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Strategic plan for the Department of Biology

Compiled by Jessica Abbott

This is the web version of our strategic plan. The plan is valid from 2022 until the end of 2027. You will find the subheadings Strategic goals, Actions 0–2 years, Actions 3–5 years and Responsible for follow-up beneath each heading (except under Introduction). If you need our strategic plan as a pdf file for printing, please contact Joakim Nilsson (Joakim [dot] Nilsson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se).

The Department of Biology has previously had a Research Strategy for the years 2015–2019. The emphasis of this document was on research, and other parts of the department's activities, such as administration and teaching, were dealt with only to a limited extent. During 20219–2020, the university-wide evaluation of research activities at LU RQ20 was carried out. The head of department decided in 2020 that the Research Strategy should be replaced by a more comprehensive strategic plan for the years 2022–2027, and instructed the deputy head of department to coordinate the creation of the strategic plan. The plan takes recommendations and conclusions from RQ20 into account.

Work on the new strategic plan began with a discussion within the head of department’s council and with the unit heads regarding which areas should be covered. The head of department and other key people (e.g. the museum director and the directors of studies for undergraduate education) were then commissioned to produce a basis for a first draft of the various parts of the plan. These parts have been compiled and revised by the deputy head of department, and the plan has been submitted to the unit heads, the departmental board, and finally other parts of the organization, for comments before it was adopted by the head of department via formal decision.

The purpose of the strategic plan is to make an overview of the department and identify concrete goals for the department as a whole, as well as areas where special initiatives may be needed. Activities and routines that are deemed to already function well are therefore not explicitly addressed. Within each part of the plan, overall strategic goals are presented, as well as short-term (0–2 years) and long-term (3–5 years) actions to achieve these goals. An annual update of the strategic plan, particularly of the actions, should be made to ensure that these actions are followed up, and any new initiatives can be added. Each part of the plan has a person who is responsible for follow-up. This person is responsible for developing concrete evaluation criteria for the action in the plan, evaluating the outcome of the actions, and suggesting revisions to the strategic goals. Updates to the strategic plan will be presented to the board before adoption takes place through a formal decision by the head of department.

The Department of Biology has around 300 employees. A size that places high demands on the organisation to promote collegial governance and enable the development of core activities. The design of the units has served the department well, but given that it is more than 10 years since the department was created, there is reason to review how these are composed. Regardless of any future organisational changes, upcoming retirements will require replacements for a number of key positions of trust at the department (for example unit heads). Strategic decisions that affect the conditions for research and education shall be based on good information and in which the rest of the organisation has had a say. The head of department’s council has an important function in this work, but the relationship between the head of department’s council and bodies with department-wide areas of responsibility (for example education, infrastructure) should be clarified.

Strategic goals

Create a transparent organization that:

  • Promotes work with new recruitments and the development of good conditions for research and teaching.
  • Focuses on the department’s core activities (research, teaching, and cooperation with broader society) provides opportunities for researchers, teachers, doctoral students and other staff to be part of a broader context than their own research group. 
  • Promotes collegial discussion about the conditions for research and teaching.
  • Ensures that gender and other forms of equality are taken into account when distributing assignments within the department.
  • Improves communication between different parts of the department.

Actions 0–2 years 

  • The composition of the head of department’s council shall reflect interdepartmental activities and responsibilities in research, undergraduate education, postgraduate education and administration. The role of the head of department’s council is to inform about and discuss issues within these areas, and as such act as an advisory organ to the head of department.
  • Carry out an inventory of areas of responsibility related to research activities requiring ongoing discussion, and create a forum for these discussions (for example by creating a departmental research committee). The purpose of such a forum should be to provide advice and support that facilitates short- and long-term planning of the department's broad research profile, which includes commitments to infrastructure, recruitment, and various forms of support (for example with research funding applications).
  • Review the division of the units and how they relate to the department's research environments, with the aim of creating an organization that stimulates collegial responsibility for the quality and development of research and teaching.
  • Continued development of the department's websites to create a clear, user-friendly, and useful website that improves external and internal communication regarding research, teaching, and cooperation with broader society.

Actions 3–5 years 

Follow up on how the organizational changes that have been implemented in years 0–2 have affected the department's work.

