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Are you ready for some good news?

On 22 September, rather late in the afternoon, we received an email with the subject line EURAXESS – HRS4R GAP Analysis, OTM-R and Action EC Consensus Outcome.

Honestly, would you have interpreted this as:  

“Congratulations Lund University! You have been granted the prestigious certification HR Excellence in Research Award by the EU Commission. Your application was good, complete and contained everything we wanted and more, so no additions are needed. Good job.”

No? Well, that was, in other words, exactly the message we received. YES – we have got it! The HR Excellence in Research Award is ours!

We have wallowed in the reviewers’ praise for the application in parallel with updating web pages, formulating news items and emailing all the researchers to tell them the news (it is after all these interviewees who provided us with the substance of this application) … And now I can also at last proclaim our gratifying news here, on our project blog, which, moreover, the reviewers highlighted as “best practice” for how higher education institutions can communicate their work on HR strategies for researchers. Not bad!

So, what happens now? I knew you were going to ask.

The steering group recently approved the project plan for the next project, one that will ensure we actually do what we say we will do in our action plan and submit a good self-assessment to the EU Commission in two years. I will talk more about this in upcoming blog posts, because the blog will live on. I have written the blog so far, and I will also be taking over as project manager after Gunilla Thylander, who has so admirably coordinated the work up to now. You can reach me through comments on this blog or via email at: Asa.Thormahlen@hr.lu.se.

Updated web pages, including logo etc., are here (Swedish) and here (English).

The logo will soon also be available under “documents” for you to download and include in applications for external funding.

October 16, 2020

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Signed, sealed and delivered

And before we knew it we were sitting there, with a new vice-chancellor’s decision, with all the documents reviewed, updated and entered in the EU system. On 18 June at 9:09 (something those of you who like numerology will probably appreciate), we clicked (yes, the whole project team) on the ‘submit’ button.  

Thus, everything now lies in the hands of others – you are welcome EU, the best summer read has been delivered!

We also have two brand new websites where all the documents are now publically available.

https://www.lu.se/om-universitetet/jobba-hos-oss/hr-strategier-for-forskare-ansokan-om-certifiering (in Swedish)

https://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/about/work-at-lund-university/hr-strategies-for-researchers-application-for-certification (in English)

We chose to place them under the heading Working at LU (‘Jobba hos oss’). It is important that potential staff – national and international – are aware of the fact that Lund University has chosen to apply for the HR Excellence in Research certification. If we are granted the certification, we will also have increased our international competitiveness. However, the certification also plays an important role for current staff at Lund University, not least when it comes to external funding. We will return to this in the autumn.

The second thing we did after submitting the application on Thursday was to send a warm thank you to all of the 80 researchers who helped us in our work. Without them – you – we would never have come this far. We have thanked you before on this blog and do so again now!

The first thing we did? We celebrated with chilled champagne. Non-alcoholic given the time of day, but champagne all the same! And we ate chocolate pralines, not sugar-free.

We would now like to wish you a pleasant summer and we will be back in September!

July 1, 2020

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The Swedish model or “with a little help from our friends”

It strikes us that it sounds like we are the only ones in the world who are applying for the HR Excellence in Research certification. That is certainly not the case. Almost 600 higher education institutions in Europe have already been granted the desirable logo and, here in Sweden, several have received the certification in recent years. And many others in Sweden are applying!

The work on applying to the EU is a complicated process. So far, we have not lost heart even once. But it has been close. And what do we do then? When we struggle to put together documentation in accordance with templates that are hard to understand? Quite simply, we use a lifeline to get a little help from our friends. We send emails to other higher education institutions that were in the same situation a few years ago. We talk with those who are at the same stage of the process that we are now. And we encourage those who are starting out, or perhaps have come to a standstill.

Thanks to our colleagues around the country and their honest and helpful communication, we have been able to avoid mistakes and gain inspiration to continue. Karlstad’s action plan template, comments from reviewers of the Karolinska Institute’s application, Örebro’s work on implementation, Jönköping’s tips on setting up a “proper” home page now (more on this in the next blog post), Uppsala’s way of linking together their research evaluation work with HRS4R … the list could be made even longer.

