Several Rejects This Week – again :-(

Working in academia is not always fun, and there are lots of opportunities where you are valued in a competition about getting published, or getting funded. Often you have put down lots of time on the thing that you are submitting. Often the submission is the result of many discussions, and creative ideas to present what you want to say. The writing process can really be inspiring and fun!

However, when submitting to the top conferences the reject rate is often around 85% and with funding organisations it is around the same. This means that it is very likely that you are not accepted, and that you are not successful in getting funded even though you did you best.

I know that grit and perseverance are the two most important success factors for anyone in computer science. And most probably in academia also. I even wrote a paper on that with Roger McDermott and Mats Daniels, you find the paper here: https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2742625.

I know that you need to keep fighting and not fall into imposter syndrome if you fail, but it is still tough. Even in teaching I run into this feeling of being a failure. I work a lot with teaching development, and that is not always a success either. Student centred learning is for example not at all valued by all students. I wrote a paper about one of our more recent failures there where we tried an idea with a presentation for a real client in a course based on a gaming idea. You can read the paper here if you are interested: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/8190466.

I remember thinking that I will leave academia around five years ago when it was fail, fail, fail and fail all the time and I didn’t get any funders to believe in any of my ideas. My feeling was that obviously I am not the right person for this job, and it is not worth it! I also had quite a stressful situation at work generally with lots of conflicts and lack of support from important people.

We need to be better at supporting each other in academia, and to find ways where positive feedback is at the core of our work and not the negative and critical feedback. I am lucky to have a few of those very supportive people in my live, and I really appreciate them being there. I know some of them are reading this blog and they give me good and positive feedback:

  • Thank you for being such a support for me and always believing in me even when I fail, fail and fail!

To Tell or Not to Tell and the Title “Excellent Teacher”

I participated in the Uppsala University’s Academic Senate retreat the other week. Several very important areas were discussed related to teaching and research. One are that was discussed was the “Excellent Teacher” reform launched in Uppsala in 2011. First Maja Elmgren presented the background to the reform, and this was followed by Jan Lindwall who talked about his experiences being an Excellent Teacher.

Maja Elmgren described that Uppsala University has around 80 Excellent Teachers, most of whom come from the faculty of Science and Technology. I also know that a large part of those teachers are from my department, and that I am one out of many colleagues who have the title.

Maja Elmgren also described this faculty’s work with creating a community of practice with the people who has the title Excellent Teacher, and there were lots of discussions about possible future directions related to the title. Two of the questions that were discussed were:

  1. How can we take advantage of the excellent teachers to strengthen the link between research and education?
    2. If we think that the excellent teacher reform has passed its first phase, how can the excellent teacher role be designed in the future – in phase 2.0 – to strengthen the university as a whole?

Jan Lindwall presented his experience from being promoted to excellent teacher, which was really interesting and his talk resulted in a discussion around telling or not telling people that you have the title Excellent Teacher. It became obvious from the discussion that many of the people in the room who had the title seldom told anyone about it. Their experience was that:

  1. saying that you are an excellent teacher would raise people’s expectations of you as a teacher and they don’t want that
  2. It is not worth anything to say that you have the title since people are unaware that it exists
  3. It feels awkward for many to use the word “EXCELLENT” about themselves.
  4. Perhaps it should be possible to nominate others to become Excellent Teachers. There are too few who dare to apply.

I have a very different feeling about this and I have Excellent Teacher in the footer of my mail for example. I also celebrated being awarded this title in the same way as when I was awarded my more research oriented titles. My feeling about this is that of course we should tell that we have been awarded the title Excellent Teacher:

  1. I think that the Excellent Teacher reform is super important, and one step in the right direction for universities to focus on creating good learning environments for students.
  2. We should be promoting the fact that we have the title at our university, and help colleagues to be awarded the title too.
  3. We should aim at having many Excellent Teachers, and we should be proud of them.

 

 

Writing Book Chapters for a Forthcoming Book in Medical Informatics

Martin Rydmark and Göran Petersson are editors of a forthcoming Swedish book for students and people interested in learning about Medical Informatics. The book will be an updated version of a very popular book written in 1996 named Medicinsk informatik with Liber utbildning as the publisher.