Responsible for follow-up

Head of department
 

The Department of Biology is a research-heavy institution, and several of our research groups are nationally and internationally prominent. However, the large number of research groups is difficult to get an overview of, and there is no clear structure for who is responsible for long-term planning of the research strategy at the department. Upcoming retirements will open up opportunities for a number of new recruitments who should be given support to develop well-functioning research programs. In order to maintain continued quality and competitiveness, strategic investments are needed in for example infrastructure and technical support, which requires discussion forums and clear procedures for evaluation processes and decision-making processes.

Strategic goals

  • Redistribute resources to research-related support (for example in the form of administrative or technical assistance, infrastructure, etcetera). This will be achieved by announcing slightly fewer positions in relation to impending retirements (a total of 16 teaching positions during 2019–2026).
  • Ensure that research-related support contributes to maintaining the department's competitiveness, teaching quality, and breadth.
  • Clarify the department's overarching research environments in order to facilitate discussion of strategic decisions, increase the opportunities for researchers to contribute to the development of their subject at the department, and improve communication internally and externally.

Actions 0–2

  • Gather together the work with the development of research conditions at the department and investigate whether these and similar issues can most efficiently be handled by e.g. a research committee or other evaluation group. In that case, a decision must be made with respect to the composition and areas of responsibility for such a group.
  • Develop rules of procedure for the distribution of various forms of research support to our research environments.
  • Develop the department's support activities for writing research funding applications.
  • Develop a clearer equality strategy to, among other things, identify and support high quality researchers of the under-represented gender at the department.

Actions 3–5 years

Develop a strategy for the department's relationship to the relocation of parts of the Faculty of Science at Brunnshög, including MAX-IV and ESS.

Responsible for follow-up

Deputy head of department

The Department of Biology is facing a number of retirements of research and teaching staff 2021–2026. This provides very good opportunities for active recruitment work that promotes the institution's core activities. The strategy for these new recruitments should be forward-looking, with good quality in research and teaching as a clear goal. Prior to new recruitments, a thorough needs analysis must be made that takes into account research, teaching, departmental assignments and collaboration (see below). A number of general principles must be taken into account before recruitment.

Strategic goals

New recruitments should help to:

  • Maintain and develop well-funded and internationally leading research environments that risk being particularly negatively affected by future retirements.
  • Expand or establish strong and creative research areas.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to strategically recruit very prominent researchers.
  • Promote the quality of teaching by recruiting skilled teachers.
  • Achieve gender equality at the department.

New recruitments should preferably be in line with several of these principles, and recruitment should take place primarily when these strategic goals cannot be achieved through existing staff; environments can be strengthened and new research areas established also by supporting existing researchers who hold teaching positions (that is associate senior lecturer, senior lecturer, or professor).

Further aims:

  • The link between research and educational programs must be strengthened.
  • A position is advertised only if there are several highly qualified applicants; this must be determined before the position is announced.
  • In connection with the recruitment, it should be ensured that the necessary resources (for example custom lab spaces, special equipment and/or funding from the unit) in order to for the recruitment to be successful

Based on impending retirements, four environments have been identified as prioritized during 2021–2022. These environments are of great importance for the department's internationally leading research activities and contribute to a large extent to high-quality teaching and cooperation with the broader society. With regard to the principle of adaptation of technical support, there will probably be room for an additional 6–7 teaching positions in different subject areas during the same period (that is 1–2 recruitments per year). Most of these additional positions can be targeted at younger researchers. A clear process for designing subject areas for these recruitments must be implemented.

Actions 0–2 years

Priority recruitments

These recruitments are considered urgent due to impending retirements that risk adversely affecting internationally leading research environments:

  • Senior lecturer or professor with an aquatic focus.
  • Senior lecturer or professor specializing in chemical ecology.
  • Senior lecturer or professor with a focus on sensory biology.
  • Senior lecturer or professor with a focus on biodiversity and/or ecosystem services.

Introduce rules of procedure when recruiting

For increased transparency, an annual deadline is proposed for submitting proposals for the announcement of new positions, followed by an evaluation of the proposals. All staff within the department can initiate proposals for a possible recruitment. A good foundation in the research environment and unit is important to ensure that the newly recruited person has access to the resources required to establish a successful research program. Proposals that are judged to be in line with the above-mentioned principles for recruitment will then be handled by the department management (unit heads, director of studies, head of department, and head of department). The board will be informed on an ongoing basis as the process progresses.

