This content was published in the period between 3 October 2014 and 20 January 2019

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 20 January 2019 she was Minister for Higher Education and Research.

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 20 January 2019 she was Minister for Higher Education and Research.

Inspiring new generations – science policy and public engagement

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Speech at Forum for Research Communication - London Calling!, Gothenburg 15 april 2015

Thank you for inviting me here today. I believe that the topic for this seminar is of high importance for both science and our society. And it is nice that we also have the opportunity to listen to our colleagues from London.

I would like to start with some words on Swedish research. The Swedish government is committed to continue the important public investments in research.

And now, we are starting the work on the next research bill.

To remain competitive in the future, Sweden needs to recruit the next generation of scientists. This is of high importance for the government.

Some areas we are already highlighting are how to give young scientists good working conditions - and how to make science more gender equal.

But our future as a research nation is also depending on how the university sector and its researchers engage with, and communicate with, the rest of society.

And our continued investments in research need to build on the confidence in research among the public. According to the SOM surveys conducted by University of Gothenburg, the Swedish people have a stable and high confidence in Swedish scientists – about 64 % state that they have high confidence in researchers – which is a higher figure than for most other professions, (such as teachers, engineers, economists and journalists).

So scientists are truly popular!
And in general, Swedes also have a positive image of science and believes that research makes a very positive contribution to our society.

But this can never be taken for granted. Trust and confidence can be easily lost. A slightly worrying trend for instance is that the confidence in science has decreased somewhat in the last ten years. And for many governments, it is not possible to invest in research in these times.

But through science communication and public engagement – we can involve a larger public in the discussion about research and science. And build confidence.

I also want to say some words about the power of inspiration.

We need to encourage our children to become interested in science, to study and maybe to later on choose research careers.

Many studies actually support that the basis for becoming a university student and developing an interest in research is based on developing a strong foundation already in primary school.

Therefore, we need to give our children a solid knowledge foundation at an early age. And we need to inspire them so that they might become interested in choosing science and research when they become older.

Many anecdotes tell us how individual scientists – including Nobel Prize laureates – first developed an interest in science through an especially inspiring teacher. Children are curious, experimenting and eager to learn, and we need to support this in our schools.

Clearly there can be many different ways to achieve this. To encourage children’s interest in science - they can be allowed to become researchers themselves in the classroom. They can perform suitable and real experiments, or collect information for scientific projects. In this way, teaching does not need to rely only on one-way communication of information. Instead, it can show children at an early age that they themselves can be active participants in a research process.
And that it can be fun!

Public institutions can also participate in this. The Nobel museum for example, offers courses where school classes to test being part of simple research processes. And many other museums offer similar learning experiences for children.
There is actually one other factor to consider when asking how to inspire young persons to become our scientists of the future. Young people need to feel that it is important and exciting to be a scientist! They need to learn that scientists are normal persons - with extraordinary jobs.

But most important, the inspiring teacher in school is often the person who can most strongly inspire our children to become interested in science and research. Therefore, teachers need to be in contact with current research. This of course, is part of the larger context of improving the Swedish school experience.

When it comes to public engagement, Sweden has already created some legal support for this task, through a clear legal requirement.

This is important, but nevertheless some work remains.

For example: does it really have a positive merit value for university staff to engage in such activities of public engagement? Or do university promotion boards sometimes regard such public engagement as distracting activities from research?
These are all issues that we need to look into when we ponder upon the next research bill.

I also believe that individual researchers can do many things to participate in public engagement.

For example, they can choose to publish newspaper articles, discussing their research. They can participate in science festivals, or work with museums that exhibit scientific work, or participate in public lectures and discussions.

Universities as organisations can also do a number of things to ensure that they engage with the public. Their key strategy documents can be formulated so they stress the role of public engagement.

Universities can formulate policies so that staff is valued and promoted for their public engagement activities. And universities can give training and support to individual academics.

Our government values and encourages public engagement by scientists. Sweden is a strong research nation today, but it can grow even stronger if it encourages increased public engagement. It is as important for universities to engage with the public - as is it to get the public to engage with the universities.

Thank you for inviting me!

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 20 January 2019 she was Minister for Higher Education and Research.

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 20 January 2019 she was Minister for Higher Education and Research.