Work on the coordination of a joint department – environment and climate, geology and physical geography
Research on environment and climate, geology and physical geography and ecosystem science is an area of strength within our faculty. Today, research and education in these areas are conducted mainly at the Centre for Environmental and Climate Science (CEC), the Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science (INES) and the Department of Geology. By coordinating these activities in a joint department, we can further strengthen this strategically important area.
Reflections of the faculty management
The faculty management sees great potential in a joint department, which can become very strong and influential in the subject area – both nationally and internationally.
We have reviewed the two investigations that have been carried out (read the reports further down the page) on the possibilities of coordinating CEC, INES and the Department of Geology in a joint department. We agree that there is great potential in a joint department in terms of research, infrastructure and administration. We believe that such a department could be very strong in the subject area, and influential both nationally and internationally. We can also see that teaching can be strengthened through the increased collaboration that a joint department can bring.
In the event of a merger, CEC's activities related to the coordination of major research programmes and collaboration platforms should continue to be carried out in the form of a centre, with its organisational placement within the new department. This would give the centre greater visibility and closer contact with groups within INES in particular, which we very much welcome.
An additional asset that could strengthen a joint department is the unit Computational Biology and Biological Physics, which is part of CEC as of 1 January 2023. The unit was previously part of the Department of Astronomy and Theoretical Physics.
We have met with the heads of the three departments concerned as well as the Department of Biology to discuss the two investigations and the conditions for forming a joint department. The meetings showed that there are common points of interest which can strengthen the development opportunities in the subject area.
We would like to underline how important all staff at the respective departments are in this process and we look forward to moving forward together.
The work so far
- The heads of CEC, INES and the Department of Geology have carried out a feasibility study on the conditions for a joint department.
- An external investigation has been carried out to examine whether the three departments could be coordinated in a joint department. Read the report further down the page.
- An internal investigation has been carried out at CEC on how the coordination of major research programmes and interdisciplinary collaboration platforms can be organised if the structure of the department changes. Read the report further down the page.
- The faculty management has met with representatives of the department management at the three departments concerned as well as the Department of Biology. The purpose of the meetings has been, among other things, to discuss the two investigations and the conditions for forming a joint department consisting of the activities at CEC, INES and the Department of Geology.
- The dean has decided to carry out a basic premises review to examine the possibilities of co-locating the three departments in the premises of Geocentrum I and Geocentrum II.
- At the end of January 2023, information about the process was given to the unions (MBL information).
- On 1 February, the Faculty Board made a so-called orientation decision. Among other things, this means that the dean is instructed to initiate work to clarify how the three departments can be organised into a joint department.
Read about the Faculty Board's decision and the background to the decision (PDF, 225 kB, new tab)
- In April, the basic premises review was completed and the results were presented to the faculty management and representatives from the departments concerned on 14 April. The basic premises review shows that it is possible to co-locate CEC, INES and the Department of Geology in the premises of Geocentrum I and Geocentrum II.
- On 9 May, the dean decided to adopt the project plan for the co-location and co-organisation of the three departments (STYR 2023/939) and to appoint a steering group and a project group for this work (STYR 2023/979).
Read the project plan (PDF, 235 kB, new tab)
The work ahead
Co-location and co-organisation
The basic premises review shows that it is possible to co-locate CEC, INES and the Department of Geology in premises of Geocentrum I and Geocentrum II. Work on co-location and co-organisation is now continuing in the form of a project. The project is led by Karin Hall, deputy dean, and the project group includes representatives from the three departments.
Overall goals for the project:
- Co-location of CEC, INES and the Department of Geology in the premises of Geocentrum I and II.
- Creation of a joint department
The decision on the project plan (STYR 2023/939) and the appointment of the project group and steering group (STYR 2023/979) can be found in the register (the decisions are in Swedish).
Read the project plan (PDF, 235 kB, new tab)
Information meeting on 7 June
The meeting is especially aimed at those who work at CEC, INES or the Department of Geology. At the meeting, deputy dean Karin Hall will provide in-depth information on the work on co-location and co-organisation in 2023. You will also learn about the results of the basic premises review.
Time and place: 7 June from 15:00 to 17:00 in the main auditorium at LUX (LUX:C116), Helgonavägen 3.
The registration deadline was 1 June.
The faculty management is investigating the matter of a joint department
- Autumn 2023: The faculty management will present an interim report with preliminary conclusions to the Faculty Board.
