Researchers Critical of Campaign Reports

Researchers Critical of Campaign Reports

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Professor Anna Blom finds it wrong that her research grants are reported as the result of a campaign she has not been involved in. Photo: Dimitris Kalandranis

Lund University spends millions on attracting private sponsors to the University. But how large sums are collected by these efforts is difficult to know. This is because included in the work reports are both donations and grants that researchers collect independently of the campaign.

Leading up to Lund University’s 350th birthday, there are a lot of campaigns going on. The department Donatorrelationer currently receives around 8 million SEK in yearly funding to cooperate with the Campaign Board in attracting private sponsors to the University. In four years, three billion SEK will be collected in the fundraising campaign “Lund University – for a better world”. But how much of the means gathered that really comprise donations, Lund University will not say.

Private research grants are included
A few months of full-time work. That is the amount of time that Anna Blom, professor in medical protein chemistry, counts on spending on applying for research grants each year.

She applies for money in competition with other researchers through application processes where there are high requirements for scientific quality, feasibility, and the applicant’s merits.

During 2014, she was, among other things, awarded 29 million SEK from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg foundation. To her surprise, she discovered that that money had also been reported by Donatorrelationer as funds gathered through their fundraising campaign. This in spite of Anna Blom never having had anything to do with the campaign.

“I don’t think it’s all that fair. After all, this money is from research grants to my individual projects, which I would have gotten even if this campaign had not existed. No one working with the fundraising campaign have been involved in getting these means,” she says.

More researchers upset
Even if it does not really harm her that these means are reported in this way, it upsets her that they might be used to make the campaign seem to have raised more than it has. Several of her researcher colleagues feel the same.

“My opinion is that if they do receive large sums to run this campaign, they should be able to clearly show that they have collected their own money and not say that means that would have been collected anyway is a result of the campaign,” Anna Blom says.

Donatorrelationer have contributed to collecting at least 337 million SEK, according to head of department Ulrika Nilsson. Photo: Dimitris Kalandranis
Donatorrelationer have contributed to collecting at least 337 million SEK, according to head of department Ulrika Nilsson.
Photo: Dimitris Kalandranis

Wants to be inclusive
Ulrika Nilsson is head of department at Donatorrelationer and member in the Campaign Board. She confirms that a large part of the means that have been collected through the fundraising campaign comes from the applications of individual researchers.

“That is absolutely the case, those are a majority of the means,” she says.

According to Ulrika Nilsson, the board decided to count all private means as part of the campaign because it was seen as inclusive towards the sponsors and shows the combined efforts of the entire University. They also wanted to pay attention to the private sector’s role as a sponsor.

On the other hand, she holds that it is difficult to say which money has been raised for the campaign because of the work of Donatorrelationer and which has not.

“We can’t say one or the other, we can be part of individual applications as well,” Ulrika Nilsson says.

However, of the 1.15 billion SEK that she holds has been collected through the campaign thus far, she estimates that Donatorrelationer have been involved in raising at least 337 million SEK. An estimate she has made by going through each and every post.

Own result irrelevant

According to the register at Donatorrelationer, 775 million SEK have thus far been reported from the fundraising campaign. How large a share has been collected because of work by Donatorrelationer cannot, however, be seen by an outsider. The reason is that any means collected are only reported with the sum and the name of the donor.

Ulrika Nilsson does not find anything strange in Donatorrelationer not having a report system where it is possible to see how much money their organisation has collected on its own.

“It’s irrelevant since we have a function for the entire University. Furthermore, we have not been tasked with working like that either,” Ulrika Nilsson says.

But afterwards she adds via e-mail:

“I wish that our reports were clearer and more developed. We are working on developing them towards a more detailed way of reporting.

International role model
When the campaign was launched, Per Eriksson was Vice-Chancellor at Lund University. He does not see any problems in research grants from private foundations and regular donations being reported together.

“No, I received a briefing showing that this is the dominant practice for making international and national campaign reports. We had a discussion about the issue and decided to go with the proposal.

That the Campaign Board should have chosen this way of reporting because it makes it seem like the campaign raises more money than it would have done only counting donations, is something that Per Eriksson opposes.

“What’s interesting is first and foremost to see how it develops and grows from year to year. We chose a way of reporting that shows that we yearly collect quite a lot of money from private sources, even before the campaign was launched, and hope that the means will increase as a result of this effort.”

Per Eriksson finds the state funding to Donatorrelationer to be reasonable.

“I think that in order to get 100 percent you have to put in 8-12 percent,” he says.

If you as an outsider want to see the results of the campaign, Per Eriksson thinks that you have to wait until 2018, when the campaign will be completed.

“To try and measure how well the campaign has been doing before then, I don’t find very serious. This is such a long-term effort,” he says.

Better communication
The current Vice-Chancellor, Torbjörn von Schantz, believes that the way results from the fundraising campaign are reported at present might create internal issues. He does not, however, consider himself adequately informed to say whether the University could have a register over regular donations instead.

“I believe that the most important thing right now is to clearly communicate that this is made to draw attention to the private sector’s role as a sponsor, but also to make sure that the researchers involved get the recognition that they deserve,” he says.

Text: Virve Ivarsson
Research:
Virve Ivarsson & Viktor Drangnell-Ek
Photo: 
Dimitris Kalandranis
Translation:
Carl-William Ersgård

The fund raising campaign

  • Name: “Lund University – for a better world”.
  • Years: 2014-2018 (public phase).
  • Run by: The department Donatorrelationer and the Campaign Board at Lund University.
  • Purpose: Increasing the amount of donations made to the University, put the spotlight on the private sector as a sponsor.
  • Goal: Raise 3 billion SEK by 2018.
  • Counted: All donations/contributions from companies, private foundations, organisations and individuals.
  • Documented result: 775 785 000 SEK (13 January 2015).
  • How much of this is raised by Donatorrelationer: Unclear.

What’s the deal?
Leading up to the 350th birthday of the University, the department Donatorrelationer and the Campaign Board at Lund University is running a campaign to get private sponsors to donate money. For this purpose, Donatorrelationer receives yearly state funding of 8 million SEK. The goal with the campaign is to raise 3 billion SEK for the University. As a result of the campaign, however, means that have not been collected because of Donatorrelationer are also counted, for example private research grants.

 

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