And now we are in contact with each other, those who are working on HRS4R at higher education institutions in Sweden. And we will continue to cooperate in some way, you can be sure of that. After all, it is the Swedish model.

May 18, 2020

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Code vs Covid-19: 1-0

Our work is affected by the coronavirus, without a doubt. To totally rethink the way we interact with people is a challenge. Trips and meetings are cancelled, education transformed, seminars and workshops are postponed, as are the deadlines for applying for external funding. But some projects stay their course. In this case because the content is immune against virus outbreaks.

The steering committee have had two meetings during March concentrating on getting LUs action plan in place. The expression “kill your darlings” has been uttered several times, as actions in the long original action plan (see previous blog post) have been cut and put on what we call “we wish list” for coming years. What remains are now 8 actions, which have been presented to the Vice Chancellor Torbjörn von Schantz, our pro vice chancellors and the University Director. They’re fine with it as well. They are also aware that if we want to be able to stand with head held high in two years, after our self-evaluation, we have to reorganise efforts and get resources.
Next step is to talk to the different stakeholders who are pinpointed in the actions, so they can start planning. As soon as they’re on board and the vice chancellor has made his formal decision, we are putting the final version of the action plan up here for all to see. We can’t get in to details now, but we can give you some key words: Career development, transparent recruitment and on-boarding, research ethics, outreach, re-packaging information for various target groups.

Now, if this isn’t good news when we need it the most, I don’t know what is.

April 15, 2020

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The action plan is taking shape

We thought it would be easy to convert interview notes into an action plan – but in fact it was not easy at all. Reformulating views on issues that cause friction in an organisation into concrete measures, without it losing the underlying message, requires a lot of reflection. The steering group have read the first compilation (a wealth of pages containing the full content of the interviews) and now we have completed the action plan version one of… seven perhaps? It is 15 pages long…

The steering group’s task now is to make an initial prioritisation among all the “actions” and submit comments on the measures we have proposed. Then we will rewrite, condense further and resubmit it to the steering group. After that meeting in late March, we will present the action plan in other contexts. The project, of course, has both a communications plan (who we talk to about the action plan and how) and a timetable (when we talk to people). The timetable is extremely tight. In the first week of June, we intend to send in our application including all appendices. This means that the vice-chancellor must have made a decision in May, and the vice-chancellor’s Management Council and the Central Administration’s management group are to have seen it in April. The HR organisations and the Lund Doctoral Students’ Union are also on our to-talk-to list along with other groups. Yes, we hear what you are thinking: Are so many actors going to give their opinions on the action plan? Won’t it be extremely diluted as a result? We emphasise that the content of the action plan stems from the researchers themselves, from the interviews we conducted. We will not allow that content to be lost in the review round.

February 27, 2020

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A new year

We have interviewed more than 80 researchers at Lund University about how they experience their work situations according to the 40 principles stated in the The European Charter and Code. The interview phase is now over and the project group has already started to compile all the data. There are many ideas to read and a great many proposals for change to be summarised.  The project group has bundled together some overlapping principles and we have looked at how many times the researchers mentioned each principle. Some things can already be observed: there were comments on all 40 of the principles and there were certainly many researchers who talked about improved recruitment processes and clearer career opportunities (see previous blog post). However, many also talked about principles that we thought we had put to bed, so to speak. Apparently not.  We cannot emphasise enough how important it has been to meet researchers face to face and how grateful we are for researchers’ time and engagement. We are also staying in touch with the other large university-wide projects such as RQ20 and Tellus so that we can link our respective work where relevant.

What is the next step?

Now the work to produce an action plan begins, based on the problems and suggestions for solutions that have emerged from the interviews. We have also asked all of the academic appointments boards at the University to look at the checklist ‘Open Transparent Merit-Based Recruitment’ that we will send to the EU together with the action plan. In addition, it is time for us to summarise the process so far and to plan for the future with the implementation of the action plan and the organisation required for that implementation. We are also already starting to think about how our self-evaluation is to be set up and what we will need to look at then, in just over two years’ time.

January 7, 2020

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Trendspotting

Although we have interviewed nearly 50 people, we are not yet able to identify with certainty what will eventually be included in an action plan for the continued efforts to improve researchers’ working conditions in the coming years (provided that we receive the certification, that is, but we believe we will).

