fifth anniversary this spring. There are approximately 380 KTH alumni in the Munich area, which makes them the largest such group in Germany. It was enjoyable to meet former students who all really value the education they received at KTH. This time, we also invited KTH students who are currently participating in exchange programmes in Munich, as well as German exchange students. This proved to be very popular.

It reminded me of how important our alumni are as ambassadors for KTH. The focused efforts made over the past few years to build this up are beginning to pay dividends. One of the alumni mentioned to me that we are fairly unique in working with this concept in the Nordics, but that universities in our neighbouring countries are starting to turn to KTH to learn more about it.

It is always appreciated if you inform the KTH Alumni Office when you travel abroad to conferences or on exchanges of various kinds. You are always more than welcome to hold a lecture for one of the 20+ alumni associations around the world, for example. Most of these associations hold around 4-6 meetings a year, and a visit by a “KTH-er” is always appreciated.

 

 

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The elusive time

The pace of the academic world is fascinating – and paradoxical. Initially, time is short and the margins are small. But later on, processes really seem drawn out.

Take applications for direct government funding, for example… Having been awarded a grant, a researcher then has to get a research group together as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the recruitment process – which is meant to be quality-based and legally-compliant – takes time.

In order to make the best use of research funding, matters should really be handled swiftly – but the rest of our set-up can’t always keep up. Conflicts of interest and recruitments that take time pose a significant problem – not least from an international perspective.

Another example of the contradictory nature of the pace at which things happen is that it may take years of study, laboratory experimentation and hard work with little outcome for results to suddenly start pouring in.

Besides this, once direct government funding has finally been secured and it feels possible to get down to focusing on the actual work, it’s already high time to skim through the latest published material and make fresh applications.

This is a situation that most researchers learn to live with – but that does not make it ideal, since it can also be the source of stress.

A researcher might have been working methodically and purposefully in their room for years, when suddenly – owing to sheer coincidence, current trends or a particular breakthrough – their research is highlighted in the media and the work suddenly has to be summarised and reduced to fit the required format: just a few minutes in the limelight.

In the case of certain particular research initiatives, such as those relating to AI (artificial intelligence), a research domain may suddenly pop up and develop within a very short period, while others require a long time to mature.

Gender equality and sustainable development are two of the areas that are prioritised at KTH. Diligence and conscious effort are both required here, as well as systematic work over time. Then suddenly, the results become discernible or perhaps even clearly apparent; not only in terms of there being more female applicants at various levels or because KTH has established an Equality Office; but also in terms of the top marks awarded last autumn during the Swedish Higher Education Authority’s (UKÄ’s) review of the integration of sustainable development in higher education.

Reorganisations are another case in point; it can take time to analyse and investigate the present situation. It can be a comprehensive process that tests one’s patience: tedious in parts and uncertain in others. Then all of a sudden, a new organisation is in place offering a totally new perspective. I hope that after KTH’s organisational change – involving a shift from 10 schools to five since January 1 this year – things have begun to settle down, and that more efficiency and uniformity might already noticeable.

Teachers and students working on a project that has been hard to get going… A rapidly approaching deadline… Everything seems hopeless. And yet the project – whether it involves a poster exhibition or the construction of a fuel-efficient racing car – will be completed on time.

At KTH, patience co-exists with both speed and temperament, and it’s a great melting pot of tradition and innovation. The scope of it: what could be more compelling?

European networks in joint appeal

At the end of last week, I took part in the CLUSTER network’s meeting. CLUSTER stands for Consortium Linking Universities of Science and Technology for Education and Research and is a network of 13 technical universities in Europe that KTH Royal Institute of Technology has been part of since the start.

Over the years, a number of different projects have been carried out within the network. At present, for example, KTH is coordinating a project that aims to map existing courses in entrepreneurship and offer a Master’s programme with this specialisation. Seven of the 13 members of the network are included in this particular project.

