Author Archives: Åsa Cajander

About Åsa Cajander

Researcher in the area of Human Computer Interaction with research interest in eHealth, User Centred Design and HCI Education.

Working on a Large Funding Application in the Area of Sustainability

Society faces major difficulties associated with our environment, human use of natural supplies, and our surroundings’ influence. The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra) works with these challenges by investing in research that serves to produce sustainable improvement of society. This is achieved by funding in different initiatives in which researchers and stakeholders from society make mutual contributions to resolving key environmental dilemmas.

Uppsala Sustainability Initiative’s Anne Peters has worked with this in the front line, together with a network of researchers (including me) from several other universities and organisations. We are answering Mistra’s recent call for programmes in the area of sustainable strategic environmental research and change. The call’s focus areas are equity, digitalisation, and civil society, and I have been asked, and accepted, to be the programme director.

We have created a strong network of people who work with the application. There has been an extraordinary amount of commitment from everyone involved so far. The first weeks in January have been super hectic, and we have needed to work long days to finish everything. When this is done, I will celebrate with a bottle of champagne with my husband!

This motivates me to work in academia

Academia can be a tough place with hard competition, stress and a constant feeling of doing too little. It is also very conservative regarding equal opportunities with few women, people from minority groups, etc. Also, doing research is not an easy job. Most people I know get rejected a lot as a part of their publication and writing application processes. Also, the academic culture is that of critique, and academics seldom overdose others with positive feedback. Despite all this, I have been in academia for a long time now – soon 20 years and recently I was asked what motivate me to continue working here. 

For me, my work is associated with a feeling of autonomy which I appreciate a lot. With this, I mean that I have strong freedom or control over my life and self, and many days of the year few people know what I am doing, where I am or what I prioritize. To a considerable extent, I can decide what I want to focus on, and what I put time and effort into doing. Of course, I have deadlines in projects, teaching and reports that need to be written or read but overall, I have a lot of autonomy. One of the main components of autonomy is the locus of control, a continuum on which people lie that denotes how much authority they have over the outcome of a situation. Most often, I feen a high locus of control. Writing of funding applications is a large exception, though. I have no feeling of control over what is funded or not. So far it seems more of a lottery than anything else when you submit an application that you believe in.

Intellectual stimulation through collaboration is the second part that motivates me to work in academia. I have very nice and smart colleagues to discuss with and learn from. I enjoy the discussions where my horizons are expanded, and we find new pathways forward. Honestly, I am motivated by being a bit outside my comfort zone, and to dig my teeth into new areas, theories, research questions or ideas. There is always something to learn still!

The sense of being in a position where I can make a difference. I have the feeling that I can make a difference through my work with equal opportunities, research and teaching. I want to make a footprint, to impact change in the right direction and to improve things. My areas where I want to improve things are IT in health care, equal opportunities, IT, sustainability and the work environment. All areas are indeed difficult to change, but I am trying the best I can. Lucky thing I am never working on anything on my own, but always in collaboration with excellent people who bring their ideas and experiences to the table.

Energizing as a Full Professor of Human-Computer Interaction – Painting Walls, Floors and Ceilings

How do you regain energy after a Covid-19 period? I had low hopes for the Christmas vacation and no plans really. I felt quite drained of energy after a period of too much to do, a new role to take on and some people around me who felt clinically depressed and drained of energy.

I have had a long Christmas break this year, and have been extra careful to take many days off work, and I have not even checked my email (!!). In all, I was off work for three full calendar weeks. This was really good for me!

Instead of working, my husband, four kids and I have spent quite some time painting and renovating three bathrooms and one bedroom. Of course, the equipment was bought online and delivered to our house due to Covid-19. My partner has done most of the IKEA furniture assembling work and laying a new floor in one bedroom. I have mostly done the painting projects which I truly enjoy! I believe that painting surfaces can be a powerful stress-relieving exercise where you see a tangible result;

1) You can recognise what you have achieved since that section looks great.

2) You can clearly understand what you have left to do since that section is less good looking.

3) There is no need to use your mind, but better let your hands learn what you are supposed to be doing and

4) You can listen to books or pods while paining (I have listened to Swedish radio programs on health and wellbeing and books).

Indeed painting is very unlike scholarly work in general which is not that clearly defined and you most often have only a vague idea of how far you have reached. Notwithstanding, I’m quite convinced that painting is my prospective career. I am covered in paint when I am done, and I am not very professional in my performance as there is paint all over the place. Good thing that there is acetone to clean off paint from the skin before the Zoom rally began this week!

I really feel energised by all the painting and I am looking forward to starting working this week. I am, however looking forward to the vaccine being launched globally to live life more as usual. Since March, we have been working from home, and our social life has been minimal during this whole period. And we have teenagers at home due to homeschooling, and also most weeks one of the younger kids who claim they have a headache or a sore throat. We have had one indoors guest only since March. Luckily, that person is super interesting to talk to and to discuss with. We have really enjoyed the company with good food and Disney films.

I hope that your Christmas was great and that you had something meaningful and fun to do that gave you energy! 