However, many researchers are talking about the importance of having clear career paths and access to information and advice about what it takes to make a career for yourself at LU. As in so many other contexts, the situation differs between faculties, both in terms of career paths and in terms of organisation, information, development opportunities and support. However, as of last summer, there are in fact (revised) general appointment rules for the University, which makes it a lot easier to know what it takes to qualify for a teaching position here. In addition, there is the Policy on Employment and Good and Clear Career Paths for Teaching Staff and Researchers at Lund University. The policy is based on Lund University’s strategic plan and addresses crucial principles that are relevant when we want to attract, recruit and retain research and teaching staff.

Lund University Appointment Rules I 2019 I (PDF 614 kB)

Policy on Employment and Good and Clear Career Paths for Teaching Staff and Researchers at Lund University I 2019 I (PDF 436 kB)

However, not all careers are about careers in academia. Highlighting career opportunities outside the university is also important. Since January 2019, Lund University has been offering a career development concept for academic staff (including doctoral students, of course). All activities are in English, free of charge and in one way or another concern career development – inside and outside academia. The planning for spring 2020 is already complete. Read more on the Staff Pages.  

December 2, 2019

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How is it going?

Are you perhaps wondering how our interviews are going with the researchers? Very well, thank you! At the time of writing, we have booked more that 75 interviews with researchers from all the faculties, MAX IV and the Specialised Centres (USV). Our aim is to interview 80 people, so we are getting close. No one will be upset if we get to talk to more.

We are interviewing doctoral students, postdocs, researchers, associate senior lecturers, senior lecturers and professors. There is an even gender balance, slightly more women than men, and we have many interviews in English with international staff. How have they been selected? Firstly, we asked all the faculties for names and sent invitations to around 100 people. Then, we asked the interviewees for the names of other people they thought may have views that would be valuable for us to hear. The method has proven to be a success factor.

It is clear that the project engages researchers and that they all feel an urge to make proposals for improvements about one thing or another. The EU Commission requires that the researchers’ views are to form the basis for the action plan that is to guide work at Lund University in the coming years. This requirement is completely logical – it is after all researchers who know the principles we have to focus more on in order to be an attractive workplace now and in the future.  

November 11, 2019

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Letter of endorsement signed by the vice-chancellor

We have now booked interviews with around 50 researchers from across the University and the information is flowing in. Researchers have been asked to identify 5-8 of the 40 principles in the gap analysis that they believe the University, as an employer, needs to work on. We will take all the information into consideration when we later compile our action plan which is to be sent to the EU.

However, before we can send the action plan and gap analysis to the EU, they must be informed about the fact that we intend to submit an application for the HR Excellence in Research Award. We have to knock on the door of the EU Commission, so to speak. On 26 September, the vice-chancellor signed Lund University’s Letter of Endorsement, which will function as that knock on the door. After the EU receives this letter, Lund University will have twelve months to send in the final gap analysis (cf. the blog post on 7 May) and our action plan. The starting shot for the project was fired on 1 January 2019, however, it is now the clock begins to tick.

The project is now calling for more researchers! The more interviews are conducted, the better the foundation will be for the work to come. The interview takes one hour and can be conducted in either English or Swedish. Please contact Gunilla Thylander if you would like to participate.

October 7, 2019

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Interview invitations sent out

Invitations have now been sent out to approximately 100 researchers at Lund University and the project team is eagerly awaiting responses.

All faculties, the University’s Specialised Centres and MAX IV have provided names for all four research categories (R1 – R4, please see the previous blog post). The invite is sent out with not only the European Charter & Code but also the GAP analysis in its current state – you can read it here. The more researchers we are able to interview, the better the foundation will be for the coming work.

The interviewers are Gunilla Thylander, project manager at the Division of Human Resources, Anneli Wikander at the Division of Research, External Engagement and Innovation and Åsa Thormählen at the Division of Human Resources.

Last Friday, we also took possession of our HRS4R project room! It is located in Geocentrum II and the majority of the interviews will be conducted there.

Address: Geocentrum II, Sölvegatan 12, 2nd floor, room 306. Map.

September 16, 2019

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