The focus of the network is courses and study programmes, the goal being to offer students attractive exchanges between the best institutes of technology in Europe, along with dual degree partnerships at second- and third-cycle level, joint funding applications for courses and study programmes, exchanges for benchmarking purposes and approaches to policy issues at EU level.

An example of such policy work is: the CLUSTER network which, along with 12 university networks, is supporting an appeal concerning the next Framework Programme, FP9. The appeal is about the European Commission and European Parliament doubling the budget for research, innovation and education.

The arguments are based on this being the only way for Europe to take the lead in higher education, research and innovation. The CESAER network, Conference of European Schools for Advanced Engineering Education and Research,  of which KTH is a member and I am Vice President of the Board, is behind the appeal. CESAER has a significantly greater number of members and is also more of a lobbying initiative, while CLUSTER has a clear educational focus.

European University is a new initiative that is due to become part of Erasmus+. The idea is for it to provide a greater incentive for groups of European universities to work closely together. It is fundamentally about the same thing as many other EU initiatives: in other words, the idea is to make Europe more attractive and elevate its status in higher education and research. The European University Initiative has a vision that this programme can help bring EU Member States even closer together, which is particularly important in these times of Brexit and other forms of discord between member states. The discussion within CLUSTER was about how this instrument will be designed and which benefits it may offer. CLUSTER found that many things were unclear, but it is well worth looking at in more detail.

In order to truly empower the European networks in which KTH is involved, it is essential that KTH’s teachers/researchers contribute in various ways. KTH has a strong position in Europe, with many parties wishing to work with us. International university collaboration helps ensure high quality in education and research.

 

Freedom of thought

Since the start of the year, KTH Royal Institute of Technology has had five schools instead of 10, a reorganisation that has helped to establish a new and more efficient organisational structure. Visiting these schools and being presented with a whole smorgasbord of exciting and relevant research that is contributing to the development of society is amazing – and very educational.

The most recent in a series of visits was to the School of Engineering Sciences in Chemistry, Biotechnology and Health. Finding out about the latest innovations in the helmet development arena, and everything from how to prevent load injuries by using sensors in clothing, to the protein atlas, foundation year programmes and the use of centrifuges for understanding the effect of g-force on people is fantastic. This once again shows how unbeatable the combination of commitment, scientific knowledge and curiosity is in the creation of solutions for future working life and the development of society in general. Our students, researchers and other staff all make every effort to ensure that KTH remains a centre of learning for our times.

It is therefore extremely negative that a matter involving one student’s actions in class has assumed huge, black-and-white proportions in certain circles – a matter that has in fact already been investigated and closed, having been addressed in accordance with standard procedures and guidelines.

As President, I cannot simply let this go unmentioned in order to avoid meaningless controversy. It is utterly nonsensical to suggest that KTH has suppressed the right to freedom of expression, as has been claimed in some social media channels. Freedom of thought and the right to freedom of expression form the very basis of our reason for being.

Even though only a small group of people seem to be encouraging and strengthening each other’s skewed opinions, I would like to quote from KTH’s ethical policy:

“KTH’s core values are based on democracy, the equal value of human beings, human rights and freedom, and a right to free speech and open discussion. Equality between men and women and the dissociation of all forms of discrimination are both a quality issue and an integral part of KTH’s core values. Equality and diversity among employees and students also constitute important resources for KTH.

KTH’s activities are based on the conviction that courses and study programmes, as well as research, can and should contribute to better living conditions and to ecologically, socially and economically sustainable social development. As a university of technology, KTH has a particular responsibility for developing and sharing the knowledge needed to promote such sustainable development. KTH’s activities should be conducted in such a way that enables its resources to be used efficiently, without compromising on quality and service.

The achievement of scientific progress is based on openness and cooperation. KTH actively strives to bring about the dissemination of knowledge, free exchange of information and national as well as international cooperation.”

This might just sound like a string of nice words. But do read them aloud, really get a feel for them and see what meaning they have for you.