Rules of procedure:

  1. Identification of the need for recruitment and discussion with the research environment, the unit, and with the director of studies.
  2. Expressions of interest with a short description of and motivation for the intended position are submitted to the head of department.
  3. Discussion within the prefect council with preliminary ranking.
  4. Discussion with the unit managers. 
  5. Discussion with the departmental board.
  6. Discussion with the faculty.
  7. Head of department approval of the rankings.
  8. Board decision.

Note that information about the recruitment procedure will be public for increased transparency. When the department's budget is planned in October, an assessment will be made of how many recruitments there is room for during the next year, which is followed by the submission period for proposed recruitments at the beginning of the spring semester.

Actions 3–5 years 

  • Continuous evaluation and development of the proposed rules of procedure above.
  • Continued recruitment according to the new rules of procedure.
  • Appointment of a working group to investigate what opportunities there are to shorten the recruitment period.

Responsible for follow-up

Head of department and head of department’s council

The infrastructure at the Department of Biology includes premises, instruments, and technical support in the form of staff. These are financed through a combination of government basic grants, targeted initiatives (for example the faculty's infrastructure grants) and external grants for research (directly or via overhead). The RQ20 report highlights access to well-functioning infrastructure as central to the quality of research. Opportunities for strategic decisions regarding infrastructure are, however, currently limited by the lack of routines for evaluating needs, benefits, costs and organization. In addition, there are no routines for redistributing the department's commitment to various types of infrastructure. Changes to ensure that the technical support increases the quality of the work at the department will take place in dialogue with the relevant staff.

Strategic goals

  • Actively work to identify what new initiatives are needed.
  • Customize infrastructure for staff at the biology department for increased research and teaching quality.

Actions 0–2 years 

  • Develop routines for evaluating and, if necessary, redistributing the department's infrastructure support.
  • Develop routines for internally applying for financial support for researchers’ (or research groups’) activities, and how these applications should be evaluated. 
  • Create joint discussion and meeting forums for technical and administrative staff.
  • Conduct a dialogue with the faculty about career paths with the possibility of promotion for technical staff.

Actions 3–5 years

  • Implement suggested actions.
  • Develop and establish routines for further training of technical staff.

Responsible for follow-up

The head of department’s council and the research committee

The Biological Museum at Lund University is a unique resource for research on the diversity of life and the effects of environmental changes on flora and fauna, particularly within Sweden but also internationally. With collections spanning over 250 years, the museum provides specimens and information on species distributions in time and space for ecological, genetic, taxonomic, and sustainability studies.

Strategic goals

  • Maintain the collections and make them available for high quality research on biodiversity in Sweden and around the world.
  • Strengthen the position of the museum as an indispensable infrastructure for national and regional environmental monitoring.
  • Encourage research projects at the department that directly use the collections.
  • Integrate the museum collections into the teaching at the department.

Actions 1–2 years

  • Create a reference group for the museum which will, among other things, encourage research projects at the department that directly use the collections.
  • Balance the budget of the museum, preferably by finding ways to increase the external funding income to the museum.
  • Continue negotiations with various instances on developing the museum as a research infrastructure and a resource for educating students and the general public (for example through public exhibitions).

Actions 3–5 years

  • Support initiatives to enable long-term management of the collections, including accession of new material, maintenance of available material at a high standard and making collections available to researchers.
  • Continue to actively participate in national and international initiatives (NAMSA, DiSSCo, ArtDatabanken, etcetera).
  • Make the museum and its collections more visible to researchers at the department, university and region.

Responsible for follow-up

The museum directors and head of department

Various forms of cooperation with the broader society are conducted in multiple places within the department. This includes activities aimed at the general public, such as popular science writing, participation in radio and television programs, involvement in LU events, work with schools, and citizen science. Cooperation with different actors is also part of a number of research projects and includes collaboration with various authorities (e.g. county administrative boards, municipalities) and other organizations. There is also a widespread involvement in various scientific associations and societies of a national and international nature. Some collaboration also exists with the private sector, and includes industrial doctoral students, commercialization of services or products, and start-ups (through LU innovation). There is currently no overview of what cooperative activities are going on, how they are spread across the department and between staff, how much time is spent on these activities and what types of collaboration work well.