This year taking time off is extra important

Many of us are tired after long working hours and extra work due to Covid-19. So this Christmas we need to take extra good care of ourselves. We need to regain energy! This can be done in a large variety of ways, but many with a cognitive work regain energy through other things than using your brain. These things could be walking in the forest or nice surroundings, watching a nice film, reading a book and spend time with family or friends.

I will spend a few weeks with my family, cooking, taking long walks and reading books. I am not sure that I will take three weeks off as planned, but perhaps save a few days to be able to go on a vacation when Covid is gone. I will be back to work in January, and the blog will also be on vacation for a few weeks.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

There is a Need to Improve Work with Equal Opportunities

Equal conditions are a matter of rights for the individual and a success factor for organizations and society. An equal conditions perspective should be integrated into all parts of a business, and the work environment should be characterized by openness and respect,
Working with equal opportunities, a widespread understanding meets my colleagues and me in the council for equal conditions at Uppsala University that our work fulfils an important function. The vast majority think that it is obvious that all people should have the same rights, opportunities and obligations. But more knowledge is needed about how to create an inclusive work environment as an organization. In some cases, there is also a lack of competence in how long-term and successful equal conditions work should best be conducted, which can lead to the efforts being point-oriented and driven by enthusiasts.

Many organizations also need to broaden their focus in work for equal conditions from the legal gender to apply to all seven grounds of discrimination. In general, knowledge is better about discrimination and gender equality when it comes to legal gender, and many of us need to learn more about discrimination, norms and values ​​linked to other grounds of discrimination.

At Uppsala University, the work takes place on equal terms at many levels within the organization. Given that the organization is decentralized, coordination is also needed at the central level, and we, therefore, have an equal conditions council with representatives from the university’s different parts with a rector’s council as chairman.

One of the things that the university has worked on is how transgender people should be treated in the best way. The goal has been to train teachers on how to deal with transgender people and create a safe working environment for them.

We have also worked on how we can make it easier for students with special needs. There is now an adapted examination room where students with, for example, dyslexia or concentration difficulties, or who need their own assistant or a service dog, have the opportunity to write their examination.

One area that Uppsala University focuses on going forward is broadened recruitment, as the university does not reflect what the surrounding society looks like. Two of the three fields of science have worked to investigate the causes of this imbalance and what can be done about it.

The university is also working long-term to increase the number of professors with legal gender. To achieve a gender distribution within the range of 40 to 60 per cent, we need to work with, among other things, work environment issues and transparent career paths. In this work, of course, we also need to ensure that recruitment and skills supply takes place on objective grounds and that there is an awareness of discrimination and bias through all steps in the recruitment process.

At Uppsala University, we see equal conditions as a quality issue. Equal conditions work inspiring and long-term for the university’s development and continued success.

This blog post is a translation of a debate article that I wrote for Tidningen Publikt about equal opportunities. You find the Swedish article here:

Acceptance and Commitment therapy, eHealth and People with Chronic Pain – Half Time Seminar by Charlotte Gentili

Charlotte Gentili from Karolinska Institutet did her half time seminar towards receiving a PhD this fall. I was honoured to be on the committee for her seminar, and learned a lot about her reserach area. She has truly done an amazing job, and reached very far in her PhD studies. I think that society need more of this kind of reserach which is multidisciplinary, applied and addresses an important societal problem!

Charlotte is a psychologist with a focus on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).  The definition found in Wikipedia is:
Acceptance and commitment therapy is a form of psychotherapy and a branch of clinical behaviour analysis. It is an empirically-based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies mixed in different ways with commitment and behaviour-change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility.”

As readers of the blog might know, I am not a psychologist, so experts might disagree, but I would say that it is a kind of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that they have designed for mobile phones. Hence, Charlotte Gentili´s research area is smartphone ACT treatment for adults with chronic pain. This area of eHealth is quite new, and in her reserach she has done a pilote study as well as some follow up studies that look very promising.

She has also used an excellent user-centred design approach, and also written an experience paper based describing the methods used. I would highly recommend reading this paper to people working with eHealth and deevelopment. You find it here:

Among other things Charlotte Gentili has looked at psychological flexibility and  the effect of the usage. Flexibility is a personality trait that includes the extent to which someone can deal with changes in circumstances. To what extent can we think about problems and tasks in novel, innovative ways? This trait is used when stressors or unexpected events happen. The results show sychological flexibility significantly contributed to the prediction of pain interference and depression. Moreover, participants with low levels of psychological flexibility were more likely to be on sick leave.

We discussed future studies at the seminar and Charlotte Gentili is really very intrested in the intersection of psychology, eHealth and UX – which is close to my area. So I am super much looking forward to reading more about her work, and hopefully also be invited to the PhD defence!

The Art of Saying NO – Six Tips

I am not very good at saying no, and for many years I though that prioritizing means deciding on the order of things you need to do and then do everything on the list. I did not understand that prioritizing means taking things off the agenda. The other week I was asked about saying NO and prioritizing what to do, and I mumbled some answer realizing that I need to become better at this. Writing this blog post is the first step. For me personally I think many things are very interesting, and I have this feeling that I might be missing out on interesting things. But I also know that a too full calendar is awful, and I hate the feeling of not doing anything in a proper way due to time constraints.