For an academic institution that operates within a democracy, this approach might all seem like a given and may appear straightforward, but it should be highlighted and defended every single day.

KTH is helping to build the society of the future.

Knowledge requires learning

Last week saw the introduction of the Government bill ‘Fler vägar till kunskap – en högskola för livslångt lärande’ (‘More paths to knowledge – a university for lifelong learning’), based on Tillträdesutredningen (the inquiry into access to further education) that took place about a year ago (http://www.regeringen.se/rattsdokument/statens-offentliga-utredningar/2017/03/sou-201720/ in Swedish with English summary).

Key sections of the inquiry are included in the Government’s bill: both the section on general and special admission requirements and the questions regarding selection. But when it comes to regulations regarding courses and programmes that provide prior knowledge, it seems as if a review is still in progress.

Just like many others at the present time, the bill addresses lifelong learning. Of course this is important but it is not – and this is important to note – the main task of universities and institutes of higher education. Because whichever way you look at it, their main task is to provide students with the conditions to master academic fundamentals so that they can use them in their future professional lives or in their own activities.

So the bill’s slogan – education during a “whole life and from the whole country” – may sound good but it is actually nothing new.

It may be worth reminding ourselves that lifelong learning has a long tradition in Sweden. What is known as adult education saw many people start to become involved in study circles and distance learning, such as the courses from the education provider Hermods.

My father took his upper secondary leaving certificate by taking all the necessary courses in evening classes and via correspondence courses. Many people have acquired their qualifications in the same way, taking responsibility for their education themselves by applying for and being admitted to courses and study programmes at universities and institutes of higher education. It is still possible to apply for university courses or programmes whenever you wish to or feel the need to.

As I say, KTH Royal Institute of Technology is ready to take its social responsibility in terms of lifelong learning, but this requires special resources over and above the funding ordinarily allocated.

According to the Government bill, each university should be able to base its decision on which and how many students to admit on the results of the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test. This is a good thing.

However the test is not an accurate prediction of who will be a successful student at KTH. On the other hand, the foundation year programmes do so, because they have been set up in way that gives the student the chance to acquire knowledge that is equivalent to what is in the special admission requirements. Experience shows that foundation year programmes result in broader recruitment, but above all they improve students’ ability to successfully avail themselves of the courses and study programmes. This is why I am assuming that the review (which according to the bill is in progress regarding preparatory programmes), will conclude that it should continue to be possible to offer foundation year programmes.

The words in the bill about everyone being entitled to have access to further education if they have the necessary knowledge and qualifications are self-evident, but also nothing new. This is the way things already are. It gets a bit woolly when you start talking about prior knowledge being something that can be obtained through professional experience; it feels a bit 1970s. There are already many ways to acquire the prior knowledge required to meet the general admission requirements.

But professional experience alone cannot be seen as directly equivalent to knowledge. Practical experience and skills are acquired through work; knowledge requires learning. There have probably never been as many ways to gain knowledge as there are today, all of them requiring individual choices and independent responsibility, along with a high level of commitment. And no entrance rules in the world can alter this fact.

Link

I have been an advisory member of the Swedish Prime Minister’s National Innovation Council   for more than a year. The council’s task is to offer perspectives on innovation in terms of its significance in boosting Sweden’s competitiveness, with a principal focus on digitalization, environmental and climate-related issues and life science. The educational and research activities undertaken at KTH certainly cover these domains.

On the whole, the council’s meetings are held in Stockholm, but a couple of them have taken place elsewhere in Sweden. I was at the meeting in Trollhättan in October 2017, for example. I think Västergötland country, where Trollhättan lies, serves as a great example in terms of the cooperation between academia, the public sector and business. In my previous role as principal for one of the region’s universities, I recognised that a great deal of active support was provided for the development and application of education and research. Successful collaboration is required if education and research are to be put to good use.

