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Finn-Eirik Johansen

Candidate for the University Board among permanent employees with teaching and research positions.

Finn-Eirik Johansen, Professor, Department of Biosciences, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.

Nominated by:

  • Marianne Fyhn, Professor, Department of Biosciences, MN
  • Dag O. Hessen, Professor, Department of Biosciences, MN
  • Kristian Gundersen, Professor, Department of Biosciences, MN
  • Unni Olsbye, Professor, Department of Chemistry, MN
  • Ludvig Sollid, Professor, Institute of Clinical Medicine, MED
  • Ole A. Andreassen, Professor, Institute of Clinical Medicine, MED
  • Joel Glover, Professor, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, MED
  • Petter Bae Brandtzæg, Professor, Department of Media and Communication, HF
  • Karen O'Brian, Professor, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, SV

Election platform

Finn-Eirik Johansen
Finn-Eirik Johansen

I am running for election to the University Board because I have a strong commitment to the whole University of Oslo, its heterogeneity and diversity. I believe that we should strive to consolidate UiO as the leading university in Norway for research and education. Furthermore, UiO faculty members should be clear, knowledge-based voices in the public debate. To achieve these goals, the development and maintenance of outstanding academic environments for research and education must be prioritized within the broad university. UiO educates candidates and has important societal functions beyond the excellent university. The breadth is necessary for this mission and needed to safeguard non-conformity, which the university should cultivate. Outstanding academic environments of the future will sometimes develop from the intersection between existing strong environments, but also sometimes from areas within the breadth of UiO in placed we did not predict.

University Democracy

I am a supporter of a strong university democracy and believe the current system, where the rector and deans are elected, is best suited to ensure this democracy. There is no evidence that hired candidates are superior to elected, but we should work hard to produce more candidates and a greater diversity among those who stand for election. The recent elections of deans at several faculties (Humanities, Dentistry, Law) give cause for optimism. The basic units (departments, institutes and centers) are the cornerstones of the university and must have leaders with a solid academic background who understand the nature of research and education, the needs of the employees and who safeguard the autonomy of the academic staff.

UiO is a knowledge organization and the knowledge is found at the lowest organizational levels. Leaders at all levels must show confidence in the knowledge of those they lead and facilitate utilization of this knowledge is in the best possible way. This means that the university must facilitate free curiosity-driven research, and that academic staff must have the right to participate in prioritization processes and decisions that affect the university's academic and organizational development.

Research, teaching and public relations

There is an increased recognition of the importance of research to society, but many academic staff experience less room to conduct unrestricted, curiosity-driven basic research. This is a paradox. Researchers are experiencing an increased administrative burden and an ever-increasing thirst for reporting. Some of this burden on researcher is politically controlled, but UiO must remove self-imposed reporting and control when the purpose does not justify the burden on employees. UiO must communicate clearly that society in the long run is best served by the university maintaining the autonomy of the scientific staff.

The university has a significant basic funding, which to a certain extent is used to position us towards greater access to external funding (especially the EU and the Research Council of Norway). However, the university also has a responsibility to ensure important research areas with a lower degree of access to external funding and academic staff's opportunity for unrestricted, curiosity-driven research. I believe the university should keep its focus on long-term, often disciplinary, basic research.

I have a great commitment to interdisciplinarity and have worked to promote collaboration across fields as former director and board member of UiO: Life Sciences and as board member of UiO:Nordic. UiO still has an untapped potential for interdisciplinary collaboration, both in research and in teaching. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) put into words many of the greatest challenges of our time, to which UiO in collaboration with actors locally, nationally and internationally will contribute to find solutions. UiO must facilitate for the many employees who want to work interdisciplinary to help solve complex societal challenges. In order to foster strong interdisciplinary environments, it is necessary to create security, mutual recognition, and most importantly, interdisciplinarity must be based on strong disciplinary academic environments.

Significant progress has been made in teaching at UiO in recent years, especially in terms of increasing the recognition of good teaching and skilled teachers. There are still administrative and financial obstacles, created by a rigid internal funding model, which stand in the way of collaboration across units and optimal utilization of the university's total resources for teaching. A challenge for many employees is that the resources needed to modernize and develop course content do not exist, or that such funds can only be obtained from competitive calls, in which there will be both losers and winners.

The Higher Education Act sets a number of requirements for the university, often summarized as the three primary tasks of research, education, as well as dissemination and innovation (a.k.a. "applying the knowledge" or “impact”). It is important to remember that it is the university itself and not every single employee who must fulfill the purpose of the Higher Education Act. Thus, not all employees have a duty to have extensive public contact, but together we must ensure that UiO engages in societal issues and extends our impact beyond the academic realm. Researchers should be encouraged to speak out publicly and have the right to do so even if their views diverge from those of leaders and colleagues. Dissemination and other societal contact is an important task, but many employees have little education, training or experience in this. The university must thus support employees who want increased interaction with society and make this meritorious work in line with research and education.

