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Time to evaluate our research in RAE 2021

Foto: Sora Shimazaki / Pexels
Published Jan 27, 2021

KTH is currently conducting its third self-initiated, comprehensive research evaluation, Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2021. In RAE 2021, nine panels, created based on research fields, will review KTH's research units. Each panel consisting of two to six departments where at least one expert for each research area is included.
Johan Silfwerbrand is the new coordinator for Panel 1, to which all the departments at the ABE school belong.

You recently took over the role of coordinator for Panel 1, what are your thoughts on this assignment?

Johan Silfwerbrand

It is important that the university evaluates itself at regular intervals. The RAE aims to review our research, and the collaboration that takes place in connection with research, which of course has a close connection to my assignment as Impact Leader for the school. The work does not start from scratch. Each of KTH's departments compiles its own self-evaluations, and as Head of the department of Civil and Architectural Engineering I have been very involved in the work with my department's self-evaluation. From the beginning, this year's RAE would have taken place in August 2020, and all departments therefore began the work with the self-evaluation, collection of statistics, etc. just over a year ago. But the pandemic came in between. It feels great to be able to continue working with this at school level, it is an important job.

Having said that, I think we need to ensure that not too much work is put into this type of self-assessment and other evaluations. Evaluation of our organisation must never weigh on our core activities. Our main task is to devote ourselves to education, research and collaboration.

Your role as coordinator includes compiling the panel's self-evaluation and to be the contact person for the departments and the project group, what is the first step?

In mid-February, we will start work during two half-days with the Heads of Departments' group and other people who participate in writing the self-evaluation at each department. The idea is to read the departments' self-assessments written in 2020 and review them in small groups. Then we will review the descriptions of the "impact cases" (success stories I think is a better description) that were produced last year. Each school must submit 12 success stories that show how our research has made an impact. It is fewer than last year, when we produced eight from the Department of Civil ans Architectural Engineering alone! We need to select two case studies per department. As there are fewer, they should be presented in more detail with greater demands for concrete evidence that the research described has really made an impact. I think it's helpful for us to do it together. In some way, it is about which research reaches out widely, is interesting to many and makes a difference to society. For this, it is useful that people who may not know the specific research in detail may leave their views on which ones are selected.

We also need to start discussing what the visiting week in August should look like. The external review is carried out by expert panels that will "visit" KTH during a digital visit week in August 2021. All work within the expert panels will take place digitally. I myself have participated in expert panels digitally and it is all to easy that it feel like a series of Zoom meetings. We need to think about how we can make it more interesting for the panel. The feeling should be that they visit us at KTH and the ABE school. Maybe we can include films from researchers on site in a lab, measurings, visualizations or pictures of models? It is important that we start to plan in time so that our research really shows its true colours even though we cannot welcome the panel physically on campus.

The ongoing RAE was planned to be carried out in 2020 with project completion in January 2021. Due to the development of the corona virus, KTH decided to extend the process by one year until 2022. The autumn of 2020 was devoted to an internal review while the external review, with a digital visit week, is moved to August 2021. Publication of reports and project completion is planned for January 2022