Category Archives: Uncategorised

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: https://www.uu.se/om-uu/internationalisering/

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.

The Number of Male Students is Decreasing in Academia

Recent numbers from the Swedish statistical board describe that the number of people who continue studying after high school in Sweden are: 

* 50% of the girls study after high school

* 38% of the men study after high school

There are also shortcomings in gender equality in terms of throughput and academic performance. Women generally have better throughput than men in education both at the undergraduate and advanced levels – and this contributes to the education level being higher for women (measured as the proportion of the population with a degree from a university).

This is also true for Uppsala university, and on an overarching level looking at the whole university, there were more women than men who studied at undergraduate and advanced level education, and the distribution between men and women was within the gender equality interval (40–60 per cent). However, if you look into the details you see that the gender distribution was on the border or outside the gender equality interval in the three subareas humanities, social sciences and Science and technology. There was a majority of women in the humanities and social sciences and a large majority of women in medicine and pharmacy. The field of science and technology, in turn, had more men than women.

I have read up some on the existing research in this area, and there are some things that are pointed out as possible reasons for this inequality:

– Boys and young men’s education results are 10% lower than girls’ and young women’s

– Young men are more often satisfied with a passing grade and prioritize hobbies and friends

– Gender researchers believe that it has its basis in notions of masculinity and that perceptions about how young men should be are an obstacle for them.

 Another thing that affects, as I see it, is the norm of the male genius who is bron with the knowledge and skills needed and who does not have to study hard. 

If you are more interested in this area and read Swedish I recommend reading Ann-Sofie Nyströms PhD thesis http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?- pid=diva2%3A466041&dswid=-2987

Another interesting read is this report from UKÄ: Kvinnor och män i högskolan, UKÄ rapport 2016:16 https://www.uka.se/download/18.5d85793915901d205f9a852/1487841854015/rapport-2016-10-14-kvinnor-och-man-i-hogskolan.pdf

This blog post is based on a presentation that I did for the university board about men and academic studies. 

Sexual Harassment, Harassment and Victimisation in Academia

I remember very well one of my first conferences abroad as a PhD. student. We were socialising in a pub and meeting researchers from all over the world. My colleague and I were introduced by my supervisor to a male professor. He looked at us briefly and exclaimed something like:

I can fully understand why you chose these two as your new PhD students.

*lol*

Their breasts are great!


I can still remember how extremely painful the situation was. I was completely shocked and did not react at all. And neither did my colleagues. I strongly felt that I did not belong in academia, and that this was obvious from the comment. I so wish I could say that I said something clever, and that I walked out of the situation strong etc. That did not happen at all. I felt like such an outsider and the comment rested with me the whole conference.

Until very recently little has been known about sexual harassment, harassment and victimisation in academia. But now one of the well known Swedish universities has done a study to understand the occurrence of sexual harassment, harassment and victimisation in academia. Recently they presented a report around the topic that is based on questionnaire, interview and focus group data from employees, doctoral students and students. In total, 61 interviews and 21 focus groups were
completed, and the surcey was sent to all employees, doctoral students and students who were registered for the autumn of 2018. The response rate was 34% for employees and doctoral students, and 32% for students.

The report can be downloaded from Tellus’ blog.
In Swedish: https://tellus.blogg.lu.se/lunds-universitet-starker-det-forebyggande-arbetet-mot-sexuella-trakasserier-med-stod-i-kunskapsunderlaget-fran-tellus/
In English: https://tellus-eng.blogg.lu.se/the-report-from-tellus-is-published/

From the report: “Amongst employees and doctoral students, 25% of women and 7% of men state that they have been subjected to sexual harassment at some point during their employment at Lund University. 8% of female respondents stated that this had occurred in the last 12 months; the corresponding figure for men was 3%.”

Robots should not reproduce our mistakes – teaching about equal opportunities and AI

I was an invited lecturer to the introductory course for Technical Mathematicians at the Royal Institute of Technology a few weeks back. The students were really great, and thet had really many interesting view points and reflections related to Equal Opportunities. It was indeed a well worth effort to go to Stockholm and to meet them and to discuss this with them!

We did the course as a flipped classroom experience where the students watched three TED talks before the lecture, and we discussed these during the lecture – and of course other things. One of the TED talks posts was on how to keep human bias out of AI, by Kriti Sharma and the students very much appreciated this.

I think many people have the image that AI is neutral, and that it is disconnected from equal opportunities. Unfortunately this is not true, and AI can indeed be carriers of strong bias. Or as in the below Ted talk where Kriti Shama concludes that the “Poor robots suffer from sexism”, and that the newest technologies are created to reflect a society that is strongly biased.

