It’s the end of April 2020, we’re living in remarkable times, and Linköping University remains in distance mode. Initially, Jan-Ingvar Jönsson had a reasonable amount to look after (according to his standards). But in the middle of April, the government allocated SEK 100 million for virus research, and suddenly he had more than enough on his plate.
Jan-Ingvar Jönsson must log in to a never-ending stream of meetings, such as the collaboration group under the European Commission, international researcher groups within WHO, colleagues in Nordic collaboration groups, or Swedish actors involved in clinical studies of COVID-19.
The scientific community is under enormous pressure to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control. Society must act now: this is a crisis. Do we have time for conventional quality control and ethical discussions?
“There are many questions that we must take the time needed to discuss”, says Jan-Ingvar Jönsson.
In addition, one integral risk characterises all research: the desire to be first may lead to compromises.
Secretary general of the Swedish Research Council
Photo credit Charlotte PerhammarJan-Ingvar Jönsson has been secretary general of the Swedish Research Council for the past four years, with scientific responsibility for medicine and health.
“Let’s sit outside”, says Jan-Ingvar Jönsson and walks through the kitchen to the patio. He mentions in passing the state of the house, and its clear need for TLC.
LiU’s new vice-chancellor has a practical side and is happy using his hands. Painting the house, for example, or building an extension. Or controlling his racing bike hurtling down a mountain in France at 70 kilometres an hour (although he does admit that it’s been a while since he reached such speeds).
None of LiU’s previous vice-chancellors has had a background in medical research. Jan-Ingvar Jönsson is the first. And it’s probable that none of his predecessors has had such broad and concrete experience in international collaboration, nor such influence over research policy.
Jan-Ingvar Jönsson arrived at Linköping University in 2003. By then he had accumulated nine important years of research at the Max Planck Institute in Freiburg, followed by a period in Toronto, working on blood stem cells and the immune system. It wasn’t immediately clear where the family would eventually end up. In the end, they decided on Linköping and a fixed point not far from the lock at Hjulsbro.
Photo credit Charlotte PerhammarHe was appointed professor in medical cell biology in 2008, working at the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences. But he could just as easily have ended up as a professional jazz pianist. For a while, the choice between a career in science and one on the stage was hanging in the balance.
And chose a field of research, blood, that has never ceased to fascinate him.
Is it ever possible to say exactly when something begins? Such as a career in research?
And curiosity about pretty much anything was then added to this.”
A journey to Lund and a visit to Akademibokhandeln was another starting point for a research career.
He ended up studying molecular biology in Lund. A chance opportunity turned out to be decisive, and Jan-Ingvar Jönsson worked as a doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute of Immunology. Enthusiastic, stubborn and working with some wild ideas.
He experienced in the lab an almost magical joy of research.
What an achievement!
Jan Ingvar Jönsson and the Cytof2A further major research success occurred at LiU.
Accustomed to dealing with storms
Now the vice-chancellor’s chain of office awaits, and with it the leadership of a broad university with approximately 30,000 people, and a huge diversity of wills. Further, a role in the public sphere.
Photo credit Magnus JohanssonThis is not something that Jan-Ingvar Jönsson is worried about. He has a certain experience of public performance to rely on. Not least from a period when he was active in student theatrical performances in Lund, and had to come up with rapid and humorous replies.
There are some occasions when storms arise, but again Jan-Ingvar Jönsson is accustomed to dealing with these.
And Jan-Ingvar Jönsson was the person who was compelled to face the media.
The Macchiarini scandal at Karolinska Institutet was unique.
The responsibility for research lies in principle with the institutions of higher education, and research ethics is high on Jan-Ingvar Jönsson’s long list of priorities as vice-chancellor.
Translated by George Farrants