Letter from the Dean

Last changed: 03 July 2020
Portrait photo of Hanna Bergeå

The pussy bow blouse

Pussy bow blouses. An outdated article of clothing that went through an unexpected renaissance overnight. Wearing a pussy bow blouse the day after Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, suddenly resigned became a symbol, a way to take a stand and show commitment.

The question, however, is: can you take a stand on an issue in which you have little insight and knowledge? Personally, I believe that it is possible to use powerful symbols to draw attention to burning issues while simultaneously working for more nuanced discussions on the matter. Things do not need to be mutually exclusive.

SLU's staff survey shows that we are greatly committed to our work. For many of us, our passion has become our profession. But what does this commitment do to us? Naturally, it is primarily an asset, but it can also make it difficult for us to set boundaries – both time-wise and commitment-wise.

At the moment, SLU has a pilot course on how to manage collaboration. At the latest gathering, one of the course coordinators, Martin Westin, highlighted dilemmas we face, such as balancing our work. How can those of us within academia work to make the world better? And what is the opposite of this ambition? Is it possible to be neutral? Perhaps independent is a better watchword.

Those who work in the world of higher education strive for more knowledge – a nuanced picture. Of course, we must develop knowledge of high scientific quality, but is that enough? Must not this knowledge also be relevant in order for research to be entitled? Is it also not our responsibility to ensure that the developed knowledge is put to as good use as possible?

This is one of the strongest reasons we have for collaborating with society – what we do becomes relevant and is put to good use outside the university.

Social relevance issues are a topic not least during application periods where we enhance our arguments on the above. But collaboration also holds an aspect of reciprocity, which benefits us, not just in the form of money, but in the form of higher-quality research, teaching and environmental monitoring and assessment. One way of managing this balance is transparency, i.e. clarifying the premises behind our research designs, the role we play in our projects. To achieve this, we must examine our starting points, what we take for granted and our purposes.

The pussy bow blouse raises questions of right and wrong, when it is possible and desirable to take a stand. By the way, is any research or knowledge completely objective and free of values?

That's the eternal question for the Academy to consider.

/Hanna Bergeå, Vice-Dean, responsible for collaboration

Read the previous letters

Spring and students
Deputy Dean Pär Forslund 2018-03-06

Wishing you happy, multidisciplinary holidays
Dean Torleif Härd 2017-12-14

 

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