I think the Greater Stockholm region needs to focus even more on this kind of collaboration between these various parties. The Greater Stockholm region is well known as a prominent innovation hub in Sweden. This is due to the fact that the many high-profile educational establishments in the region are behind the establishment of startups through innovation. Scandinavia’s major tech companies have secured for the region a unique position around the world. These companies, as well as the many startups launched here, have also gained Sweden a high ranking on the global innovation front. (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/02/south-korea-and-sweden-are-the-most-innovative-countries-in-the-world/ ).

Naturally there is a great need to gather expertise, like at the National Innovation Council. Its ten experts include representatives of large companies, academia and start-ups, but also a number of prominent entrepreneurs.

Every meeting has a definite theme, the most recent one chosen being digitalization – in particular artificial intelligence (AI). Besides that, national procurement was discussed as a tool for increasing Sweden’s power of innovation. AI is a rapidly developing area, and both research and education are key to maximising the opportunities it brings.

One particularly important question is how the enormous need for competence should be met. There are plenty of possibilities here to make the most of and develop people who already have professional knowhow through a life-long learning process. A solid fundamental education in engineering could provide the basis for short or longer modules in the field of AI.

All organisations – whether private or public – are affected by the major societal changes enabled by AI. Universities and colleges have unique opportunities to offer tailored education in the AI domain, but this calls for a particular kind of dialogue between the various parties in order to pinpoint exactly what is required. It’s not enough to say that a college of higher education doesn’t meet the need for competence development; it is rather necessary to specify the exact requirements of individual companies and government/municipal authorities or county councils. When innovations emerge in the AI arena, it is often hard to keep the regulatory and legal framework up to date; it is particularly important for politicians to discuss these matters with experts. This matter tends to be discussed at almost every National Innovation Council meeting.

Within the council, it is clear to me that many people make life easy for themselves by complaining about the university’s limited ability to offer competence development, for example. Yet most of them forget that a) individuals need to be given time to study; b) someone needs to define the timing wished for; and c) someone has to pay.

The principal task of the university or higher education college is to provide an academic basis for the professions and organisations required by today’s society. On top of that, it is always possible for individuals to immerse themselves further in their chosen area or to change direction in life. These opportunities already exist, and always have done. So far, KTH has seen no dramatic increase in the number of people who want to study more!

It is interesting to take part in the discussions held at the council, not least because every meeting gives us an international as well as a national perspective on things. Besides the dialogue about life-long learning, I have raised the topic of agreements between academia and industry as a matter for discussion. Lengthy discussions often take place between the various parties before we reach the finishing line. Sweden is one of the few countries that still has teacher’s exemption, which gives the teacher/researcher the right to explore their own research ideas. This is one of the challenges that arise when establishing agreements, but above all, it’s important for the different parties involved in any research done together to realise that joint research materials are being produced.

The National Innovation Council will be active until the election, and I learn a lot every time – not least about the way day-to-day issues have to be presented in order for them to feature in politics.

KTH at the heart of the village

In years gone by, people talked of placing the church at the heart of the village. When I look at the plans for our new campus, I’d be more inclined to say it’s about placing KTH Royal Institute of Technology at the heart of the village – in the figurative sense: through our five campuses, that is, which all play a key role in interacting with the surrounding community and business sector.

Our campuses are integrated into the local community and are visible to its citizens. KTH’s presence is, I hope, inspiring. We’re in the midst of reality. Just as we should be. Sometimes I wish that Greater Stockholm also had a better understanding of the attractiveness of and opportunities provided by the many successful universities and institutes of higher education located in the region. Compare this with the interest shown in centres of learning in smaller towns by their surrounding communities!

Universities certainly shouldn’t be ivory towers in some kind of intellectual isolation, observing the world from above. And in the case of KTH, the university not only occupies a central position in the community in terms of its physical location; it also has a position at the heart of the community secured by our students, who, once equipped with their education, will occupy the future workplace and build the society of tomorrow. Our researchers’ results are continuously building and developing our daily lives and the world we live in. Rather like the advance of Swedish industry in local, regional and global forums and perhaps even in the digital world.

