If you have questions that you cannot find answers to, contact Johanna Blomström, administrator.
Umeå University's work with profile areas
Questions that primarily concern the university's process going forward to identify profile areas, methods and processes.
How are the process for profile areas at Umeå University until autumn 2022?
In short, the vice-chancellor has decided to give senior professor Marianne Sommarin the task of coordinating the work with profile areas. The strategic council for research and doctoral education has decided on a working group with representatives from all faculties and the school of education. In January-February 2022, all researchers at Umeå University had the opportunity to submit preproposals for profile areas. About 20 preproposals were received. During the spring of 2022, four thematic discussions were held based on the preproposals. Six preproposals for profile areas have been selected for intensive work during the autumn ahead of a first round of applications. However, all of the approx. 20 submitted preproposals are still interesting for the strategic work at Umeå University.
The Government's assignment, and the work of Research funding bodies
Questions concerning the government assignment, the work of the research funding bodies or issues that have a more national or international perspective.
Questions answered before 11 Sep
Q: How many preproposals have been submitted?
A: There were over 20 submissions, displaying a wide range of both existing research cooperation and visions for the future - a good sign for the continued development of Umeå University's research!
Q: What happens now that the deadline for preproposals has passed?
A: Now, a series of iterative processes of further analysis and strategic considerations begin. One aim will be forming convincing profile area applications from UmU in the national funding model, a process in which profile areas as formulated in preproposals may be combined, divided, added to or reconfigured in other ways. But one aim is also looking at how all submitted preproposals can strengthen the long-term strategic development of research both at the different faculties and at the university level.
Q: What are the selection criteria among preproposals?
A: It is not an ordinary selection process among already fixed applications; rather, the preproposals are the starting point for a process of further analysis and strategic considerations. In that process, profile areas as formulated in preproposals may be combined, divided, added to or reconfigured in other ways in order to form the strongest possible application from Umeå University. The criteria in that process are those outlined in the funding bodies' report Kvalitetsbaserad resursfördelning: 1) Strategic profile and conditions for quality development, 2) Scientific quality and 3) Quality of external engagement (samverkan). Any further national instructions or guidelines that emerge will of course also inform Umeå University's process.
Q: what happens with preproposals that are not chosen?
A: The preproposals are important in at least three time frames. In the short term, they are a point of departure for forming convincing profile areas in a first application from UmU in the national funding model. Secondly, proposals that are not included in a first application could be developed further for coming rounds in the national model. And thirdly, the preproposals will be important input for the long-term strategic development of research both at the different faculties and at the university level.
Q: What is the role of the contact person for each proposed profile area?
A: The contact persons serve as communication links between the researchers/research groups behind each preproposal and the coordinator-group during the continued process. To simplify this communication, e-mail communication has been only with one contact person for each preproposal although some had listed more than one. Being a contact person does not by itself imply a particular status in a possible future profile area, nor are any current or future research leadership roles diminished by not being a contact person at this stage. And although the contact person has a responsibility to speak for their particular preproposal, all researchers at the university can put forward general questions or points of view to the coordinator-group, or to the working group with representatives from the faculties and the School of Education.
Q: What will be the faculties' role in submitting preproposals and in the continued process?
A: The faculties determine themselves how they work during the preproposal period. Once the preproposals have been submitted, the faculties will have the opportunity to give input and participate in the strategic discussion. It is imperative that both the university leadership and the faculties, as well as concerned departments etc., are fully on board with the profile areas submitted by Umeå University in the end.
Q: Is there a digital platform for the process with profile areas?
A: Yes there is a group in Teams called "Profilområden Umu". We plan to invite the contact persons to that team. It will also be possible to add one or two more persons from each proposed profile area to the team. The team will be an information channel for the coordinator-group at Umeå university and can also be used for discussions between the different contact persons. Dedicated channels for continued work within certain themes may be added later on.
Q: Should a profile area be unique in a national perspective, or might several universities be given funding for similar profile areas?
A: Short answer: no one knows. Longer answer: In their report from June 2021, the funding bodies made the "interpretation that the Government does not intend to steer either the content of individual profile areas or the distribution of different kinds of profile areas in a national perspective." (Kvalitetsbaserad resursfördelning, p 11) However, we do not know what the Government will finally do and will probably not have much more information until summer. That said, having something unique or distinctive in a national perspective, or being nationally leading in terms of research excellence, are clearly factors that strengthen the case for a particular profile area.
Q: What is most important in evaluating scientific excellence – a national or international perspective?
