A US-Swedish University Dialogue

During the second week of February, the Office of Science and Innovation in Washington DC hosted its second annual University Day in House of Sweden. The same week we also had the pleasure to host NordForsk for a discussion on how to make the most of Nordic registers and biobanks. The Office of Science and Innovation also attended the AAAS Annual meeting 2019 together with Sweden’s fellow EU member states to discuss cutting-edge developments in science, technology, and policy. A key takeaway from the events was that in order to achieve academic leadership, we must work together.

A discussion on higher education and research as a vehicle for change in turbulent times

This year’s University Day brought together the leadership of the five largest Swedish research universities  (Lund, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Uppsala and Umeå) with U.S. university leaders for a day of US-Swedish University dialogue. The morning started with an open event arranged in partnership with the Association of Public and Land-granted Universities (APLU) on the theme of “Higher education and research as a vehicle of change in turbulent times – the balancing act of modern universities.” 

The background of the event is that recent years have seen increasing attention to higher education institutions and their role in addressing the societal challenges with research and innovation. Universities are often portrayed as factories of knowledge production, hubs of innovation and a nexus for solving complicated global challenges. This creates opportunities for higher education institutions to play a more vital role as pillars in their communities, often in partnership with public entities and businesses to strengthen economic development, support upward mobility and address the need for lifelong learning. This has to be balanced with maintaining academic quality and integrity, and without losing the sight for longer-term basic research.

Panel discussion with Linda Rugg, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, University of California, Berkeley; Dennis Assanis, President, University of Delaware; Hans Adolfsson, President, Umeå University; and Eva Wiberg, President, University of Gothenburg.

Marcia McNutt, President of the National Academy of Sciences, APLU President Peter McPherson, and Swedish Ambassador Karin Olofsdotter gave remarks at the event. This was then followed by two panels with US and Swedish University Presidents and senior leaders on the topics of “Research as an Engine for Economic Growth” and “Lifelong Learning”. US Universities represented in the panels included Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands; University of Missouri, Columbia Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright; University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis; and Linda Rugg, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of California, Berkeley. The audience was comprised of both U.S. and Swedish higher education and Washington-based policy stakeholders, such as the National Science Foundation. Among the panelists and other participants in the University Day, there was a consensus that in order to achieve academic leadership, universities must collaborate both across borders and within their own countries.

Henric and Maria from the Office of Science and Innovation together with Swedish research funders Mistra, IVA, VR, SSF, Vinnova, STINT, Forska Sverige, and the Presidents of the Swedish universities

Joint Nordic registers and biobanks

Representatives from NordForsk arranged a roundtable discussion on the subject of Nordic registers and biobanks at the House of Sweden on Friday, February 15th. According to NordForsk’s report on the subject, Nordic registers and biobanks have the potential of becoming a “goldmine for health and welfare research”. However, Nordic registers and biobanks are not being used to their fullest potentials as of today. There is a need for proper coordination of the registers in order to become a joint Nordic resource, enabling the Nordic research communities to attract international interest and take the international lead in this field according to NordForsk’s report. For more information, click here.

The roundtable discussion was followed by a networking lunch which was attended by U.S House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology chief of staff Dick Obermann, and the European Commission Director-General for DG Research and Innovation Jean-Eric Paquet among others.

Office of Science and Innovation Councellor Henric Johnson together with the European Commission Director-General for DG Research and Innovation Jean-Eric Paquet.

Science transcending boundaries

At the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting, the Office of Science and Innovation promoted Swedish research and higher education at the European Commission Booth in as a part of Horizon 2020 – the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union. It is a Europe 2020 flagship initiative at securing Europe’s global competitiveness. Europe’s leaders and the Members of the European Parliament have all agreed that research is an investment in our future, which is why it is put at the heart of the EU’s blueprint for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and job. To read more about Horizon 2020, visit the European Commission’s webpage.

Author: Hanna Isacsson, intern at the Office of Science and Innovation in Washington DC