But KTH is instrumental in creating Stockholm region’s positive reputation overseas, which is apparent judging by the great influx of international students, teachers and researchers. KTH is partly responsible for Stockholm as a city becoming such an innovative academic hub. Just one beneficial aspect of our research is that it provides sufficient facts for politicians to make relevant decisions. Another exciting example of KTH’s commitment to social responsibility is its research partnership with  Berättarministeriet, which works with digital storytelling and the way digital technology can be used to help develop children’s language skills: https://www.berattarministeriet.se/nyheter/kth-och-berattarministeriet-startar-forskningsprojekt-om-digital-storytelling/ (in Swedish).

The fact that KTH’s Professor Sverker Sörlin is one of the initiators of the pro-democracy campaign #ViMåstePrata is also positive, and gives us a foot in the door in terms of public debate. Even though KTH is of course unable to take credit for this initiative, it highlights an area in which all universities have a duty to safeguard and call attention to the importance of facts and of basing news reporting and other social media feeds on research. If we are to be useful, we need to put the quality of education and research at the centre, and constantly strive for improvement. And that’s what we do at KTH!

About role models and quality

When I took up my post as President one-and-a-half years ago, a great deal of attention was paid to the fact that I was KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s first ever woman president, and to what the conceivable consequences of this might be.

I answered then – as I do now – that laying the foundations for women in the world of academia to study, conduct research and make a career for themselves, on equal terms and on the basis of equal expertise, is a matter of quality. We can’t afford to reject, make things difficult for and, in the worst-case scenario, miss out on this expertise. That would be pure stupidity.

But I also said that equal opportunities between men and women concern everyone’s day-to-day work. KTH works in a variety of ways on these issues to ensure that equality remains a consistent feature of all our activities, on both the educational and research front (in the same way as we work with sustainable development and internationalisation). Developing, improving and reinforcing these three areas is crucial in terms of our ability to assert ourselves in the international arena.

I have been constantly reminded – sometimes almost on a daily basis – of the value of the messaging relayed by being a female president, and of the importance of role models people can identify with. I’ve also been reminded of the demands that can easily be placed on a female leader in particular, and I imagine that the demands and benchmarks that apply in the case of a man in the same position are quite different. This is interesting to study and take note of – and then leave it at that.

On the other hand, it’s a matter of concern that the latest survey results from the VA Barometer that came out before Christmas revealed that only half as many girls as boys could envisage a future as a researcher. Only 22 percent of the girls and women who participated indicated they could conceive of this, while the corresponding figure for the boys and men was 44 percent. A further figure to keep track of over the years is the level of confidence in research, which generally continues to be high. But the survey showed that 89 percent of men had great or very great confidence in researchers at universities and institutes of higher education, while the corresponding figure for women had fallen to 76 percent from 91 percent the previous year. It is hard to know what caused this decline and how it should be interpreted. But I think it serves as a reminder of the significance of female role models, and it suggests that the ability to identify with women in academia increases credibility, in any case in purely subjective terms.

The fact that just under 20 percent of all the biographical descriptions on Wikipedia are about women is also quite telling. Just for fun, you can do your own little test at home. Search for a few male and then a few female researchers who you admire, and you will probably become aware of the bias. At the same time, the proportion of women applying for higher education courses and study programmes is increasing, according to the statistics for spring 2018 ( in Swedish). This means that women are interested in higher education and that they recognise the need for and value of a university education. But they don’t see themselves as researchers – or is that the image conveyed to them is that of a man?

On Thursday 8 March, those who wish to contribute to redressing balance can do so by creating online content about prominent women.

KTH, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Wikimedia are organising a writing session at the KTH Campus as part of the global WikiGap campaign. Students will write, update and publish articles on prominent women in the field of technology.

As I said, it’s all about quality.