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Published: 2023-06-16

Perspectives – a new forum for research and public debate

NEWS In early March 2023, a new conference and event series saw the light of day at Umeå University. Perspectives is a forum where researchers, decision-makers and representatives of society can meet to discuss different perspectives on current themes. This year’s theme is the transformation of the north of Sweden. “Umeå University should be a place for societal debate, and a place where tough issues can be discussed,” says Dieter Müller, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Umeå University.

Text: Johanna Fredriksson

Umeå University organises several recurring and successful science outreach events to spread research findings. Two of these are the well-received Fika efter en forskare and Vetenskapsluncher. The latest forum – Perspectives – is a conference and event series focusing on the interaction between researchers and decision-makers, stakeholders in society, politicians and the business sector. This forum should allow for various perspectives of current and important societal issues to be heard, hence the name: Perspectives.

“At Umeå University, researchers conduct relevant and important research which can sometimes provide the solution to, or important clues to solve, societal or community development issues. Through this conference, we wish to provide a common forum for those who are in the midst of change and researchers who either critically review it or in other ways contribute to innovations,” says Dieter Müller.

This is Perspectives

Perspectives is a conference and event series at Umeå University exploring various perspectives on themes of current interest. The initiative aims to offer a forum where researchers, decision-makers, stakeholders in society, politicians and the business sector can meet.
Events under the Perspectives flag vary in size and format and concludes with a large conference each year. In 2023, this conference is held 30 November and 1 December. Day two is open to anyone interested. Each year carries its own theme, and for 2023 this theme is “the societal transformation of the north”.

He emphasises that researchers are not always the ones who bring the answers to the table. Sometimes these kinds of meetings help clarify what topics need to be delved deeper into, and what could generate relevant subjects to study.

“Knowledge is often created in the interplay between various parties. Perspectives is supposed to be a place to meet on even grounds,” says Dieter Müller.

Even within a university, various perspectives are often found on issues, and meeting others is important for that purpose too.

“That became very clear during the pandemic when strategies to cope with COVID-19 were discussed. Even within a university, varying perspectives exist and that is also a natural part of knowledge production. Everyone is not in agreement to begin with, but ideas must be discussed and assessed from an academic perspective,” says Dieter Müller, who hopes that Perspectives becomes an intellectually stimulating forum.

This is a very topical theme, and we are right at the centre of it.

Perspectives includes a series of events across a year on one set theme presented in different formats and sizes. Each series concludes with an extensive two-day conference at the end of the year. Currently, Perspectives is a two-year project and this year’s theme is the societal transformation of the north of Sweden.

“This is a very topical theme, and we are right at the centre of it,” says Dieter Müller, who has a particular responsibility for the University’s role in the ongoing societal transformation of the north.

A number of other events has been held

The first part of Perspectives took place on 8 March in Rotundan at Umeå University under the headline “Skellefteå – in the midst of change!”. The event welcomed Kristina Sundin Jonsson, municipal director in Skellefteå, and Peter Larsson, Government coordinator of the societal transformation of the north.

“The transformation of the north of Sweden is propelled by the entirely essential green transformation of industry. Over a short period of time, new infrastructure and accommodation is being set up, new people will move in to fill the job roles created in industry, service and public sectors. At the same time as this is an opportunity, it is also an extraordinary challenge that requires finding new ways of working for everyone involved,” says Peter Larsson, about the perspectives that he brings to the panel debate.

Since March 2023, a number of other events under the Perspectives flag has been held. And another few are planned before the concluding conference on 30 November and 1 December.

Maybe they can raise the need for new research, or new educational content.

Societal transformation of the north is a theme that covers a breadth of research at Umeå University. Dieter Müller hopes that a lot of people take the opportunity to participate in the events offered this year.

“Maybe they can raise the need for new research, or new educational content. The reasons behind coming and why these issues are interesting are many. The societal transformation of the north takes place in our direct vicinity and affects us all,” says Dieter Müller.

Dieter Müller
Professor, other position