Strategic goals

  • Carry out an overview of, and clarify the prerequisites for, cooperation.
  • Identify the types of cooperation that contribute positively to the department's research, teaching, and interaction with the general public and broader society.

Actions 0–2 years

  • Carry out an overview of the composition and scope of cooperation to identify goals for future cooperative work, and compile a plan to achieve these goals.
  • Include significant collaboration activities in the personnel plan.

Actions 3–5 years

  • Establish a collaboration group to for example develop ideas for cooperation activities, provide support before and during cooperation activities, and ensure that the department is visible in Lund University's recurring events (such as Future and Sustainability Weeks). The group should include both researchers and administrators.
  • Implement the plan laid out during year 0–2.

Responsible for follow-up

Head of department

In order for the department to remain an attractive place for early career researchers (postdocs and researchers with various forms of establishment grants, as well as associate senior university lecturers), their needs must be taken into account. The department management has already investigated the needs of associate senior university lecturers, but a study of the particular needs of postdocs and researchers with various forms of establishment grants should also be carried out.

Strategic goals

  • Make the department an even more attractive workplace for younger researchers.
  • Support younger researchers based on their different conditions as a postdoc, researcher with establishment grant, or associate senior university lecturer.
  • Increase transparency for early career researchers when it comes to the department's activities.

Actions 0–2 years

  • Conduct a survey of the particular needs of postdocs and researchers with start-up grants.
  • Develop routines to improve the opportunities for early career researchers, especially those with associate senior lecturer positions, to develop their own research activities.

Actions 3–5 years

Researchers without teaching positions must receive additional support in their career planning in order to be able to successfully apply for positions at Lund University, at other universities, and outside of academia. 

Responsible for follow-up

Deputy head of department

The undergraduate education at the department is comprised of two bachelor programs in biology and molecular biology, as well as three master programs in biology, molecular biology, and bioinformatics. The students in the bachelor programs study the first semester together, which means that they can easily change specialization early in their education. The master programs (other than bioinformatics) have 9 different tracks to choose from. In all parts of the undergraduate education, there is a great deal of freedom of choice with regard to courses, which is highlighted as very positive among students.

Strategic goals

  • To deliver an education with high teaching quality and a relevant range of courses in biology, molecular biology, and bioinformatics, that attracts the best students.
  • All students should have a learning environment that is free from discrimination, secure, and scientifically based.
  • Continued good collaboration with the faculty, other departments, Max IV/ESS, as well as industry and government authorities, in order to develop the education programs at the department.

Actions 0–2 years

  • The progression within the courses and programs in terms of content and course offerings should be reviewed and clarified; sustainability and gender/equality issues should be integrated into education.
  • Evaluate the digital resources created during the covid-19 pandemic in order to identify those that clearly add value to teaching.
  • Appoint two program managers for the larger master programs and institute double course leadership as necessary, so that work with the undergraduate education can be distributed evenly and sustainably (for example when someone is unavailable due to sick leave).
  • Appoint a working group to investigate how we can make better use of existing resources and competencies, such as how we can adapt undergraduate education to involve English-speaking doctoral students and postdocs as assistants.

Actions 3–5 years

  • Continuous development of existing master programs, and possible establishment of new programs that are in demand by the students and also reflect the research and competence at the department.
  • Increased cooperation with other institutions and with companies or government authorities to enable more outreach activities and more contact areas.

Responsible for follow-up

The directors of studies for undergraduate education

Postgraduate education at the department is conducted within the subject of biology, but with a wide variety of research areas. The number of doctoral students varies somewhat but is currently around 75. Approximately 80 employees at the department are engaged as supervisors for these. The postgraduate education does not have representatives who are responsible for specific subjects, but a group of institutional representatives are tasked with monitoring the content and quality of the individual doctoral education projects. The basic principle for financing doctoral projects is that two years are paid for by departmental funds and two years by external grants. Departmental funding for doctoral education is distributed to the units based on the number of permanently employed teachers and docent-competent researchers. An overarching principle should be that the doctoral program is organized on the basis of the Higher Education Ordinance, and in a way that reflects that the program is a joint departmental responsibility. It must be clear what the goals of the education are, and what expectations and commitments follow from this for doctoral students, supervisors, and institutional representatives.

