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Dean's bulletin, 11 October 2021

Dear all,

Now the return to campus has started. Isn’t it strange that what we have longed for so much during 18 months of restrictions now feels a little scary and insecure? How will we manage this? I think an important part of the challenge is that we believe (or hope) we know what’s happening. The pandemic has moved into an endemic phase, Covid-19 no longer has a central role and has become one of many threats to our health. The return feels fast, but it is nothing compared to how it was in the spring of 2019 when we were thrown into digital teaching with two days’ notice to organise online exams. Then, there was no time to be worried. But now there is, and that is actually a good thing.

Our time with the pandemic has taught us that doing certain things remotely works well, but not so well for other things, and certain duties cannot be translated into a digital format at all. How we are to work in the future is partly determined by how duties can be carried out remotely in the long term. We need to learn to go from being compelled to be digital to being voluntarily digital, and work in both ways. Ad utrumque apparatus (prepared for both) as usual then. One element in the return to a more physical reality was the away days with the management council we had on 22–23 September, which left me with a very positive feeling. We need to meet in real life sometimes.

There are also other changes that are sweeping over us – not everything is to do with epidemics! We also have the research quality evaluation RQ20, of course. RQ20 has given us a lot to think about. Our faculty is quite decentralised, and the departments work in slightly different ways. The RQ20 panel highlighted a number of examples of areas in which we could improve cooperation. We are already coordinating the initiative to establish activities at Brunnshög, mainly involving the Department of Physics and the Department of Chemistry. We also see that there is a lot to gain by trying to bring together our environmental science activities from the Centre for Environmental and Climate Science, the Department of Biology, the Department of Geology and the Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, as well as our activities in computational science. The planning of a Master’s programme in computational science can be the starting point for greater cooperation between the groups we have that are strong in computational science, or that see a need to strengthen their activities in the area.

The RQ20 review also highlights the need for better coordinated recruitment work in future. An important step on the way was taken at the last faculty board meeting, in which the board endorsed the plans for a faculty-wide call for applications for associate senior lectureships. The call for applications is modelled on similar initiatives taken by the Wallenberg Foundation and Umeå University, for example. Broader calls for applications in these programmes have attracted strong candidates with their own specialisations that strengthen and complement existing activities. We hope to launch the programme in spring 2022.

We are heading towards a darker time of the year, but I think it is really beginning to brighten up in other ways!

Sven Lidin, dean