Recruitment, career paths and researcher training

Central to the future of UiO is how we recruit new employees and how we take care of all employees. Recruitment processes should be as open as possible and not more closed than required by law. In all cases, there must be clear and predictable criteria for employment, promotion and other priorities. Competence in all the university's primary tasks should be meritorious.

In many academic environments, there is a lack of gender balance and diversity among senior scientific staff, which is out of step with society in general and with the profile of the student body. The cohort effect (the fact that those who are professors today took their doctorate some time ago when the composition of PhD candidates was different) explains far from all this lack of balance. I believe we must recognize that there are structural reasons for such an imbalance and that we must be willing to implement measures that counteract this. Focus on a good working environment for all employees is a necessity to improve the balance and will make UiO a more attractive workplace.

Academic career structure is a subject of intense debate and a working group appointed by Universities Norway (UHR) recently submitted its report in which they propose a softening and expansion of the requirements for professorial competence. I think it is important that the qualification principle is upheld and that an ordinary professor at UiO should both conduct research and teach. Yet, in some fields, there is a need for more career paths. These can be specialized researchers needed in large projects or teaching staff needed for permanent teaching tasks, which temporary personnel often perform today. We must accept that a certain level of employees on fixed-term contracts is necessary for the university, but by creating alternative careers to the “professorship ladder”, we can strengthen UiO.

Many of the PhD candidates at UiO will end up in relevant jobs outside academia. UiO must therefore provide these candidates with experiences and training so that they become competitive in the labor market. However, we must fully acknowledge the fact that the most important requirement for excellent researcher training is excellent research.

Administration and management

It is understood that the administration must be as small and efficient as possible. Many administrative staff primarily want to work with academic staff to contribute to the primary tasks of the university, but culture and bureaucratization tendencies in society have resulted in far too much time spent on control. The university adheres to three administrative levels (Central administration, Faculty administration and Department/Institute/Center administration), and needs to improve on the distribution of administrative tasks between these three levels. When administrative staff work closely with the scientific staff at the basic units is when they best support the primary tasks of the university, while a larger administration at a higher organizational level tends to focus on control. It is at the departments, institutes and centers that the academic competence is located and this level should have more room for academic development.

Presentation and motivation

I received my doctorate in molecular biology from Columbia University, New York (1994), and continued as a postdoctoral fellow in immunology at Rikshospitalet (currently OUH) and the Faculty of Medicine, UiO, where I became a professor in 2006. In the autumn of 2001 and the spring of 2002, I spent a sabbatical year at Harvard Medical School / Children's Hospital, Boston. From 2007-2017, I was a member of the Center for Immune Regulation (CIR, a Center of Excellence led by Professor Ludvig Sollid), in the period 2007-2012 as group leader. At the same time, I was head of department at the Department of Molecular Biosciences from 2009 and the newly established Department of Biosciences from 2013. From 2016 to the end of February 2019, I was first director of UiO:Life Sciences and then dean of research at the MN faculty.

Since March 2019, I have been a professor at IBV with teaching in molecular biology, cell biology and immunology and research in comparative immunology. After 10 years in leadership positions, I joined the Convergence Environment COMPARE (led by Professor Kjetill Jakobsen) in March 2019. I now lead a newly started Research Council-funded Researcher Project in Comparative Immunology, which is an interdisciplinary collaboration between evolutionary biologists and immunologists at MN and MED.

I have sat on a number of boards and national committees and working groups. Among other things, I chaired the follow-up committee for the RCN-conducted evaluation of Biology, Medicine and Health Research in Norway (, 2011-12) and have recently chaired a working group for development of a guide for the assessment of researchers nationally (Universities Norway [UHR], report delivered in February 2021) and locally (UiO, ongoing).

From early in my own career, I have taken an interest in development and organization of strong academic environments and knowledge policy in general. Over time, I have become well acquainted with several parts of UiO and am happy to work at a broad university. I think that my commitment to the entire university together with my experience from various management levels at UiO and in other forums will be a strength to bring to the university board if I were to be elected. As a leader, I have always placed great emphasis on the academic staff's views on strategy and management and done my best to listen to advice from faculty members and issues they bring fourth. Now I want to be the voice of the scientific staff on the university board.

Published May 14, 2021 10:02 AM - Last modified May 19, 2021 1:37 PM