A: Both are important. The research front is international, and it is important to show a profile area's contribution to it in terms of focus and research excellence. At the same time, making the case for a profile area in a national funding model should include arguments regarding its national position. If similar applications are evaluated by the same international panel, they would likely evaluate an area that is nationally leading or unique higher than one that is not. Therefore, we need to make the same considerations in our internal process.
Q: How many profile areas will Umeå University be able to submit in the first round of the national funding model?
A: We do not know, but we work on the assumption of being able to propose a few areas – more than one but not very many. In their report from June 2021, the funding bodies proposed that the number of areas permitted to apply for in a first round should be related to the university's size, with a maximum of five and a minimum of one. In that scenario, three to four areas for Umeå University may be a reasonable guess. However, in the renewed remit to the funding bodies in January 2022, the Government expressly excluded issues of resource allocation, since that is the responsibility of the Government and Riksdag. Therefore, we really do not know what the terms and limits will be.
Questions answered before May
Q: How much funding will each profile area be given? Will there be additional funding from the university?
A: In their report from June 2021, the funding bodies proposed a range from SEK 5–20 mn/year for each profile area. However, we do not know what the Government will decide. A profile area that is claimed to be a strategic commitment and of high research quality should probably have multiple sources of funding both from within and outside the university. Umeå University has not decided any policy for funding specific to profile areas, and it would be rather difficult to do given how little information the Government has provided as yet.
Q: How should profile areas be delimited?
A: As already stated in the call, a profile area should be larger than a regular project or a 'strategic research area' (SRA/SFO), and should preferably include collaboration between different scientific domains. The scientific quality and development potential must be possible to demonstrate, and you should be able to argue for why it is a profile area of strategic importance for Umeå University. But the funding bodies' report opened for many different kinds of profile areas, and we may or may not be given any clearer national guidelines than that. Those putting forward preproposals should thus formulate them as they themselves think best, knowing that it is not the final word. The delimitation of profile areas may well change in the process after the preproposal deadline, taking into account the requirements of the national model as well as Umeå University's own strategic considerations.
Q; I was not included in the list of PI:s in a preproposal, does that mean I will not be part of a Profile Area?
A: Not at all! The list of PI:s was limited to 20 in the preproposal submission just to ensure a manageable and focused list from each proposed area. In the continued process, we will need to get a good picture of all the research and research potential that would form the basis for the Profile Areas that UmU eventually puts forward - areas that are unlikely to match any submitted preproposal exactly. So whether you were on a PI list or not, you may still be part of a Profile Area in a submission from UmU. Also, remember that carrying out high-quality, high-impact and high-visibility research can be done both within and outside of those Profile Areas!
Q: Can anyone submit a preproposal?
A: Yes, any researcher or constellation of researchers at Umeå University, as well as faculties or other organisational units at Umeå University, can submit a preproposal. In practice, the work and coordination it takes to submit the required information constitutes a certain threshold. And although approval by the relevant faculties is not a formal requirement for submission, communicating and coordinating with them is clearly recommended both as a courtesy and as a way to avoid parallel work on similar preproposals.
Q: In the excel file, should "Research funding 2021–2024" include all funding during that period, or only projects starting 2021 or later?
A: You should include all funding for the years 2021–2024. If you have a project covering e.g. 2019–2022, include the portions for 2021–2022.
Q: In the Excel file, should the individual funding columns include all projects that each PI participates in, or only projects where the PI is main applicant?
A: The individual funding columns in the excel file should only include the amount that each PI has been granted as main applicant. Include total funding for those projects. (Other kinds of funding might be described in the preproposal form, or added as an additional column.)
Q: Is it possible to present funding that does not fit into the excel list but is important for the Profile Area?
A: If there is other important funding in the research environment, of other kinds or from other sources than listed, this can be described in the preproposal form, and/or added as an additional column (with an explanatory) footnote in the excel list. This can for example be the case if there is funding from the Faculty that does not fit in the categories.
Q: We have a strong but narrow research area which cannot stand as a Profile Area on its own but could be included in a suitable unknown Profile Area. What should we do?
A: You can:
1) Talk to the persons representing your faculty/school of education in the working group for Profile Area to hear whether they know of preproposals under preparation that may be of interest to you, and/or contact possible partners in a wider Profile Area directly.
2) If you do not find a broader preproposal to be part of, you may still fill in the preproposal form and the excel list for your own area, indicating what kind of broader Profile Area it might make a strong contribution to. It is a preproposal, which means that there will be further development, analysis and discussions in order to come up with the final Profile Areas. Or
3) If it does not make sense for you to fill in the forms for your specific research area at this moment, make sure that the person representing your faculty/school of education in the working group for Profile Area are well aware of your interest and potential contribution so that it might be considered in the future planning and discussion.