Who should ensure that the value systems formulated in steering documents are genuinely lived up to? Who should interpret the formulations? And what happens when these values gain real significance? Over the last six months I have asked various people for their thoughts on these issues. More detailed work on how general formulations on value systems can be translated into everyday practice has been initiated.
At the Equality Office, we have discussed and circulated thoughts on how values are part of the various assignments, projects and initiatives we pursue. It is often in courses and at meetings that questions concerning values, norms, treatment and actions arise. Several dialogue meetings about values have subsequently been held in different groups. Surprisingly enough, (or perhaps not?) most people talk about how values are attested to on a daily basis at work.
While made specific in written guidelines, they are actually activated via interactions between people. Formulations need to be interpreted and translated in specific situations. At a university like KTH, value systems are exercised everywhere, such as in personnel matters, research support, leadership development, recruitment, branding, student influence, health & safety, pedagogics, staff training and in academic employeeship.
Many people stress the importance managers have in living these values and providing a good example, in the form of respectful conduct and inclusive values. Not everyone recognises themselves in the general formulations and therefore perceive a gap between words and deeds. This can create frustration and dissatisfaction. More detailed work must therefore be undertaken everywhere in conversations and meetings.
To shrink this distance between words and deeds, we can all ask ourselves the question; what do I do in my work that is tangential to our values? How can I take responsibility for engaging in developing and inclusive conversations on a daily basis for example? What could I develop? How can I support other people around me?
KTH has set clear sustainability goals for research: We need to make more strategic investments in this area and we need to create new opportunities for interdisciplinary research and education with a sustainability focus. These investments must also be made visible and accessible.
An exciting new collaboration has been entered into with Akademiska Hus that is going to contribute to making research and study programmes in sustainable development more visible. The idea is to exploit the opportunities that are available to use the various KTH campus areas as so-called Living Labs. A living lab is usually defined as an open innovation environment with a strong focus on end users where new ideas and concepts can be developed intuitively in collaboration with other parties. Several buildings on the KTH campus are already testbeds within the KTH Living Lab Centre with Akademiska Hus as one of the partners. Experiences from this partnership are positive and we are now aiming to build further on this.
An important first step in this work is to create a digital twin in parallel with the physical environment, not only to visualise research and innovation, but also to optimise local usage or to quite simply enable more efficient management and operation of our buildings. A digital twin can be described as a virtual copy of a real object or process that can exchange information with each other in real time.
By developing a digital twin, new ideas and innovations can be tested in the digital domain before being brought into the physical environment. This is an excellent opportunity for researchers in vastly different areas to test their ideas and it can also become an important resource for students in different project courses.
This new initiative chimes well with the sustainability goals that have
been set within the collaboration area where one sub goal calls for us to develop locations on KTH campus areas that showcase our climate and sustainability work and invite participation, for example via demonstration projects.
I and everyone at KTH-Sustainability wish all KTH collaboration partners, students and employees a pleasant, sunny and sustainable summer.
Vaccinations are in full swing and we can look forward to more normal conditions. Finally. And yes, we have all had to fight that bit hard at a time when there were many challenges that sometimes felt insurmountable. But what positive experiences can we take with us moving forward?
The first thing that springs to mind is digitalisation and the big opportunities this offers to benefit student learning and to achieve course learning goals for education and examination. And here, I am not thinking about digitally invigilated written exams at home or of live online broadcasts of mass lectures in monologue form.
What I am mainly thinking about are the opportunities for diversity in both forms of teaching and examinations. A diversity that benefits broader participation. This can concern digitally recorded lectures and interesting demonstrations, that students can watch at a time that suits them and as many times as they wish. And that are followed by scheduled Q&A sessions and other activities that enable dialogue and social interactivity.
Examinations can be made diverse, for instance via digital individual multiple choice questions that cover more basic factual knowledge and skills that can later be followed by written reporting and oral presentations, in groups or individually, for the higher learning goals. It can be advantageous to then conclude an examination with an individual oral examination, to assure individual goal fulfilment for example, and that can be brief, as little as 15 minutes is possible. Most of these activities can be done online or physically on site.
There are good examples where the above have been done in courses at KTH with around a hundred students and with accrued teaching time that is actually less than for equivalent courses held in a more traditional way. And best of all: the activities benefit student learning and the possibility of achieving course learning goals and at the same time are similar to their actual work activities after completing their studies.
Digital thesis defences where the opponent, grading committee and a larger audience are permitted to attend remotely raise the quality and reduce the climate footprint as it is easier to find a suitable opponent and grading committee when they can participate from home. It also reduces the need to travel.
Another positive experience is the importance of teacher teams. We can see that it has become increasingly common during the pandemic for teachers to start working together to solve challenges between them, provide support and spread good experiences. This is a development that is important to maintain.
There have been a lot of digital teacher meetings. One positive experience worth noting is the possibility of being able to participate in meetings while on a walk. These walking meetings have not only boosted my fitness but also my creativity. A creativity that is important in both education and in research.
The role of our campuses has become clearer. They are important for lab work and other key practical teaching elements. And not least, they are just as important for social interaction.
Last but perhaps most important. The pandemic has shown that we actually can change. And that maybe, there are other, better ways. Ways that were way outside the box before the pandemic.
