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Published

14 May 2013

Scrutiny of Stockholm Resilience Centre

The mid-term review of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, one of Mistra’s largest initiatives, took place in April. The scrutiny of its extensive work has meant a hectic operational period for the Centre, Mistra’s Secretariat and the six reviewers.

‘We’ve worked hard from morning until evening. It’s been tremendously stimulating,’ says Sybille van den Hove, one of the reviewers.

We met for an interview on Mistra’s premises during a short break in her work. Sybille van den Hove and the other five reviewers have been meeting staff at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC). They have engaged in discussions, carried out an intensive study of the comprehensive documentation and drafted the final report, which is due for completion soon.
‘Most of us weren’t acquainted with one another before. It’s rewarding to encounter such a bright group of people who are also so open and unconcerned with prestige,’ she says.

Evaluating a research centre of SRC’s size calls for more of an all-round approach than reviewing a research programme or an application, van den Hove explains. It is not only the academic results that are to be scrutinised. The reviewers are also trying to get an idea of the atmosphere prevailing among those who work at the Centre, and how well the researchers cooperate within and between their various disciplines.
‘There must be a good atmosphere for people to perform well — an atmosphere of generosity, with people sharing their knowledge,’ she adds.

Review in June

SRC is one of Mistra’s major investments. The Centre has been granted SEK 98.5 million for its first six years. The review group’s report will be completed in early June. If the outcome is good, Mistra will maintain its involvement. What assessment will be reached by Sybille van den Hove and her colleagues remains to be seen.

‘But it’s much more fun, of course, to evaluate an activity that you notice straightaway is good. Then you can provide support and perhaps help to give the work an extra boost. It’s a bit depressing when you see that things aren’t working.

‘I myself live in Barcelona, and if I were to review a football team it would obviously be more enjoyable to assess Barcelona’s football club than some inferior team,’ she says.

Sybille van den Hove herself has a solid cross-disciplinary background. Originally a particle physicist, she gained her PhD on a completely different subject: ecological economics. She chairs the scientific committee of the European Environment Agency (EEA) and runs several EU-funded research projects in the environmental sector. Her commitment to the environment permeates her work.

‘It’s extremely important for research now to try and solve the grave problems facing the world. This means that the approach the Stockholm Resilience Centre stands for is essential,’ Sybille van den Hove says.

Text: Thomas Heldmark, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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