June 10, 2023


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It’s time to think responsibly about knowledge

This text is a discussion post. The content of the text expresses the opinion of the author.

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In the long-term plan to Research and Higher Education 2023-2032, and the overarching goals are to promote competitiveness, innovation, environmental, social and economic sustainability, and high quality and accessibility in research and higher education. The purpose of this research system is for Norway to achieve the goals in the long-term plan. This is in many ways “business as usual” from the political level. What distinguishes 2023 is that we are now in a strategic research impasse. The Research Council’s clear mandate in recent years has been to drive forward Norwegian research policy, based on comprehensive long-term plans and a marked escalation of both staffing, scientific equipment and national infrastructure. Grants increased and there was significant political pressure to increase Norway’s participation in EU research. This project has proven to be very successful, and we have brought in significant funds from the European Union for Norwegian research. The Centers for Research Excellence (SFF) were set up in 2000 to enhance the quality of Norwegian research. The aim was to encourage groundbreaking and curious research that drives the forefront of international research. The evaluation submitted in 2020 concluded that the SFF scheme has been a great success for Norway, and the evaluation committee strongly recommended the continuation of the scheme as the main mechanism to support the most innovative and risk-taking research in Norway.

In short, we can We have seen positive and long-term development, we say, but something happened that surprised many of us in the fall of 2022: the complete absence of a plan for escalation and reductions in grants to the Research Council. This led to unfortunate results in the final round of the SFF. Cuts in grants to the Research Council hit elite research hard. The message was that research should be done through the means and plans already in place in the Research Council and in the Institutions. We fear that this will lead to a stagnation and possibly also a decline in important Norwegian research.

Introduced in 1999 The government is behind the target of increasing resources in Norwegian research from 1.7 to 2.3% of GDP within five years, which is the average level of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The new financing mechanism should help boost growth. So, we’ve had a good period in Norwegian research policy over the past 20 years, which has been characterized by historically high and prolonged growth. Today, we have a research council and research policy landscape in crisis. Everyone remembers that the Board of Directors of the Council was expelled due to a large deficit and that an interim council was formed with the tasks of resolving crises. We no longer examine research and education as a long-term solution to many of the major challenges facing society today.


Move from two to three “tasks” in the long-range plan

In January i In the year, the Ministry of Science and Technology (KD) sent a consultation – a proposal to amend the regulations for the statute of the Norwegian Research Council, with a deadline for a response in early February. Here KD comes up with a proposal for the new management of NFR. They write in the consultation note that they want to simplify and clarify the management of the Research Council of Norway. Therefore, the Articles of Association of the Research Council must be continued and incorporated into new commercial and financial regulations. It is also proposed that KD appoint the same board of directors. I’m not sure this is the right way to go. This will tighten his political grip on the Research Council and thus limit its independence. In practice: the Research Council becomes a directorate. Most advisory bodies are negative about these changes. In a discussion in Khrono, the deans of UiB, UiO and NTNU argued that the proposed ends would threaten the independence of the research board and weaken the Norwegian research system.

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there is nobody Doubt that tightening the Research Council weakens research policy advice. Practically speaking, we have no other bodies that care about this.

as a research community And members of academic organisations, it is frustrating to experience this systematic downsizing of research policy advice and coordination.

Good search policy Advice and coordination are important to ensuring the quality of Norwegian research moving forward and to ensuring that research efforts have the greatest possible social benefit. This can be achieved through a number of measures. I will mention some of those.

The plan is long term

Two “new moon landings” with less application bureaucracy

Firstly The government should re-establish a research committee across the ministers’ areas of responsibility. We must also ensure that scientific advice for policymaking is ramped up. The upcoming review of the search system will be very important, and thus we hope that these issues will be addressed in this context. It is important to define and establish clear research priorities based on societal needs and challenges. This also includes a clear demonstration of the importance of curiosity-driven basic research.

Moreover, it is It is important to note that a good research policy requires that sufficient funds be allocated to research, and that these funds be distributed in an efficient and fair manner. We must also consider the impact of different types of research funding. There must be openness and transparency in the financing process, and there must be room for innovation and new thinking.

Third point I would like to touch on coordination: in order to achieve the greatest possible impact of research efforts, it is important that there is good coordination between the various actors and research environments. We should encourage national cooperation to a greater extent when it comes naturally. Together we are stronger, also in search.

bets this year The Academy is particularly concerned with the requirements of democracy. Through our State of Democracy 2023 interview series, we shed light on current issues. This takes place, among others, at Arendal Week, where we ask whether current politics threaten the autonomy of universities and colleges.

