The Young Academy of Sweden was established with the aim of giving a voice to young researchers and to influence research policies. This is how Anna Sjöström Douagi, director of the Young Academy of Sweden, describes its activities.
“We bring together the best researchers from different fields. This makes interdisciplinary collaboration easier, which is not that common at Swedish universities at the moment. It is good to inspire and learn from each other, to identify common problems and find new scientific ideas. Many new approaches have been recognised.”
Dare to be difficult
Anna Sjöström Douagi talks about the explosion of young academies which took place at around the same time that the Young Academy of Sweden was founded. She thinks it is because many organisations were asking young researchers about their views and experiences. The success of the first of Europe’s young academies, the Young Academy of Germany, had also been noticed.
“It became clear that a young academy has a different role to play than the older academies. Young academies are a complement to other academies. The members are in a special stage of their careers, and maybe that’s why we are more “here and now and forward”.
“We want the same thing but we do it in a different way. You also have an excuse, being young – young academies can put a spanner in the works and be a little difficult. That’s what we want.”
A long-awaited voice
When the academy was founded in 2011, members immediately began producing comments on the research bill for 2012. They were pleasantly surprised at the response from the politicians.
“Everyone was so curious and wanted to know what young researchers think and need – it was a way of feeling the pulse of research and identifying some structural challenges. We worked hard for clearer career paths, we really pushed that issue hard – and we still do,” says Anna Sjöström Douagi.
Jenny Larsson, chair of the Young Academy of Sweden, underlines the need for predictability and transparency in an academic career.
“A lot of people talk about security, but that’s really the wrong word. We would rather have some predictability, so that you know what you have to achieve if you want to make headway in the academic system.
Right now it’s more like a lottery, she says.
“The proposal we have put forward is based on young researchers being employed and tested along the way. There should be different stations on the way, and if you make it to these stations you can continue to the next. It is important to know what is expected of you.
Inspiring interdisciplinary meetings
Just as important as making your voice heard outside the academy is learning from each other’s experience and advice. Anna Sjöström Douagi describes how members talk enthusiastically with each other as soon as they have a meeting. Jenny Larsson agrees.
“We talk about everything. It’s so inspiring to meet researchers from other subject areas. You get some very good tips and can see a lot of similarities – for example, I was surprised that natural scientists have the same problems as social scientists and artists when it comes to funding and career paths.
Some collaboration has come out of it, but above all we have discussed many ideas,” she continues.
“When you come home from these meetings your thoughts are really bubbling, and that’s what you like as a researcher,” says Jenny Larsson.
All studies on creative environments show that something happens when different ideas and subjects are mixed with each other, points out Anna Sjöström.
“That is what we see in real life too – it is always fruitful when you invite someone in a related area of research who has a different viewpoint on a lecture or who can be a critic at a thesis defence. It is precisely what we need.”
Read more in Curie: All countries should have a young academy