Tal på promoveringen i november 2016

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Esteemed promovendi, jubilee doctors, distinguished guests, colleagues, families and friends

Welcome to the autumn 2016 conferment ceremony at Karolinska Institutet.

Tonight, we celebrate you, our promovendi, who will soon be receiving your hats and diplomas. With this conferment ceremony, we celebrate the completion of your doctoral studies. Education of coming generations of researchers, is one of Karolinska Institutet’s most important missions, you are the future.

We also celebrate you, our jubilee doctors, in honour of the doctorates you received at Karolinska Institutet 50 years ago.

I am also delighted to welcome our guests from both inside and beyond our university, including our promovendi’s families, friends, supervisors and colleagues.

You, our new doctors, have completed a doctoral-level education, written a thesis based on a research project, defended it during a public examination – and have succeeded. In this way, you have earned the highest academic degree.

Your degree has involved hard work and many years of part- or full-time studies. It is a great achievement that was not without difficult times. But you did it! Congratulations to you all!

As I see you here in the Blue Hall, I am reminded of the motivation that drives us forward and that we must all possess in order to succeed in higher education and research, and specifically within our given task, that of medical research.

I believe that each and every one of you has a strong personal drive that has helped you overcome the difficulties you have confronted and which filled you with new strength to progress in your work. This is a drive that is unique to each and every one of you.

Researchers– in a wide range of fields – can describe this drive in different ways.

One researcher, when asked if it was curiosity that motivated her, answered:

“No, that’s not my main motivation. There are so many fundamental problems that need to be solved in the world before I have time to be curious. Instead, I feel a great responsibility to ensure that my research is put to good use. That’s my motivation.”

Whenever she felt overwhelmed by the task, she would use that final resource of energy and tell herself: “Just do it.”

It’s the work we do every day that leads us forward. As doctoral students, you will have experienced what this means, how each step moves us forward, however small it may be.

I’m convinced that high quality within medical research and education is what’s needed to make a significant contribution to human health, which is ultimately what Karolinska Institutet is all about. High quality has just as much to do with our motivation to move our research forward, and the small steps we take along the way as it does with big breakthroughs.

Be sure to retain your personal motivation, whatever it may be for you. And don’t be deterred even if the path forward is difficult.

One researcher put it this way:

“I’m often wrong, and that’s OK. The difference between a good and a poor researcher is that the poor researcher forgets to use the waste-paper bin when necessary.”

Research is about encountering obstacles. But you, our promovendi, are already well aware of this: Experiments that will not work; experiments that cannot be replicated. But at the end of the day, keep in mind: If we had not tried, we would not have known what we know today.

You, our new doctors, who have just completed the scientific achievement and hard work that a doctoral degree entails, it will be exciting to see what paths you now choose to take.

For many of you, the path will lead, or has already led you, to the healthcare sector, with which Karolinska Institutet has a very close relationship. In the healthcare sector we identify many challenges to human health that we need to address and this is also the sector where our answers are being put to use.

Many also choose the path that leads to the Life Science sector –biotech, pharmaceutical and medical technology companies at which new innovations are developed to improve human health in Sweden and around the world.

And many of you will choose to continue research in an academic environment, where you will not only address small and large research questions but will also educate the next generation of scientists that will one day stand here in the Blue hall and receive their hat and diploma.

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Karolinska Institutet is currently investing heavily in both experimental and clinical research with new advanced laboratories being built on our campus in Stockholm. We are engaged in research networks and exchanges with countries around the world and have recently opened our first overseas operation, a research centre in Hong Kong.

In parallel we have important work ahead to further improve the quality of our education and research in a world where we compete for global talent and resources. This work is based upon our strategic plan, entitled “Strategy 2018”, the roadmap that will guide us through 2018. In this road map we will incorporate the action plan that our board has requested and that addresses areas where our university has failed to, in some cases provide support for compliance with basic moral and ethical values. Increased competition also calls for a need to be particularly observant on the ethical environment.

We focus now on three main areas in line with our strategy:

  1. The first is to create a sound internal culture defined by greater responsiveness and confidence in the future.  Good leadership is of the utmost importance because exemplary leadership is a critical part of high quality activities.  A leadership that maximises freedom for the researchers within the legal frame work.
  2. The second area is to develop the quality of our education, research and support activities based on improved quality measures and giving our employees the tools they need to follow necessary rules and regulations. In this leadership is important to create a creative collaborative environment with high ethical standards.
  3. The final area focuses on our future organisation, an organisation with the capacity to meet both present-day and future challenges, as well as an organisation that explores the potential in our wide-reaching interactions with the health care sector, while at the same time clarifying the division of responsibilities.

We now need to work together to ensure that we will be an even better and stronger KaroIinska Institutet. There must be no doubt that our activities are characterised by the highest quality and ethical attitudes.

***

The government will soon present its research bill. The overall focus, communicated by the Minister for Higher Education and Research, is focused on specific challenges for society, which include climate and the environment, health and life sciences, a sustainable society and digitalization. Here Karolinska Institutet can really contribute.

The minister has also emphasized the government’s intention to focus on equal opportunities, attractive career paths including mobility, increased interaction with society and solid research environments to support higher education.

We will know more about the details when the research bill is formally presented.

But we have already been instructed by the government to develop a gender mainstreaming plan. The purpose of the plan is to contribute towards the nationally declared gender equality objective of equal opportunities for women and men.

For example, focus is on career opportunities and better gender-balanced educational choices, both of which are challenges for Karolinska Institutet. But at least in the area of career opportunities, developments are clearly seen with half of the new professors installed at Karolinska Institutet in October being women. And seeing you promovendi here in the Blue Hall, women and men, from all over the world, provides great hope for a future of equal career opportunities, if we remain committed to this vision.

It is with the highest hopes that I wish you, promovendi, every success on whichever path you choose, and I welcome you to join us in our future work together. It is with the greatest pride that I congratulate you, our promovendi, once again.

I would also like to extend my warmest thanks to you, our jubilee doctors, who are celebrating the 50th anniversary of your doctoral degrees. Thank you for all you have achieved in the name of health and knowledge, for preparing the way for your successors, and for the legacy you leave to future generations.

I wish you all a very rewarding evening.

Karin Dahlman-Wright

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