Research Environment of the Year

In 2022, the Young Academy will award a prize to the Research Environment of the Year for the first time.

The winner of the research environment of the year 2022

The winner of the Research Environment of the Year 2022 is THE RESEARCH GROUP NERDS (THE NETWORKS, DATA, AND SOCIETY) AT THE DEPARTMENT OF DATALOGY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN.

NERDS was established in 2019 and is an interdisciplinary research group that currently consists of 14 researchers (master's students, PhD students, postdocs, assistant professors and associate professors). The group's research focus is on quantitative projects at the interface between network research, computer science and computer science. The research environment is described in more detail on the website www.nerds.itu.dk.

The research community has been nominated for the award by two of the group's young researchers: PhD student Anastassia Vybornova and postdoc Tiago Cunha. Based on their award application, we would like to highlight the following:

  • In just 3 years, NERDS has managed to create an exemplary academic environment and unity. The group shows that seniority and large center grants are not required prerequisites for a good research environment.  
  • In NERDS, everyone contributes to the group's strong unity and sense of community. The group is based on a philosophy that it is not about being each other's best friends, but rather about good fellowship, where you help and support each other regardless of seniority.
  • NERDS provides time and space to be driven by curiosity, get lost in research - and communicate with its colleagues about it. The group has regular meetings with exchange of ideas across career stages and with guest researchers. Even after the meetings, the exchange of ideas continues with "mindful followups" in the form of an exchange of new articles and good advice. 
  • NERDS provides space for diversity and sees a strength in having a diverse composition across gender, ethnicity, educational backgrounds and approaches to research work.   
  • NERDS distinguishes itself by having an open and collective approach to the difficult aspects of life as a researcher such as stress, high expectations, competition and implicit bias.

Many good research environments in Denmark

NERDS won the award out of the 62 nominated environments, each of which has taught us about the qualities of good research environments. Deciding on the winner was difficult. We would therefore like to highlight six other finalists for the award, all of whom deserve honorable mention:

  • Section of Operation Management, Department of Technology and Innovation, SDU
  • Center for Autobiographical Memory Research (CON AMORE), Department of Psychology, AU
  • Danish Center for Welfare Studies (DaWS), SDU
  • IDUN Center of Excellence, Health Tech, DTU
  • SocMap, Department of Sociology and Social Work, AAU
  • Interacting Minds Center (IMC), Aarhus University

The nominations were judged by 7 members of the Young Academy: Birgitte Beck Pristed (AU), Kirsten Marie Ørnsbjerg Jensen (KU), Line Burholt Kristensen (KU), Niels Christian Hansen (AU), Rune Busk Damgaard (DTU), Simona Zetterberg- Nielsen (AU), Stine Lomborg (KU).

Background to the award Research Environment of the Year 2022

Good research environments make research better. At the Young Academy, we know how important it is for young researchers' talent development to be part of good research communities. Therefore, we have established an award that recognizes the importance of the research environment for the individual researcher's work, performance and well-being, as well as recognizing the participants' contribution to the community. For us, it is especially important that younger researchers receive guidance, sparring and the opportunity to develop. Our goal is to start a conversation about the qualities that characterize a good research environment.

Young researchers have been able to set their own research environment for the award. We received a total of 62 nominations at all Danish universities (DTU, KU, AU, AAU, ITU, RUC, SDU and CBS). The disciplines and the size and organization of the research environments ranged widely, from loosely coupled digital networks across institutions to dense physical environments, such as a floating experimental installation or a water-damaged laboratory, where good collaboration is stress tested.

What is a good research environment?

Our goal with the award was to start a conversation about the qualities that characterize a good research environment. Here we will not only be inspired by the winner of the Research Environment of the Year 2022. We can also learn from all the other good research environments that were represented among the 62 nominations. Here are some of the characteristics that the proponents highlight in a good research environment:

Structure and identity of the environment

A good research environment will typically:

  • have a common identity, mission, a common goal, clearly formulated set of values ​​or special affiliation that creates a meaningful community across professional backgrounds and career stages
  • ensure aligned expectations and clear division of responsibilities
  • form a breeding ground for creativity and have an open approach to discussing new ideas
  • build on initiatives from the group's management as well as from the group's other members
  • be driven by a committed, passionate and empathetic approach to research management
  • have the freedom to pursue their own research interests, but also have common academic goals
  • support collaborating across and outside the group
  • provide support and discussion with more than one mentor / senior researcher

Environmental activities

A good research environment will typically:

  • have channels for both clear information flows and more spontaneous communication
  • meet regularly and present ongoing research to each other
  • hold regular meetings on academic and career development
  • organize social activities
  • be together to celebrate successes and together to take ownership and learn from mistakes and defeats

Good initiatives highlighted by applicants

  • Alumni days where former and current group members are invited to scientific and social activities that promote professional and career knowledge sharing across research generations
  • Industry days where the research group invites or visits relevant industrial partners
  • Horizontal networks of experience such as inter-institutional groups for PhD students, postdocs and assistant professors
  • Small grants to support bottom-up activities, eg for the group's researchers to explore new research ideas or to invite particularly talented young researchers from abroad to visit the group using an early career travel grant
  • Meetings where participants across career stages take turns to be conductors and take turns to plan activities
  • Community about international guest researchers, eg the opportunity for everyone, regardless of seniority, to invite external partners and book a 1: 1 meeting with them
  • Combine social and scientific activities, eg joint study trip or writing stay
  • Social rituals, eg weekly communal lunch or training, annual barbecue and celebration of new publications and grants
  • Joint writing club, study circle, abstract workshops, conference test runs, etc. in a safe environment.