The pilot project is a collaboration between the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Innovation Partnership Office, and is being run by Cecilia Nahnfeldt and Anna Wallsten. The pilot project was launched as part of the process of preparing an application for a Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) that focuses on the culture and creative sectors and industries (see previous article)

Anna Wallsten and Cecilia Nahnfeldt. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt.

Even though the work on a collaboration platform was kick-started very much thanks to the work on the application to become a partner in running a KIC, it is much broader than this

“Calls for applications for funding this kind of partnering within the culture and creative sectors and industries will come from various sources, and that’s not solely dependent on whether UU’s application succeeds,” says Anna Wallsten, Collaboration Manager at the Innovation Partnership Office.

Testing this spring

The pilot project is intended to lead to a discussion paper with a range of scenarios or models for conceivable ways of creating an arena to support and facilitate partnerships in the culture and creative sectors and industries. The discussion paper will be submitted to the Disciplinary Domain Board in June. During the spring, various activities linked to the collaboration platform are being tested and different models are being discussed.

“We haven’t locked ourselves into any particular model; we are sounding out various options with researchers as well as external partners to see how we can best support partnerships with the cultural sector,” says Cecilia Nahnfeldt, Faculty Office of the Humanities and Social Sciences and Head of Research at the Centre for Multidisciplinary Research on Religion and Society.

Anna and Cecilia describe the pilot project as a kind of platform construction, with trains containing various collaboration projects or ideas that researchers can embark on based on their interests and commitment.

“It’s the people you meet on that platform and the trains that are the interesting aspects,” says Cecilia Nahnfeldt.

Model adapted for HumSam

They both entirely agree that the platform needs to be designed on the basis of the needs and interests of the researchers and external partners. There are, of course, a number of different partnership models already in place that aim to spawn collaboration projects. The idea behind this pilot project is to find the formats that suit the humanities and social sciences at Uppsala University.

“We need to find ways that work well for researchers in the humanities and social sciences. We can’t just copy what the other disciplinary domains are doing. The fundamental question is how do we do this wisely and judiciously from the research point of view,” says Cecilia Nahnfeldt.

“We can of course be inspired by other collaboration platforms such as in TekNat where there is one called Ångström Materials Academy,” says Anna Wallsten.

“But TekNat has big, financially strong partners. When we are talking about the culture and creative sectors and industries, we need to think more broadly and include individual sole traders or associations with few resources, while not forgetting organisations with significant resources. So we can’t just copy an existing model,” says Cecilia Nahnfeldt.

“It’s about creating opportunities for meetings between individuals – between humanities and social sciences researchers and external partners – to help them understand each other’s perspectives and challenges,” says Anna Wallsten.

Support is in demand

“We’ve noted a need among researchers when we are out and about discussing these issues. It’s clear that there is a need for various forms of support for this type of question,” says Anna Wallsten.

“We need to identify procedures for providing support to researchers in the humanities and social sciences who perhaps are not always familiar with the kind of partnering agreements that are necessary. There is a lot of collaboration at the individual level, but as a researcher you need a better structure and support if you are going to undertake more extensive collaboration efforts, particularly if you’re talking about major European projects,” says Cecilia Nahnfeldt.

“Collaboration with the community at large is about injecting our humanities and social sciences perspective into societal development. How can we create something different and contribute to societal development based on HumSam’s research? So in that sense, it’s a lot about power and influence,” says Anna Wallsten.

Open, generous environment

Cecilia Nahnfeldt and Anna Wallsten paint a picture of a collaboration platform where there can be mutual, open sharing of knowledge between researchers and external partners in the culture and creative sectors and industries.

“Research partnerships are very much about being an open and generous academic,” says Cecilia Nahnfeldt.

“Yes, we really do need safe spaces where people can share experiences, problems and knowledge. There is still so much that leads researchers into competing with each other,” says Anna Wallsten.

Discussing the difficult questions

Of course, there are also issues and problems that need to be discussed.

“It’s important that we get a dialogue happening and discuss the difficult questions that can also arise when we are talking about partnering with external partners. For example, there are researchers who highlight the risk that collaboration in research can lead to privacy issues. Other researchers just feel stressed, that they don’t have time to get involved in this too on top of everything else. It gets to be too much,” says Anna Wallsten.

“It’s also common to hear from researchers that they are collaborating with external partners in secret because some researchers think that it isn’t quite ‘proper’ research,” says Cecilia Nahnfeldt.

“That’s partly about what role you want to play as a researcher – your professional identity,” says Anna Wallsten.

“There must be scope for different types of research to be seen as okay,” says Cecilia Nahnfeldt.

“True, and Uppsala University must support different types of research and researchers must be supported to use different forms of funding and apply for grants from a variety of funding bodies,” says Anna Wallsten.