I will be contributing to two of the chapters in the book: 

  1. One about usability and the work environment for health care professionals written together with Diane Golay and Minna Salminen Karlsson
  2. One focusing on person centred care and eServices written together with Axel Wolf, Isabella Scandurra and Maria Hägglund

We will be working with these book chapters in the fall and the first deadline is in November. At this point the work consists of being creative, as the illustration of this blog post is supposed to highlight. We are discussing, and planning the content of each chapter using different colours for the areas that we are going to write about.

For me writing a course book is a new experience, and I also very seldom write in Swedish so this will be something new.

 

 

Working at the Department of Informatics and Media in the Fall

This fall I have the great opportunity to work at another department at Uppsala University: The department of Informatics and Media. My research area (Human Computer Interaction) has two different belongings in the organisational structure of Uppsala University and I have gotten the chance to be a visiting professor at the other department that has Human Computer Interaction. I will be working at Informatics and Media around 30% of my time this fall! Geographically the distance between the departments is around three kilometres, and I will be using a bike to get around in town. The department where I will be visiting is in the faculty of social sciences, and the faculty I usually work at is a faculty of science and technology. Given that I have been at the same department for 17 years, it feels like it is about time to see a new place and for me this is a real opportunity!

During my time at the department I will participate in certain meetings in my role as professor, and I will also organise meetings for staff in human computer interaction. Mostly I will aim at getting to know people and their research, and try to find areas of collaboration.

My work at the department of informatics and media started a couple of weeks ago with a kick off at Lejondals slott. It was super nice, and the team seemed great!

Lejondal.png

WONDER Retreat Related to Gender Mainstreaming and Work Environment

In the spring we got funding for a gender mainstreaming and work environment project (WONDER), and we have been working with this at the division of Vi2. The project team consists of colleagues Robin Strand (head of division), Ginevra Castellano (the Equal Opportunities Officer at the Department) and excellent Giulia Perugia.

The project is called WONDER (WOrk eNvironment aND wEllbeing) and is an organisational development project. We will work with health promotion and work environment improvement measures for everyone and with particular focus on the group of doctoral students and young researchers at the unit from a gender perspective.

In October this year the project organises a retreat at Krusenbergs Herrgård with the help of an occupational health expert. We will be discussing and learning more about work environment issues in academia during two days. An unusual amount of people have signed up for the retreat, and I have been discussing the content with the expert from PREVIA that we got recommended. There will also be a follow up seminar from PREVIA in November, and the plan is that we will also have additional seminars about gender mainstreaming and the work environment at the division.

We will also look into and try to evaluate our work environment from a gender perspective as a part of the project. We will look into space, time allocation and resources. I would also very much like to look into the issue of Academic household work, that has recently been discussed in media https://www.tidningencurie.se/nyheter/2019/08/27/vem-star-for-hushallsarbetet-i-akademin/. However, I am not sure that there is room for that in this project, and perhaps we need additional funding to look into this part.

Many people suffer from stress and we need to improve wellbeing in academia – especially for women who are more likely to suffer from stress. This project is an attempt to move things one step in the right direction!

The IT in Society Course with Collaboration with Region Uppsala Kicks Off This Week

I will be teaching the IT in Society course as usual this semester. The course starts this week, and runs until Christmas. The collaboration with Region Uppsala in IT in Society course began in 2002, and over the years the subject of the course has varied according to what Region Uppsala has proposed for projects. For a few years the theme was the medical records online for Journal Patients, other themes have been consultations on distance and positioning systems.

In the project, 15-30 students make a common type of “feasibility study” during a semester to understand an area, and how the area can be developed from a technical perspective. IT students from Uppsala University and an American university named the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

The collaboration with Region Uppsala roughly works as follows: 
1) The Region proposes a theme that suits them well. The topic may be small or large, but should include open questions that need to be investigated. Someone from the Region presents the theme of the course at the beginning gives suggestions on areas that could be explored. The American students are in Uppsala this week.
5) Week 39 to v 50: The students work on examining the topic of the semester. During this period, they need help with access to health care people who can help them understand the topic.
6) in December a first version of the final result will be presented at an open seminar where the region has invited relevant people who are interested. The American students are in Uppsala this week too. The region usually booked a room that is suitable, and the university stands for coffee.