- Before the end of 2024: The faculty management will present its proposal to the Faculty Board, which will decide on the matter.
Reports from the investigations
In 2022, two investigations were carried out. One was carried out by an external group that analysed the possibilities of coordinating the three departments in a joint department. The second investigation was carried out internally at CEC and deals with how coordination of major research programmes and interdisciplinary collaboration platforms can be organised if the structure of the department changes.
Investigation of how research in the Department of Geology, the Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science and the Centre for Environmental and Climate Science can be coordinated and organised within a single department
The review team believes that there is great potential in merging the Department of Geology, INES and CEC into one department in terms of research, infrastructure, teaching and administration, without compromising the networking interdisciplinary approach. The prerequisite for a successful merger is that there is a clear vision and objective on the part of the faculty, which should be communicated to the staff concerned.
There are both opportunities and risks in a merger and therefore we propose that the faculty decides to start a preparatory work with the aim of forming a joint department. In order to lead this work, it is of utmost importance to identify suitable persons trusted by the staff. It is also important that the employees concerned are involved in the merger process, including through a number of working groups to address key issues before a final decision is taken. Issues to be discussed include, for example, subject profiling, the name of the new department, the focus of the research groupings, the organisation of the infrastructure, review of the graduate subjects, development of the undergraduate education, location aspects, etcetera. A group should also review the potential transfer of researchers to a new department from other departments, in particular the Department of Biology. The work of these groups must take its time, but not be too lengthy, suggesting a maximum of one year.
As a starting point for these discussions, we envisage a common department with the following structure. All activities will be co-located and the former departmental division will be broken up and replaced by new research groupings where every researcher will have the opportunity to feel a sense of belonging. The research groupings should operate in a collegial spirit, but should not have financial autonomy or decide on recruitment. The network activities belong to the department, but have their own budget for their activities. In order to maintain its strong interdisciplinary identity, we propose that it retains the name Centre for Environmental and Climate Science (CEC). It should also be located close to researchers working interdisciplinarily to strengthen the link between research and networking. Otherwise, the department is organised according to the rules of procedure of the faculty, i.e. led by a head of department and a relevantly staffed board, etcetera.
An absolutely crucial issue for the successful consolidation of a new department is a head of department and a board that has the confidence of the staff, is responsive but at the same time clear in its decisions. The faculty should ensure that suitable people are available to fill these positions. In order to further demonstrate transparent leadership, it is important to form a consultative body with representatives of the various research groups and networks. This preparatory body, the Strategic Research Council, should focus on profiling strategies, including the targeting of new research hires.
Base administration should be co-located to optimise skills and strengthen redundancy. Research coordinators and research information officers should be co-located and close to the relevant research activities. In order to share experience and knowledge, the technical staff should be organised in a working group, but localisation may be organised according to needs. For example, a joint department will be responsible for high quality research infrastructures and the technicians should be located according to their responsibilities.
An organisational change of the dimension we are discussing here means anxiety for the staff and significant additional work during the transition period. In order to facilitate this work and ensure a smooth implementation, resources need to be made available, both to compensate for lost working time, but also to strengthen the operations with strategic new recruitments.
The full report
Read the report of the external investigation (PDF, 674 kB, new tab)
The report (in Swedish) was sent to all employees at the three departments concerned in the middle of November 2022.
Investigation of how the CEC’s activities related to the coordination of major research programmes and multidisciplinary collaboration platforms can be organised if the departmental structure changes
The investigation has studied how the activities of the Centre for Environmental and Climate Science (CEC) related to the coordination of major research programmes and interdisciplinary collaboration platforms should be organised if the research and education in the environmental and climate field currently conducted within CEC is coordinated and organised within a single department that also includes the Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science (INES) and the Department of Geology. The investigation has focused on the possibilities of initiating, facilitating and conducting inter- and transdisciplinary research, collaboration and communication in the field of environment and climate. In line with the boundaries set for the investigation, implications for education have not been assessed. The study includes implications for matrix organisations coordinated from CEC: the ClimBioSiS profile area (Sustainable solutions in the climate change – biodiversity – social nexus), the strategic research areas BECC (Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in a Changing Climate) and MERGE (ModElling the Regional and Global Earth system), the LU Land collaborative initiative, the Sustainability Forum, the graduate schools ClimBEco (Climate, Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a changing world) and Agenda 2030, and the Marine Centre.
