Dean's Summer Letter: Dear Colleagues at the NJ Faculty!
Summer is here. Surely it's wonderful!? It has been a strange spring at a distance. Much has changed and much will not be the same again when society hopefully soon opens up completely again.
But, we are not there yet. Although science is fun, knowledge can also cause concerns. The "flock immunity" required for a virus to stop spreading and instead disappear is easy to calculate. It is at least 1 –1 / R0, where R0 is the infectivity of the virus (how many people an infected person in turn infects, on average). The virus that circulated a year ago had an R0 value of 2.5, which meant that an immunity in society of 60 % had been enough to get rid of it. The delta variant that has now started to circulate is significantly more contagious and has an R0 of well over 5, it seems, which unfortunately requires a herd immunity of over 80 %. To get rid of this variant, it is therefore very important that everyone who can really goes and gets vaccinated!
A lot has happened at the faculty during the spring. Here is some examples. We are announcing a number of professorships, one of which is in political science – the first of its kind at SLU. It has been focused on "biological diversity" and will provide support for the new bachelor's degree program in sustainable development. The faculty management is working to implement SLU's and the faculty's strategies and will provide feedback to you during the autumn. We have received a proposal for an action plan for the systematic equality and equal conditions work (thank you Marina, Malin and others!). The Flora and Fauna Conservation Conference was conducted digitally with a very large number of participants, including the Environment Minister.
And Vice Dean Pär Forslund has been appointed SLU's next Deputy Vice-Chancellor. We are happy and proud of you, Pär! But that means you unfortunately need to be replaced. I am convinced that the nomination committee led by Klara Fischer will find a suitable candidate. Personally, I intend to run for another term as dean – it is a fantastic job with this fine faculty.
Incidentally, the NJ Faculty is like the train in terms of external funding for our research. The sum of contract receivables and unspent grants, which corresponds to the external financing we have not yet sold, has increased every year for the past five years – from just over SEK 800 million in 2016 to SEK 1.4 billion in 2020! (And the total turnover has increased – we do not put money in a pile). I want to congratulate those successes!
And then a few words to teachers at the faculty. SLU has recently come up with new instructions on how teaching this autumn should be adapted to the covid pandemic: https://internt.slu.se/nyheter-originalen/2021/6/atergang-campusundervisning/ . They are based on a gradual return to campus teaching, and means that responsibility is placed on institutions, course leaders, examiners and teachers to design the teaching. From the faculty management, we want to send with the attitude to start from the distance plans you have already made before the autumn, but to try to identify certain elements that can be located on campus. We think that is enough.
The planning does not need to be redone completely, the existing plans are in place if the restrictions are tightened again, and you can feel that you have control over the situation. An additional tip is to talk to the students on the courses about what you have been able and not been able to do for campus teaching. The students will surely have an understanding of the situation then.
With these words, Pär and I want to wish you all a beautiful and restful summer with loved ones. You have really deserved it!