The Stockholm University Young Faculty (SU-YF) is an interest organization for early career researchers (ECR) at Stockholm University. It started in 2018 in close cooperation with the Faculty of Science, who also provide their funding, but it is entirely run by ECR for ECR.

At the moment there are no members from others faculties at the university, but last year they had a steering committee member from another faculty and there is an ambition to expand to become university wide. 

“We welcome everyone as a member. We believe that young researchers in other faculties face many similar challenges, like lack of career support and training. As a young researcher it is often hard to get acquainted with and work with these issues if you stand alone.” says Ane Metola Martinez, post doc at the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and chair of the SU-YF.

Photo from a National Junior Faculty meeting held at SU in February 2020
Photo from a National Junior Faculty meeting held at SU in February 2020

Focus on career development 

The main focus for SU-YF is to support ECR by increasing representation at different levels within the university and to improve career development options, both in and outside of academia. Other important issues include open science and guidance on how to become successful in applying for research grants.

The merit system for young researchers, especially towards the position of assistant professor (biträdande lektor), is on top of the agenda. This position is the primary way to enter the tenure-track and securing a permanent position in academia. There are not so many positions as assistant professor at Stockholm University. Since they are limited to a five year span after getting your PhD it is hard to get enough merits within those years. Sometimes no positions become available for a researcher between gathering enough merits and running out of time. SU-YF are critical of this shortened time limit (it was recently changed from seven to five years after PhD) and would also like to see the creation of alternative merit-driven positions.

Important to understand the system

On top of that, many young researchers are not familiar with the time limits for assistant professorship and the Swedish research funding system. 

“This is most obvious among the international researchers at Stockholm University,” says Grant Kemp, researcher at the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and secretary of SU-YF.
“Understanding the system is probably a problem for everyone and if you are on a temporary contract you are even more vulnerable. SU-YF members account for a large percentage of the employment base at the Faculty of Science, therefore it is important that they can participate in the decision-making process”, says Ane Metola Martinez. 

Need for well-functioning support system

SU-YF has identified that different approaches towards contracts and allowing postdocs and researchers to apply for independent funding exist within the departments at the Faculty of Science. 

“Some departments provide better support and we try to raise this issue with the heads of the departments to make them aware of the importance of a well-functioning system to support research applications,” says Lovisa Lundholm, researcher at the Department of Molecular Biosciences, The Wenner-Gren Institute and member of the SU-YF steering committee.

Better representation on boards

Another prioritized issue for SU-YF is the need for better representation of early career scientists on boards at the university. Today, faculty are represented and so are PhD students, but there is often a lack of representation for post docs and researchers due to fixed-term (1-2 year) contracts that would prevent them from being elected to these boards.

“The young faculty is also a social network. In many cases there is just one post doc in the research group and that individual gains from meeting other post docs – especially if he or she comes from abroad,” says Lovisa Lundholm.

SU-YF underlines the good and close relation with the board and senior management of the Faculty of Science. “They are fully aware of the main problems we as young researchers are facing, and are very supportive in finding solutions to move forward” says Ane Metola Martinez.

The Young Faculty has established contacts with several functions within the university, like research support, alumni and innovation. But at the same time they stress the need for support functions that today do not exist within Stockholm University, like a career support office for researchers.

Nationwide conference for young faculties 

During the pandemic SU-YF have not been able to arrange activities as planned on site. In November they hosted the first nationwide conference for young faculties in Sweden, together with the National Junior Faculty of Sweden (NJF)*. The conference was online under the heading “Sustainable Future of Academia”. Among the speakers were Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, president of the European Research Council and Pam Fredman, president of the International Association of Universities. Read more 

Read more on SU-YF
Contact the SU-YF Steering Committee via

The National Junior Faculty of Sweden 

The National Junior Faculty of Sweden (NJF) represents over 4 000 members across Sweden, where ten universities are partnering and working on achieving important goals. In 2014, six universities founded the NJF. These six included Sahlgrenska Academy at Gothenburg University, Karolinska Institutet, Linköping University, Lund University, Umeå University and Uppsala University. In 2017, Örebro University and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) joined. In 2018, Stockholm University joined the NJF. The NJF aims to give researchers a collective voice when addressing politicians, research funding bodies and the public.

Read more from the online conference “Sustainable Future of Academia” by National Junior Faculty of Sweden (NJF) 12 November 2020.

Text: Per Larsson