The last few years the students have presented their results at the Vitalis conference, and they have done really good projects. Let’s hope that this years’ course is equally interesting and will be presented at Vitalis! The topic of this years’ project remains to be decided, and I am really curious about what it might be!

Aiming at NO Academic Guilt

Academic guilt is something that haunts many in academia. Academic guilt makes it difficult to be off work, as there is a fear that you might miss things. One such fear is sometimes called FOMO syndrome: the fear of missing out things when others have a great time.

My guess is that it is stronger in young academics and in PhD students. There are hilarious PhD comic strips about this found at for example http://phdcomics.com/comics/archive_print.php?comicid=732

For me academic guilt is connected to this feeling:

  • I should be working….
  • I should be working….
  • I should be working….
  • I should be working….
  • I should be working….
  • ….

Academia is a tough place in a number of different aspects. It is a kind of competition with other people related to number of publications, H-index or receiving grants. There is always someone who will be more successful than I am. Someone who has read more, knows more and overall have a better career.

Academia is also a place where lots of people suffer from stress symtoms, and more serious conditions such as depression or anxiety disorders. I have decided to take up the fight against Academic guilt, and this summer I chose to be more off work than any previous year.

Of course this has its down sides – such as the fact that I did not give feedback on a few papers, I did not prepare blog posts for the fall and I did not finish one of the ten papers I should be writing. Instead I took long walks every day, sometimes went jogging, read around 10 non work books, spent a lot of time with my family and also met one of my childhood friends a couple of times (this hasn’t happened in ages).

After a few weeks of being really off I felt very related, had energy to cope with conflicts with my kids and overall it is a very satisfying feeling. I strongly recommend fighting academic guilt and to be off work sometimes!

Long-term, transparency and resources have made the Department of Information Technology at Uppsala University an role model for work with gender equality

This is a translation of an article in Universitetsläraren published in May 2019 about the Departments’ work with equal opportunities .

Long-term, transparency and resources have made the Department of Information Technology at Uppsala University an role model for work with gender equality.

The professors Åsa Cajander and Michael Thuné have, in their previous roles as equality representatives and head of department, pursued gender equality issues at the department.

– You usually talk about two aspects of gender equality, one is that there should be equal gender distribution, the other is that there should be equal work conditions and that there should be no gender differences. It often happens that the focus is on the even gender distribution, but we have tried to put the main focus on equal conditions and equal working conditions and create a good working environment for everyone, says Michael Thuné.
The institution’s gender equality work is nothing new, but Michael Thuné has been working on the issues at the department for 20 years.
– One of the things that I consider important to us was when we got a collaboration with a gender equality project funded by the EU, where they worked with action research. As an ombudsman for gender, I had a gender expert who came to all our meetings, was available to me to talk to several times a week, we discussed the different situations and meetings and the measures. It was continuous help for several years, says Åsa Cajander.
One important thing is also that there are financial resources.

– The Gender Equality Officer has ten percent in their service and also a budget of over one million continuously each year for gender equality projects and various measures. This is something that costs money, says Åsa Cajander.
One important thing is to move from informal structures to formal structures.- We have focused a lot on transparent communication and decision paths so that employees do not miss important information, which is a way of being overridden, says Michael Thuné.

Among other things, you send out information in advance even for smaller meetings, and you have introduced an institution-wide standing committee.

– There are many important assignments that have previously been designated a little informally, in small informal working groups, says Michael Thuné.
When it is now to be appointed, for example, a new director of studies announced that it is time to nominate.
– It has had a huge effect that we have received more women on management assignments in recent years. Today, all three leading positions are occupied by women, says Åsa Cajander.
All of these measures have led to a better work environment and even more women in total at the institution, but this is not a big increase. The number of women in the IT sector is few.