Strategic goals

  • All doctoral students must be part of a research environment that is scientifically relevant, research-active and promotes learning. Cohesion between doctoral students must also be promoted at the departmental level.
  • The doctoral students must have the opportunity for a reasonable teaching commitment that promotes their studies. The doctoral students' work environment and the content and organization of the education are to be followed up.
  • Candidates with high potential must be attracted to become doctoral students through high-quality education. Announcements of open positions should be spread via appropriate channels, and work samples as well as support from Human Resources and experienced and skilled supervisors should be used in the selection of doctoral candidates.

Actions 0–2 years

  • Strengthen and clarify the role of the institutional representatives in postgraduate education. The institutional representative is appointed in connection with the registration of interest and, together with the supervisor, begins the planning of the education before the announcement.
  • Develop, through the institutional representatives, a plan for course offerings to ensure that the education provides the necessary opportunities for acquiring skills and personal development.
  • Commitment in postgraduate education, such as assignments as institutional representative and teaching at doctoral-level courses, should be included in personnel planning in the same way as other departmental assignments.

Actions 3–5 years

  • Together with the faculty, work for a better tool for managing the individual study plan and for separating the plan itself from the follow-up of the plan. Clarify the objectives and requirements for the half-time seminar and report.
  • Provide support for supervisors to develop in the supervisor role by offering continuing education or discussion about postgraduate education-related issues.

Responsible for follow-up

The directors of studies for postgraduate education

The department should be characterized by a good physical, social and mental working environment for students and staff. The department shall continue to ensure that all employees have a good and safe physical working environment. In the coming years, special attention will also be paid to stress-related ill health. This requires a holistic view where physical, psychological, social and existential aspects of stress are actively prevented, noticed and addressed. Here, staff in leading positions play a key role, as their ability to prevent and manage stress-related ill health has a major impact.

Strategic goals

  • Ensure that all employees have a good and safe psychological and social working environment.
  • Work preventively with work environment issues that are brought to attention through the annual work environment survey.
  • Ensure that managers and others at the department with leadership assignments have the right skills.

Actions 0–2 years

  • The head of department, deputy head of department, human resources manager, directors of studies and unit heads should be trained in actively preventing, paying attention to and remedying various aspects of negative stress. This also applies to staff with other commissions of trust or group leader positions.
  • Procedures for reporting bullying and harassment should be clarified.
  • All new managers should be encouraged to take leadership courses.

Actions 3–5 years 

Information from the annual work environment survey will be used to identify specific categories of employees who are particularly vulnerable to stress, and then develop further measures aimed at these groups.

Responsible for follow-up

The head of department

The biology department primarily conducts its activities in the Biology and Ecology Buildings, but we also have a research station in Stensoffa and the museum's premises are shared between the Ecology Building and the Archive Center South. The Ecology Building shares its space with CEC (Center for Environmental Science) and Archive Center South with several other activities. In the Biology Building, the faculty-wide infrastructure LP3 is also housed. With the establishment of parts of the university at Brunnshög, new demands will be placed on the parts of the faculty that remain at Sölvegatan so that the area is not impoverished.

Strategic goals

  • Work for the biology department to be an obvious hub in a strong and cohesive research environment at Sölvegatan.
  • Work to ensure that the biology department is housed in functional and appropriate premises that can change as the department develops.

Actions 0–2 years

  • Renovation of greenhouse A to guarantee continued operation of GMO-classified greenhouses.
  • Work for a change in the lease agreement for the Biology Building to be able to more easily work for improvement measures in the property.

Actions 3–5 years

Work for a strong “Campus Sölvegatan” as parts of the faculty's activities are relocated to Brunnshög.

Responsible for follow-up

Administrative manager

Heads of department

Jessica Abbott
Head of department, Senior lecturer
Evolutionary Ecology

Telephone: +46 46 222 93 04
E-mail: Jessica [dot] Abbott [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Tobias Uller
Deputy head of department, Professor
Evolutionary Ecology

Telephone: +46 46 222 30 94
E-mail: Tobias [dot] Uller [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Administrative manager

Joakim Nilsson
Administrative manager
Department of Biology

Telephone: +46 46 222 38 02
Mobile: +46 72 241 21 04
E-mail: Joakim [dot] Nilsson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se