  1. Think carefully if this opportunity is something that really interest you – or will take a lot of energy and time.
  2. Do not answer until after 24 hours. This makes it more likely that you think things through more carefully and that you don’t automatically say yes.
  3. Don’t apologize when saying no. You can politely say no without saying much about why you need to say no. This makes it easier to respond saying no.
  4. Suggest another person for the task and see it as a possibility for them to shine and get some possibilities.
  5. Say no and add that this might be a interesting at a later point in time.
  6. Be realistic about your time. Have an updated calendar and do an honest assessment if you do have the time for this.

Good luck with saying NO, and good luck to me too. I need to improve in this area. 😮

Interview-Style Discussion on Career, Work-environment and Work-life Balance

I was invited to attend a research group seminar the other week with another research group led by my excellent colleague professor Isto Huvila. Isto is an extremely talented researcher, and we have worked together for many years, and on top of that also a very nice person to work with. We have published a lot in the DOME collaboration on eHealth, and I have really learned a lot from our multidisciplinary work.

During the seminar, Isto and I talked and discussed our experiences from working in academia. We did it in kind of an interview-style discussion and had prepared a few areas that we wanted to cover. None of these was the traditional style things such as presenting a paper of research results, quality of research, methodology or how to make use of theory. We then informally discussed different topics, and the attending PhD students and postdocs asked questions and commented. I think that this worked very well, and we talked and laughed filling in each others’ stories. The areas covered were of the same variety as the emojis of this blog post.

Some of the topics we covered where:

  • Work-life balance and having a family as an academic.
  • Career paths and our own backgrounds. What did we base our choices on?
  • Networking and choosing whom to collaborate with
  • Saying NO to things – how is that done or not done?
  • Playing an academic career game and getting a job.
  • How assessments are done of applications for a position
  • Failing badly at publishing
  • Impostor syndrome feelings
  • Our best moments as academics
  • What do we think are the best things about working as a professor?
  • What motivated us to work in academia?
  • What are our plans forward?

We need more of these informal talks in academia generally, and the PhD students enjoy seeing a variety of different senior researchers and the diversity of who we are. I recommend trying this informal discussion like a way of addressing this – it worked really well.

Internationalisation and Equal Opportunities

My excellent colleagues organised a Zoom seminar on Internationalisation and Equal Opportunities that I chaired together with the Adviser on Equal Opportunities Anders Backlund. We had more than 100 people attending and there were three things discusses.

The University’s Language Policy – Here you can read that Uppsala University is a multi-lingual university and we are recommended to use the language that everyone can understand if we have non-Swedish people at a meeting and to mix languages if we have people who are not skilled in English at the meeting. However, decisions and formal documentation need to be in Swedish. One fact that was new to me was that students always have the right to do their examination in Swedish!

The Work with Internationalisation – This was a super entertaining presentation of an important area of the university’s work where the focus is to be better at internationalisation for students and for staff. You can read more about this work here:

Best Practices and Examples of Successful Work: Here we got to hear many good examples of what has been done when it comes to equal opportunities and internationalisation and the university. The presentations were about students, staff and teachers with a large variety.

I am impressed at how good we are with working with internationalisation and equal opportunities, and my colleagues had really set up an inspiring and thought-provoking seminar. Our next seminar on Equal Opportunities will be in spring 2021, and most likely also on-line. I heard plans that we might focus on the many inspiring projects that are ongoing in the organisation and invite people to present their work. I am really looking forward to that!

LGBTIQA+ and students- what works well and what can be improved?

Gotland Pride was Zoom based this year, and I participated in a hearing with students together with Campus Gotland’s student union organized as a part of their Rindi Rainbow Week. The illustration used in this blog post is from their official Facebook site.

Together with my excellent equal opportunities colleagues, we had set up a workshop with an informal hearing of students on the topic: LGBTIQA+ and students – what works well and what can be improved. We started off the presentation with a few facts about Uppsala University and the work with equal opportunities. I must say that have a very ambitious goal to work towards, and many people in the organisation are interested in equal opportunities. This is our mission in the goals and strategies: 

”Equal opportunities are a matter of rights for the individual and quality for the University. An equal opportunities perspective must be mainstreamed in all parts of the organisation and the University’s study and work environments must be characterised by openness and respect.”

Our Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson had also sent us a message for the workshop. She is indeed a strong proponent and excellent champion of equal opportunities! Her message was that Uppsala university is working hard with equal opportunities, but that we need to be even better and that the student’s input is extremely valuable in that work. 

We used an online tool at the workshop and the students were able to write anonymous input for us about LGBTIQA+. Some of the things that we need to be better at, according to the students are: 

  • It needs to be possible to use preferred names, and not only the name reregistered in the official government databases. Some transgender people find this very disturbing. This is also important for international students. 
  • It should be possible to have pronouns available in the student registries so that teachers and other students are made aware of what pronoun to use. 
  • LGBTIQA+ and the intersection with mental health problems need more attention, and we need to be better at informing students about the available support.