Successful Nordic Research Schools

The pilot programme Nordic Research Schools in the Fields of the Humanities and the Social Sciences 2004–08 is already a great success. This is the conclusion of a midterm evaluation carried out by an external international expert panel in 2007.
NorFa (now NordForsk) launched the five-year pilot programme in 2003. The five Nordic research schools were selected and started their activities in early 2004. The midterm evaluation of the programme consisted of three steps: self-evaluation by the research schools, a two-day expert panel meeting and a written panel report.

Success Criteria
The panel report concludes that the results achieved by the Nordic research schools (NRSs) have been considerable in relation to the rather modest funds awarded for their activities. By giving Nordic top funding, the NRSs have enhanced the quality and volume of researcher training in their respective fields. Some schools opened up local courses to Nordic participation on a broad scale, while others used the initiative to tailor new specialised courses (that could otherwise not have been organised since the number of PhD students within the specialised subject field is too small on a national level).

The midterm evaluation report identifies some important success criteria for Nordic (or similar networks of) research schools. Crucial to good organisation, the report concludes, is good leadership by a director, an efficient and active board and sufficient secretarial help by academic staff. Supervisors should also be extensively involved in the researcher school activities; supervisor activities should be part of the research school concept. It is also important to develop models for future collaboration during the project period, in order to maximise future benefits of the Nordic collaboration.

Nordic Identity and International Visibility
Opportunities for both formal and informal networking can be seen as the main strength provided by all the research schools. This is acknowledged as extremely important. All of the schools also took a broad international approach in lecturers invited, and some schools constitute good examples of strong Nordic identity and international visibility.