One of the more obviously useful sides of being the head of a department is that you get more information than you do as a lowly PhD student. And sometimes you actually get asked what you think about things, with half a hope that the powers that be will actually listen. This is a story of how that might work.

Norway has decided that information technology should be one of our strategic research areas (along with oil, oil and oil) and so the research council has drafted a program plan for a ten year program defining the areas universities and industry can apply for funding within. The program will be called VERDIKT. That means “value” and “ICT”, ICT being “Information and Communication Technologies”. Value probably speaks to the moral values of our Christian Democrat prime minister (don’t worry, despite having the prime ministership, the party has less than 10% of the votes) and also to the commerical values we’re hoping to generate. I’ve heard several suggestions as to how VERDIKT should be pronounced. I’m partial to verdikÂt, myself (horny for values), but the English or French word verdict, or judgement, is another likely candidate.

Anyway, a draft of the program plan has been sent out to all the universities and other likely applicants, and the universities have sent it on down the system, where it among many other mailboxes reached mine. We’re all requested to send our comments to the University’s research coordinators, who’ll condense everything into a two page document they’ll return to the research council.

Once you’re in the system, it’s fairly transparent and apparently quite democratic, it seems. However, the hearing is not open. If you click the links from the program’s home page, you’re told you’re not authorised to view that. Luckily Google allows us to short-circuit that, so if you’re interested in what your tax money (if you’re Norwegian) is going to be spent on for the next ten years, go read that PDF.

Carsten, Hilde, Thomas, Audun, Rolf and I had a very efficient meeting about the document. My job is to write it out, preferably in short and comprehensible soundbites the research coordinator will put into the two page document from the whole university. “It’s kind of retro,” one of us said. “For the first five years 75% of the funding will go to research on wireless technologies? That’s like using a battle ram to knock down open doors!” Someone else responded, “Yeah, talk about technology-centric. The document mentions that the British have named ubiquitous computing as the “grand challenge for computing research”, but we’re focussing on the thing rather than the idea.” Yet another of us nodded to that, noting that that was presumably due to lobbying from the companies that make wireless networks and so want funding for felles utfordringer knyttet til anvendelse av trÂdl¯s teknologi, or in English, “our common challenges related to figuring out how on earth to use this wireless technology”.

“Well, whatever, at least the visions are clear,” someone else pointed out. Look, they see that the network is changing the world. Look, instead of talking about the movement from a ‘information society’ to a ‘knowledge society’ as most do, they write we’re shifting to a ‘communication society’. That’s an interesting idea.” Someone else, reading, mutters, “I particularly like this bit about creating systems that can deal with unreliable communication. I guess they mean mobile phones slipping out of the network, but what if we’re talking about people using the network?” We nodded, while noting all the things that had been left out: “There’s no art or story-telling here, but at least they’ve remember learning, that’s good,” someone said. “They’ve got accessibility, too, but it looks like they mean whether blind people can access stuff, really. What about all the other people who don’t or can’t or won’t participate in this brave new network society? What about the inclusion and exclusion mechanisms invoked by the technology?” I think we said many more things too, but these are the things I wrote down. There are many good things in the proposal. Certainly.

So I still have to write out our response. I doubt I could quite get away with writing it just like this.

But maybe, by blogging it, our ideas will have more impact than they would had we only followed the institutional channels? Doubtlessly more public discussion of research strategies would be a good thing. Why keep it within the institutions?

10 thoughts on “in which we discuss norwegian research strategies

  1. Raymond M. Kristiansen

    I am Definitely reading this, and re-blogging this, and spreading the information within my political party (Venstre). Thank you for taking the time to post!

  2. Jill


  3. Hilde

    That’s a nice summary of our meeting! 🙂

  4. Jill

    Oh good, I’m glad I didn’t misrepresent us 🙂

  5. Scott

    Did you mean “thorny”?

  6. Jill

    No! I meant horny as in desireous of sex. Maybe it doesn’t quite translate properly 😉

  7. Lars L.

    Fin post, men linken til pdf-en virket ikke, det gjorde derimot et google-s¯k etter “H¯ringProgramplanskisseSamlet.pdf” – du finner den p forskningsrÂdets side.

  8. Bortebest II

    Teknologien, for teknologiens skyld

    Norges forskningsråd har funnet ut at de skal bruke 150 millioner i året de neste årene på IKT-forskning. “De første 5 årene vil programmet allokere anslagsvis 75 % av midlene mot fokuseringen på det tra&#778…

  9. ÿivind

    Strategi innen informasjonsstrategi.
    Det har slÂtt meg at en funksjon av det spesialiserte samfunnet er snevre og begrensete informasjonsstr¯mmer. Allmenheten, pressen og politikere mangler rett og slett tilgang til en del kunnskap de absolutt burde ha tigang til. Et eksempel: Barnevernet ser og h¯rer mye om barns levekÂr. Imidlertid har de taushetsplikt. Endel av den informasjonen se sitter inne med burde p en anonymisert eller summarisk mÂte komme allmenheten for ¯re og til nytte. Det er mulig du ser dette som p siden av planen innen informasjonstrategi, har det interesse utbroderer jeg det gjerne.

  10. Lise

    Enig i det meste, og verdikt-infoen var hÂpl¯st sent ute for alle, ser det ut til. Kanskje blogging kan gj¯re infoflyten Âpnere i tunge institusjoner som forskningsrÂdet og universitetene? Ser at en av kandidatene i valgkampen for rektorvalget ved UiO bruker blogg, s en kan jo hÂpe… (selv om UiOs bloggsider suger, har bl.a. ikke brukerkommentarer…). Jf. Stein Evensens valgblogg pÂ:


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