The investigation has been based on a combination of studies of documentation, meetings with staff and partners, and comparative observations of similar organisations nationally and internationally.
CEC is today the environmental science department of the faculty, which also coordinates a number of matrix activities. The core of the activities is a mandate from the faculty to be a research actor, coordinator, meeting place, node for competence supply, and a knowledge bank and arena for collaboration in the environmental and climate field. The activities are thus based on working with matrix organisations from an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary core, where the core activities funded by the faculty and the matrix activities funded in a special order have developed synergistically.
Core activities have provided opportunities for initiatives and continuity, while matrix activities have widened networks and brought in resources. However, this has not been without difficulties, partly due to the organisational complexity created by the form of organisation.
The study examined how two alternative organisational forms, the centre and the network organisation, would relate to a number of critical success criteria. We have defined the difference between a centre and a network organisation as follows: a centre has a clear mission to initiate, facilitate and conduct inter- and transdisciplinary activities, to which academic staff are attached to lead and conduct research and collaboration. It also has an overall administration that coordinates and supports matrix activities. A network organisation does not carry out research and has at its core a professional organisation to support the activities of the constituent matrix organisations.
The criteria against which the organisational forms were assessed were: legitimacy, leadership, incentives, administrative competence and attractiveness. The study considered that a future organisation would need to be relatively independent and have its own visibility in order to create legitimacy. This is achieved by being led by a board of directors representing different parts of the stakeholders of the activity, and by having access to allocated funds. The organisational location of the activity is considered to be of less importance. Whatever the organisational form, the activities should be physically co-located to provide an interdisciplinary environment for meetings between researchers and to constitute a sustainable workplace with redundancy in the administration of inter- and transdisciplinary activities, including the matrix activities.
The assessment of the inquiry is that it requires an organisation with long-term financial as well as organisational muscle – which allows a high ambition to dynamically develop strategic research and collaborative initiatives, including coordinating existing and initiating new matrix activities – to support excellent research with measurable impact on society, in line with international and national research policy direction from the EU and Swedish government, ministries and state funders. A strong organisation and resource base will allow for long-term business development that is attractive enough to engage senior researchers from both the Faculty of Science and the rest of the University, and will allow for the recruitment of researchers to develop interdisciplinary research and collaboration. According to the study, this strongly suggests a centre with the possibility of attracting long-term researchers/teachers to develop both research and collaboration together with collaborating departments.
The ability to associate part-time teachers/researchers in varying degrees depending on the assignment is crucial.
The conditions for the centre's activities will be strongly influenced by whether or not the educational programme in environmental science is linked to it.
The study has not investigated possible consequences for education of different ways of organising the activities. If environmental science education is not located at the Centre, the Centre needs to have sufficient other mechanisms that create incentives for researchers/teachers from different disciplines to participate in the activities. This could include funds temporary association of researchers, PhD/post-doctoral programmes, opportunities to develop interdisciplinary research projects, support in terms of collaboration and communication, etcetera.
The investigation also sees the possibility of creating a network organisation, which should then have a broad mission to facilitate interdisciplinary research, collaboration and communication. The core of such an activity will be existing matrix organisations at the intersections of climate, ecosystems, and society. The investigation sees a risk that a network organisation will reduce the incentive and ability to retain existing and develop new interdisciplinary initiatives that are not associated with this area. A network organisation also cannot serve as a legitimate platform to host faculty and department-wide research projects. Finally, the study identifies a risk that the supporting activities no longer have the same contact with interdisciplinary research, which may make the workplace less attractive for administrators with special skills to support interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary activities.
The conclusion of the study is that the faculty has the opportunity primarily to create a powerful centre for inter- and transdisciplinary research, collaboration and communication in the field of environment and climate. A clear scientific identity can be created from a natural science perspective on the subject of environmental research, where the earth’s resources and capacity to assimilate human impact sets limits to existence, and which links to other sciences to address the global goals of Agenda 2030 and the Swedish environmental quality goals. In this way, researchers from the different departments of the faculty, as well as researchers from other faculties, can be engaged in the activities with appropriate association mechanisms. Such a centre will thus be an instrument to live up to the Lund University Sustainable Development Strategy 2019–2026 and its emphasis on cross-disciplinary collaboration to contribute to sustainable development.
The full report
Project manager at the faculty office.
Contact information for Carina Jarl (staff.lu.se)