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Democracy Index for The Economist 2021 shows the decline of democracies globally. Only about eight percent of the world’s population lives in well-functioning democracies that guarantee, among other things, elections, political participation, and basic rights. This indicates that democracy must be constantly defended, discussed and developed.

How is research affected? In a time characterized by conflicts, wars, the decline of our democracies, and the emergence of authoritarian states? More than ever, we need the Academy – now when academic freedom around the world is under pressure. This is a task we must take very seriously, and our work must be intensified to highlight how important academic research is to society as a whole. Academic freedom is a prerequisite for good social development. Then, it is thought provoking that although the situation in Europe is generally positive compared to other parts of the world, academic freedom is weakening here as well, according to a new report from the University of Oslo.

How do we determine Academic freedom? Academic freedom relates to the freedom to teach and learn, and the freedom to research and express oneself. But it is also about the terms of the framework – including how independent and self-governing universities are, what working conditions apply, and how research and higher education are funded.

Research and innovation

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development recommends Norway do like the EU: focus on “tasks”

What do we do at the institutional level? Should formal agreements be canceled and paused? This is happening now through political decisions. What do we do individually? Among us as researchers, can we maintain one-on-one collaborative relationships?

We looked below Pandemic How important international cooperation is, as well as with researchers in authoritarian regimes. Knowledge sharing has been essential to rapidly developing tests and vaccines.

In Geopolitics Today Conflicts, and the limitations of research collaboration used as a means of working in war and conflict. This can lead to unforeseen consequences, the extent of which we do not notice at the moment. Maintaining research collaborations is a challenge that requires careful balancing.

War, pandemic and climate changeBiodiversity loss, energy crisis, and geopolitical stress are a huge part of our daily lives, especially for those of us who live near the North Pole or in the Arctic region. Scientific and knowledge-based cooperation between countries has historically been intertwined and highly valued in the Arctic. Even when relations have soured, cooperation and dialogue between Russia and other Arctic states has often worked in this region.

After the Russian invasion In Ukraine, Russian-Western relations have become frosty. As a result of the war, science, science-based decisions, and science diplomacy suffer greatly. Without access to Russian scientists and lands, scientific data will be incomplete. Reducing international scientific cooperation in the Arctic could have dire consequences for climate research, potentially exacerbating the climate crisis. The West must stand united in support of Ukraine and the backlash against Russia, but banning cooperation in an area as important as climate research in the North could be a challenge.

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I will come with an example. The North Pole is described as the world’s thermometer. The largest climate changes are happening in the Arctic, and they are happening right now. Areas with permafrost are particularly vulnerable. 25% of the northern hemisphere consists of permafrost. Hundreds of gigatonnes of carbon and greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide are locked up in permafrost. Our research team is systematically mapping permafrost areas in the Nordenskiöld Land in Svalbard. Through the NFR project led by UNIS (University Center Svalbard), we have detected areas with large amounts of methane emissions. Over the past four years, we have mapped more than 100 areas with methane emissions. These regions release between 30 and 300 tons of methane annually into the atmosphere. This is very important data that must be included in large global climate models. More than 50% of permafrost areas are found in Russia.

● Chronicle Webbjörn hill and Gornitzka hill

A long-term plan for a sustainable transition

knowledge of this Part of the world is absolutely pivotal when we have to fight our way out of the climate crisis. When we really need the knowledge to understand how close we are to a climate tipping point, we risk our ability to see and measure the risk picture halved overnight. We as researchers in the Arctic, the region with the fastest global warming, have in a very short time lost access to the data and knowledge that previously came from Russia and Russian researchers.

We live now In the Anthropocene – meaning “the age of man” in Good Norwegian. Research and academic freedom in a global context is more important than ever when many countries are moving in authoritarian directions. We have a war in Europe. Respect for democratic rights is deteriorating, trust in authorities is eroding, and violence and abuses against civilians are on the rise, along with corruption and growing inequality. Russia is waging a relentless war in Ukraine. All this also affects academic freedom, leading to the closure of educational programs, censorship, removal of professors, cancellation of research programs, and so on.

it’s up It’s time to think responsibly about knowledge. It is therefore important that the independence of the Research Council be preserved, and that politicians ground their decisions to a greater extent in research-based knowledge.

It is important To maintain the ‘Norwegian model’ of research because it has served us well for many years. We must appreciate the importance of a good research system in which research policy advice and knowledge-based policy are the cornerstone.

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