Why do you do this?
– My input is that a lot of problems follow with the digitization and the rapid pace of change contributes to unwanted effects. We need people who work with these issues who have values ​​other than the ones in the IT industry, we just need more women.
– I am more driven by both a fair and a quality perspective. There should be no gender-related differences in conditions and working conditions. It is a matter of justice. And both at the university and at the department, it is a quality issue that all employees and all students have the opportunity to perform their best without structures that hinder them, says Michael Thuné.
Another aspect of successful gender equality work is the importance of getting support from the management, both at university and faculty level.

The gender equality work at the department continues with work environment-oriented projects where one is pasting a department at a time.
– Recently, we have also introduced a career development program for all assistant university lecturers. The idea is that those who do not receive such support on an informal basis will benefit more from the fact that there is prepared support for everyone. We believe that this can promote gender equality and equal conditions in a broader sense, says Michael Thuné.

Kampen on Karolinska: Konsulterna by Anna Gustafsson and Lisa Röstlund

If you haven’t read the book Kampen om Karolinska: Konsulterna (the battle of Karolinska: The Consultants) and you work with eHealth or health care – you should definitely read it!

The book is written by two journalists working at DN which is one of the large high quality newspapers in Sweden. There has also been a large series of articles in DN related to Nya Karolinska. In short the building of this hospital has cost Sweden billions of money and there are numerous scandals along the way. Today the hospital still has a serious crisis as staff has quit, patients have died and very few people admit to have had the responsibility for the situation.

When writing the book the authors have done more than 200 interviews, read thousands of documents and spent several years understanding the process. In the book they have chosen to present their findings through stories from interviews and the book has a long list of references,

Others have also found this book interesting and Läkartidningen writes: “A book that ought to be a compulsory read”. Managers and leaders in health care should read this book, according to Läkartidningen.

In short the book is about the building of a new university hospital in Stockholm, New Karolinska Hospital, and the events related to management and organisations that is quite a horrible read.

Five things I found especially interesting while reading was:

    Boston Consulting Group earned enormous money from the implementation of management ideas that were really not very well tested at all. Moreover, many of the consultants had no experience from health care and were very young. They have 16 000 employees in 50 countries. I think academia have problems with impact in health care with research results, but obviously these people had no problems with impact at all. What did they do to be heard and listened to?
    Some of the ideas from Value Based Care are indeed good, such as a focus on patient’s values. However, they seem no to dominante the processes when implemented and many of the managers seems to have forgotten the patients in the change process. In the summer of 2017 60 cancer patients at Karolinska did not get their surgery on time! A result from money connected to patient value could be that areas where patients are quite well will have high numbers on satisfaction/value and hence get more money whereas hospitals treating people with multiple and complex problems would get less money.
    The ideas with metrics based control in their management strategy is indeed crazy, and I don’t understand how this idea could continue to be attraktive after the failures of new public management? When measuring there is a risk that people pay more attention to what is possible to measure independently on if it is important or not. Things that are not possible to measure will be seen as less important.
    A process oriented organisation without clinics seems really risky to implement. Where did they get this idea from, and how could they base the management strategy on the core idea that one patient has one decease when we know that there is is large group of patients that has multiple deceases?
    There is an interesting tension between the laws in health care and innovation. Some of the things they implemented at Karolinska was really illegal and did not for example comply with GDPR. However, I also think that sometimes the laws need to be tested as they are not really made for a digitalized society.

Gender Mainstreaming in Academia – the Wonder Project

My colleagues Robin Strand (head of division), Ginevra Castellano (the Equal Opportunities Officer at the Department) and I (deputy head of division) has received funding within gender mainstreaming from the central university. Giulia Perugia is also on the team and together we will work with making a difference in this area.

The project is called WONDER (WOrk eNvironment aND wEllbeing) and is an organisational development project. We will work with health promotion and work environment improvement measures for everyone and with particular focus on the group of doctoral students and young researchers at the unit. And from a gender perspective

The first part focuses on working environment and health with five seminar opportunities on preventing stress, depression and stress in relation to gender. We will also invite an stress expert to do workshops with us.

Part two focuses on inclusive leadership. We shall, among other things, develop a strategy for sustainable leadership, develop a policy for how internal resources are distributed so that, for example, the distribution of faculty resources and workload becomes transparent and can be followed up.  We will improve their information dissemination with skills-enhancing seminars, which in turn will result in a strategy for inclusive communication.