Letter from the Dean

Last changed: 18 February 2021
Dean Torleif Härd, photo.

Of course there is a light in the tunnel!

Dear employees at the NJ Faculty,

A very strange year is coming to an end … there is reason to make a halt and reflect, as we always do at this time of the year, but now more reflections than before.

It has been a gloomy year for humanity, yes. But not everything is gloomy. At today's digital head of department meeting, we did a little exercise that was about finding bright spots in the pandemic darkness. One thing that was mentioned was that "the pandemic has given us new perspectives on life". Well, you can for sure say that it has. And you can reflect on how those perspectives will affect us at a later stage, when the pandemic is over. I personally believe that we will value social interaction at work higher in the future than we did before the pandemic. During the pandemic, we have also to a much greater extent been forced to be proactive in contacts with employees; to send that email, make that call, book a zoom meeting, etc, to get in touch with employees we previously almost took for granted as part of the workplace. Let's hope that new contact-seeking habits persist after the pandemic.

And how will we view the university's different roles and campus? In Morgonstudion on TV this morning, there was enthusiastic speculation about how good it would be for everyone who, with the experience and technological leaps that have been made, will now be able to work from home. Here I can get a little worried, and then not only about the democracy aspect of such speculation. For example, can we teachers do that? Why should students come here to campus if the teachers are at home when they are not teaching, or maybe even when they are teaching? Is not the whole idea of a "campus" that researchers and other experts, teachers, doctoral students and students get to meet, get to know each other and create, manage and impart knowledge together? I think it would be sad if one of the results of the pandemic was that the concept of socializing on campus was depleted.

Another perhaps brighter spot in the pandemic darkness is the new vaccines. As the biotechnology enthusiast I am, I have followed the development from a technical perspective since March. 2020 will forever be the year of the pandemic, but it has definitely also been the year of biotechnology. Hundreds of vaccine candidates have been developed, one more creative than the other. But the tension over whether even one of them would work has been great (the flu vaccine, for example, is quite ineffective and gives only 50 to 70 percent immunity). The relief was great when Pfizer's and BioNTech's press release was released on November 9: over 90 percent immunity. And new vaccines are now coming at a rapid pace. That is the light of the tunnel – covid-19 will be able to be defeated in the not too distant future. A concrete and encouraging detail in this context is that the freezer for minus 80 in the Biocentrum has been reserved for the vaccine doses that are expected to come to SLU after New Year.

One of this year's major works within the faculty, in addition to dealing with the increasingly overshadowing pandemic, has been the work with the faculty's strategy. We started bottom-up by letting the institutions answer questions in December and then visit you in January and February. We received very good material there and from our various committees. Then, unfortunately, the work stopped for a few months while we waited for the university strategy. But after the summer, the work started again with a reversed top-down-bottom-up plus very many good views from the faculty's external reference group. And now we are done – the faculty board made its decision on 9 December. I would like to extend a big thank you to all of you who have contributed and above all to our research officer Marnie Hancke who has kept the work together (and who has 37 versions of the strategy on her computer).

With these hopefully encouraging words, I would like to extend a warm thank you to all employees at our fine faculty, for your hard work, your patience and your ingenuity in finding solutions in the extraordinary everyday life. The faculty management wishes you all a calm and pleasant Christmas and New Year weekend with your loved ones.

With kind regards
Torleif

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