Research Minister gives thumbs up for IVA proposals

Thursday 27 April 2017

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Five proposals can take Swedish research to the next level. This is the conclusion of the IVA project Research Outlook. And Helene Hellmark Knutsson, Minister for Higher Education and Research, agrees.

Government investment in research and innovation should be gradually increased, but the results need to be evaluated and analysed better than they are today. Concrete contracts between the Government and universities could support universities in their efforts to develop unique profiles. University boards need a more clearly-defined mission and to change their working methods. Last but not least, Research Outlook recommends improving the conditions for internationalisation of research and higher education.

“We should be getting better outcomes from research investments. In that regard your proposals may be a good thing,” said Helene Hellmark Knutsson at the project’s concluding seminar.

The Minister said that both the previous and present governments have increased research grants significantly.

“This has resulted in more research but not higher quality. And we shouldn’t forget higher education either.”

An overhaul of the resource allocation system, which the IVA project is also recommending, could be a way to improve the quality of education.

In terms of internationalisation of research and education, the Minister for Research thinks that Sweden has fallen behind. A commission has started working on this to find ways to improve the situation.

“It may also be worth looking at whether special contracts between the Government and the universities would be a good idea. This will also be addressed in a review of the resource allocation system,” said Helene Hellmark Knutsson, while emphasising that Sweden should be one of the world’s leading research and knowledge nations.

State Secretary Karin Röding from the Minister for Education and Research, thinks that many of the proposals from the IVA project were good.

“The conclusions contain some interesting perspectives, but perhaps there could have been a bit more emphasis on education and students. I would also have liked to have seen a discussion on the importance of cohesive environments and the need for research of relevance for education,” she said.

Other experts on research conditions commented on the project’s conclusions as well. One of the panel discussions focused on the proposal for better evaluation and analysis of research policy.

Madelene Sandström, Executive Director of the Knowledge Foundation, pointed out that parties funding research are already analysing what research conclusions will lead to.

“But the overall picture is fragmented. And if a special institute for evaluation and analysis is created, it would be excellent if it had a steering group of experts connected to it. It should not function as a kind of national audit authority,” she said.

According to Enrico Deiaco of Tillväxtanalys, there are already huge amounts of data to use as a basis for the analysis.

“It would be great if someone would tackle that. It would also be great to experiment with different models,” he said.

Dan Brändström of Linnaeus University recognised a need for a special analysis institute.

“Right now there is nothing describing the effects of what we do. Research policy should also have a scientific basis,” he said.

Author: Pär Rönnberg