Robots should not reproduce our mistakes and we need to be careful when launching AI systems in decision making. The problem basically lies in the material that we provide robots with, and how diverse that material is or isn’t. Also there is sexism in what the robots do, and helpful robots that support us are for example often women.

Of course Kriti Shama’s TED talk also provides some ways forwards. Her conclusion is that we should be  

1) Be aware about the biases around us .

2) Give diverse experiences to learn from

3) Make diverse teams build the technologies

Doing Expert Evaluations for Positions at Other Universities – some tips from an equal opportunities perspective

As a professor I am asked many times per year to do expert evaluations for other universities. I honestly think that I also get more of these because I am a woman in a female dominated field. The universities need one woman and one man to do this job, and there are indeed fewer women than men in computer science.

These expert evaluations are of different kinds but for example they include rankings of candidates for a position at another university, or assessing weather someone can be promoted to professor, lecturer etc. I also very often do assessments of teaching skills, and I have spent many weeks of work on that over the years.

Below are some of the ideas that I think are crucial when doing these expert evaluations from an equal opportunities perspective:

Transparency about evaluation criteria used. When doing these assessments I work a lot on being transparent about the assessment criteria. I spend many hours working on describing on what bases the ranking is done. I also know that this is one way for all of us to avoid being too biased in our assessments which makes this part even more important. The criteria for rankings are found in the official employment documents of the university.

Writing to a Respected Colleague. I always imagine that the person I evaluate is a respected colleague of mine. This makes me very aware of the phrasings and also of how critical I am. I know that everyone is struggling and trying their very best given their circumstances and they will read what I write very carefully. I am especially careful when I write negative comments.

Follow the evaluation criteria to the detail. I make use of my evaluation criteria in every detail when I describe the work that has been done and try to structure the report according to the criteria so that it becomes transparent.

Try to be aware of biases. We are all biased in our thinking, and in all evaluations we need to try to be non biased. I go though my assessments one or two extra times before submitting with the bias glasses on thinking of those aspects that I have learned are often biased. I am especially aware when I asses independence, leadership skills and potential future.

Kicking off the Semester with Family Turbulence and No Blogging

I haven’t had the energy to blog in a while, but now I will try to get my routine back again and write something every week. It’s been a turbulent start of the semester. The first week I was ill with fever and a cold. I spent the week separated from the family in our small house in the garden to make sure that everyone else stayed healthy. The Covid-19 test I took was negative, and I am happy about that. Not that I expected it to be positive since I hadn’t met anyone with the decease, but you can never be totally sure not to get it I guess.

The third week of work started with 24 hours in the children’s hospital. One of my teenage sons had strong chest pains for around 8 hours before it disappeared. I got less than two hours of sleep in 24 hours, and was really extremely worried. It looked like an heart muscle inflammation, but in the end they didn’t really find any problem. I am so grateful for the very professional care he received, and the constant surveillance they put him under. The health care professionals did all tests imaginable dressed up in their Covid-19 suits. All tests were done in our small room including X-ray, EKG and blood tests due to the virus situation. Of course I couldn’t help observing their use of technology. And as expected it didn’t work properly at all occasions.

I hope that next week is a boring and normal week. I love my work, and I look forward to focussing on that again. There are several new projects coming in, and I have also gotten a new role at the university.

Study on Automation of eServices in Primary Care

Automation where humans and computers cooperate on various levels is transforming society. Many jobs are anticipated to be partially or completely automated in the future. OECD, for example, calculate that 14% of current jobs could completely disappear in the next 15-20 years, and they estimate that around 32% are likely to change entirely as tasks are automated (OECD 2019). Another well cited calculation estimates that 47% of all jobs in the US will be threatened by technology development in the next 10 to 20 years (Frey and Osborne 2017). This transformation using automation is also seen in the healthcare sector and some areas of automation are clinical development, non-invasive surgeries, robots in the medical pill dispersion and administrative systems being automated 

Automation has also recently moved into the area of patient-centric services to address society’s challenges with an ageing population and healthcare provision. The goal of the transformation with automation here is to make healthcare more efficient, and to empower patients. Given the work environment problems in healthcare, with a large turnover of especially nurses (Hsu 2016) and recent evidence that suggest digitalisation is experienced as a part of the problem by many healthcare professionals (Kroth et al. 2019; Scandurra et al. 2014), it is vital to investigate the effects of automation and digitalisation on work engagement. 