When I wrote my doctoral thesis, the data that my results were based on were stored in boxes in my office. This included interview data, research diaries, prototypes and photographs from field studies. All in a great big jumble that only I could find things in. If everything had been structured better, in a standardised format, anonymised and cleansed, maybe far more researchers would have wanted to use and cite my research.
The situation is totally different today. In his policy on Open Science launched in 2016, EU Commissioner Carlos Moedas called for academic publications to be readily accessible AND that data sources should be interoperable and reusable. Even today, many universities still do not appreciate how important it is to build structures and tools to collate, store and make accessible research data in a secure, economical and high quality way.
Universities of the future must, to be competitive, offer a digital infrastructure that provides researchers with data processing services.
As a leading university of technology, KTH has many different major data driven research initiatives, the recently established and Wallenberg financed Data-Driven Life Science Initiative, Live-In Lab, ITRL, plus pretty much all the research activities we pursue. Simple and efficient access to such research data is vital for the quality of the research and a necessity today for many of these data intensive research projects.
To be a high quality research institute today, it is recommended that you organise your data in accordance with the FAIR principles, namely that data are Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. This also applies to personal data that can be especially sensitive and ethically challenging to process. Every research group and project is often expected to process their data in accordance with these principles for openness today.
The top universities in the world are now making major investments in digital infrastructure for processing research data and an organisation that can offer the support needed. It is now time for KTH to decide whether we want to be among the universities that offer the highest possible quality in their research and to accept the consequences of these aims and invest in digital infrastructure for research.
Tip of the week:
To support KTH’s development towards becoming a more data driven university, an online course about Open Science and the processing of research data has recently been developed.There are also various resources if you want to learn more about Open Science. KTH also has a cross-functional team that works with research data at email@example.com.
Is it possible to imagine contexts that are entirely value free? That is a question that is raised at regular intervals when values, norms and neutrality are discussed. Should we formulate ethical policies and values within higher education, or does this fly in the face of scientific objectivity?
It is good that these questions are asked as it reminds us of the different stances that need to be discussed by students, researchers and other university staff. And by everyone who thinks that research and education are important elements in a democratic society.
There are scientific ideals to defend that concern things such as research ethics, transparency, independence and integrity. Other scientific ideals include defending critical thinking and opportunities to revisit matters we think we already know.
Research always starts from a certain position in a certain context, which influences both assumptions and questioning. When researching, it is important to be aware of what stances and values are incorporated into the assumptions that are made, and to make these clear and visible. In work environments and study environments, one can think along similar lines.
While no culture is value free, there are dialogues that are more or less aware of the prevailing values. Common wishes as to expressed norms and values can be formulated in such dialogues, for example, to show respect in meetings between people or to share opportunities to speak.
It is also good to talk about what types of behaviour or comments are not desirable or acceptable. Of being neutral in relation to other people in the sense of treating everyone in an equal way is perhaps something to aim for. However, this is best done by becoming more aware of the importance of values and talking about these.
Awareness is about how we live our values in everyday life at all times and how words can be turned into deeds. That is often when values become visible, for both ourselves and others.
First top marks for the environment audit and then an excellent rating in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021. Both the above indicate that KTH is genuinely living up to its goal of being a leading university of technology for the climate change and a net carbon zero society.
As many of you know, KTH has been certified to the ISO 14001 international environment management standard. The environment audit was performed last week. It was fascinating to follow the process close up for the first time. Four days of intensive work and the involvement of over 100 people at KTH. The results: Passed with distinction.
The audit shows that we have processes in place together with the engagement and leadership to implement what is required. The auditors also praised the positive attitude they were met with at the KTH schools. Together with KTH Sustainability Manager Kristina Von Oelreich, I would like to thank you all for your fine work.
The excellent results in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021 that were announced April 21 are also a result of the engagement and cooperation between researchers, teachers, students and partners.
The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency has just released a report with the title: Conspiracy Theories and Covid-19: the mechanisms behind a fast growing social challenge. The research study was headed by Andreas Önnerfors, Professor in Intellectual History at Uppsala University.
What does this have to do with sustainable development, you may think? Rather a lot, I would say, if you expand the theories theme to the climate issue. I would encourage everyone who has the time, to read the report and think about how we can develop common know-how to counter various kinds of conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theories typically thrive in times of crisis and there are numerous examples where they can seriously put a brake on our capacity to act rationally and sufficiently forcefully. It is therefore pleasing to see that the new US administration has set ambitious new targets to once more be part of global efforts to tackle the climate issue.
At the virtual summit meeting arranged in the past few days, ambitious new goals were presented where the US aims to reduce its CO2 emissions by 50-52 percent compared to the 2005 level. Japan, Canada, South Korea and Britain have also set tough new targets. The EU has also raised its level of ambition to a 55 percent reduction instead of the previously resolved 40 percent.
In association with Earth Day 22 April, various interesting statistics were presented concerning how the Covid pandemic has affected global trade, travel and industry. In figures, this means that we used three percent less natural gas, four percent less coal, and nine percent less oil. This means that global CO2 emissions fell sharply for the first time in a long time. One assessment is seven percent. (Source: Carbon Monitor Programme /Nature analysis).
We now need to take heed of what we have learned in 2020 when we gradually return to a well-functioning society. The fact that Biden’s summit was by Zoom is one example we can adopt.