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Published: 2021-08-04

Philip Buckland appointed Vice Dean

NEWS "New challenges and interesting tasks." From the 1st of August, Philip Buckland will take over as Vice Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

Text: Per Melander

Research at Umeå University is highly relevant for meeting global challenges and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities has an important role to play.

Philip Buckland says it is an honorary assignment that will cover 30 percent of his work over the next four years.

“Some aspects of the work will follow on from my earlier research leadership tasks within the Environmental Archaeology Lab, MAL and SEAD”, says Philip Buckland and continues:

“But I will have to widen my horizons from environmental archaeology and palaeoecology, to the wider scope of research in the arts and humanities. There is an incredible variety of research undertaken at Humfak, and it will be extremely interesting to look into this in more detail”.

A lot of working groups and committees

He says that in terms of work, the position will entail a considerable amount of desk-work and meetings within and beyond the faculty. And how that will result in less time for teaching and lab-work, but PhD supervision will continue as before.

“For the remaining 70 % of my time, I will continue as director of MAL and work in a variety of research and development projects. My own research is a mix of fundamental (basic) research, methods development and applied science”.

“At the moment, we are waiting for decisions on a number of grant applications for research on insects, past environmental and climatic changes, as well future climate change and its impact on cultural heritage”.

“I will continue my involvement in EU infrastructures for archaeology ARIADNE+ and cultural heritage science IPERION-HS the national Swedish Biodiversity Data Infrastructure, SBDI and two RJ funded research infrastructures. More may come next year, depending on how well our grant applications are received. It will be a balancing act to get all of this to mesh, but I am used to working like this”.

Research infrastructure

In his role as Vice Dean will he be responsible for handling questions related to research, post-graduate education and research infrastructure. Aside from being active in the faculty management team, I will act as chair of the faculty’s committees for Research Strategy (FOSTRA) and Research Infrastructure (RIS) as well as be a member of the board of the doctoral school (FADC).

“I will be the faculty’s representative in central university FOSTRA and RIS, and thus act as the conduit for information and strategic decisions between the faculty and university managements. Participation in the university IT advisory board (RådIT) and Humfak’s research data management group will also be part of my job.

“Responsibility for faculty research infrastructure is a new role for the Vice Dean from this year, but also a formalization of activities ongoing in Humfak since 2014. Until recently, most infrastructure issues concerned MAL or Humlab, but an increasing understanding of, and interest in, research data has led to developments. Humfak’s researchers also participate in a number of local, national and international research infrastructures that could be emphasized and used to a greater degree”.

What do you see as important for the next 4-5 years – and/or even further ahead - for the development to go in the right direction for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at UmU?

“Considerable global challenges are ahead of us. The recovery from Covid-19 and its effects on individuals, society, research and education will most likely take time. Climate changes will continue to accelerate, with increasingly dramatic effects on nature and society. Research at Umeå University is highly relevant for meeting these challenges and Humfak has an important role to play”.

“I firmly believe in the advantages of cooperation over disciplinary and faculty boundaries. But we do need to combine interdisciplinary research with focused, subject orientated research, studying both the big picture and in detail, and encompassing both basic and applied research. A healthy mix of T. S. Kuhn’s normal and paradigm shifting science is preferable, with the caveat that it is sometimes difficult to predict which is which in advance”.

“The humanities must also navigate between the need to adapt to changes in the funding frameworks which steer research nationally and internationally, and driving science forward on the basis of what researchers themselves see as interesting and important. Investment in, and use of, research infrastructure has lagged behind in the arts and humanities, but changes are afoot”.

“The latter is especially the case where research data and the development and implementation of digital methods are concerned. Here we will need to work towards a balance between ‘big data’ research using large scale infrastructure, and the continued creation of primary data. Our own Humlab will be an important player in this field, and can cover both ends of the pitch”.

In conclusion, Philip Buckland mentions how he has a "secret" life as a synth musician and composer and he enjoy building, carpentry and using the lathe.