As a part of the STRIA work we did a study on staff at 1177 that we published in a Swedish technical report found here

Abstract:

Denna rapport innehåller en kartläggning av 1177-personalens digitala arbetsmiljö vid arbete med den chattfunktion till patienter som användes under ett pilotprojekt hösten 2019. Rapporten är skriven med utgångspunkt från att läsaren har inblick i personalen på 1177s arbete, och har kunskap kring de IT-system som används. Kartläggningen genomfördes som ett samarbete mellan forskningsprojektet Systemutvecklingsmetoder för digital arbetsmiljö som leds av Uppsala Universitet och Region Uppsalas projekt Nära Vård Online under hösten och vintern 2019/2020.

Kontextuella intervjuer genomfördes på plats under cirka fem timmar. Dessutom genomfördes nio semistrukturerade intervjuer med sjuksköterskorna och åtta med läkare. Intervjufrågorna grupperades i fyra teman: intervjupersonens bakgrund; arbetsmiljö relaterat till pilotprojektet; arbetsmiljö relaterat till det äldre sättet att arbeta och några avslutande frågor. Alla intervjuer transkriberades och tematisk analys gjordes.

Inom temat upplevelse av krav visar intervjuerna att det som är mest stressande, och som nästan stressar alla, är köbildningen i chattsystemet. Det som stressar är otillräcklig information om vilka samtal som väntar, och att man inte kan veta när personen man chattar med svarar. Dessutom påpekar några att man inte heller kan se vilka patienter som behöver snabb hjälp och vilka som kan vänta.

Inom temat stöd kan man konstatera att alla upplever systemen som stabila, och har god inblick i vad man kan göra om systemen inte fungerar. Många tycker att systemen fungerar mycket bra. Några påpekar att samarbetet och stödet från kollegor som jobbar hemifrån inte fungerar lika bra som att arbeta på samma plats.

Inom området upplevelse av kontroll finns det förbättringsområden vad det gäller vilka frågor som patienten svarat på, och sjuksköterskor påpekade att systemet delvis är designat för läkare och inte för sjuksköterskors arbete. Många upplevde att de kunde vara med och påverka i förändringsarbetet, och att de i mycket stor utsträckning varit delaktig.

Rapporten innehåller också några rekommendationer kring design och implementering av liknande tjänster ur ett arbetsmiljöperspektiv. Slutligen finns lästips för den intresserade läsaren.

 

Soon ten years since I defended my PhD: “Date set, opponent accepted! Now the only thing that is missing is the text”

10 years have soon passed since I defended my PhD. Facebook has given me some memories such as “Date set, opponent accepted! Now the only thing that is missing is the text”.  I remember that I had tree months to write the introduction to the text and organise everything around the PhD. The PhD was based on eight papers related to how to work with software engineering (user centred design- UCD) in large organisations, and a large action research project with eight different public authorities. You find the thesis here: http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A310201&dswid=-5735

The thesis has three research questions:

  1. What happens when UCSD is introduced in a public authority?

I was also interested in the values and perspectives of people involved in the organisation as well as how UCSD can be introduced through new methods that affect the values and perspectives of the stakeholders including the system developers in the organisation. Therefore, this thesis also aims at understanding the following questions:

  1. How do perspectives of stakeholders in systems development projects affect the work with UCSD, usability and users’ health in the organisations studied?

The final question addresses the issues of how we can address the introduction of UCSD and change perspectives:

  1. What new methods can be used to introduce UCSD and to influence perspectives?

barnen

I finished my PhD during a tough period in life, and I had much support from my family, my supervisor Jan Gulliksen and my friends. One of my very best friends Helena Bernáld did the photos for the thesis, and my parents helped me with grocery shopping, cleaning and laundry. In parallel to writing my PhD I was a single mom of three kids aged 2, 6 and 7, see photo. In addition to this I had just bought a house that I renovated and I somehow I pulled off painting my new house. I don’t remember why I though it was so important. Why did I do that!!?? It sounds very crazy in hindsight.

I remember nailing the PhD thesis to a wall in the university building (see photo) and feeling so happy that I pulled things off! A big thanks to everyone that helped me during this period!!

Professor Bodil Jönsson was the opponent at my defence. I remember that the discussion was very nice and that she thought that I had used too many theories and added to much material to the thesis. And she had a point. Somehow the situation in life made the PhD defence seem like something that was possible to control. And I was really not very nervous about it, and writing the thesis was therapy related to life in general. That part is also difficult to understand! I guess people are strange, and I am equally strange myself. 

Keep safe in Corona times!