Being director of the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics is about choosing what to do, and what not to do. At the start, Lena Neij travelled a lot, but now she sees representing the institute abroad as a responsibility shared by all the staff. She still supervises doctoral students, but doesn’t have the time she would like for her own research, nor for students and teaching.
“There are a lot of duties in this role”, she says.
However, Lena Neij is not complaining. The many duties are part of the job and she finds them all necessary and meaningful. Of course it can get busy, but not onerous. However, she made sure to get an assistant director when she entered her second term of office last year.
“That is so good”, she says emphatically. “I’ve learnt to delegate and we work well together.”
Despite this, a lot of Lena Neij’s time is spent on administration, especially relating to human resources. She has just over 40 staff from 17 different countries, which requires a lot of paperwork. She would like to have more time for strategic leadership in research, education and interdisciplinarity, and has no time to do research.
“I’ve tried to find different models to fit it in, but far too often I just have to make do with the situation and get down to the tasks that pour in from day to day.”
Lena Neij feels that she receives good support from the chair of the institute, Gunilla Jönsson (former dean of LTH), whom she describes as accessible and active. Pro Vice-Chancellor Sven Strömqvist has responsibility for the specialised centres (USV), which include the institute, and he is there when needed, according to Lena Neij. She is a warm advocate of the USV configuration with several interdisciplinary centres.
“It’s great that Lund University has this and it’s exciting to be involved in developing interdisciplinary work”, she says.
However, there are also drawbacks to not being part of a faculty. Administrative support is provided by a fairly small shared office for all the centres, and the connection with the faculties is not always clear, which leads to ambiguity and sometimes extra work, she explains.
“I have previously had to fight to get information because the normal route for the distribution of information is through the faculties.”
Lena Neij also regrets that the specialised centres do not have the same representation on boards and councils as the faculties get.
“We are represented neither on the Vice-Chancellor’s Management Council nor on the central Education Board, which is a bit of a shame”, she says.
In terms of travel, it is primarily foreign travel that Lena Neij has cut down on. She thinks it is important to visit Stockholm and she also has a lot of contacts in the local region, in particular related to research. There is a lot of research at the IIIEE on issues concerning urban centres, such as consumption, refuse and energy.
“We generate knowledge on the implementation of sustainable solutions and we analyse the effects of various instruments of control intended to encourage sustainable development.”
Lena Neij says that research is her passion – and that includes ensuring that it benefits society, which is why external contacts are important.
Finding ways to collaborate on research is another important and enjoyable task. Lena Neij therefore doesn’t find application processes particularly onerous – neither her own applications nor evaluation of other people’s.
“I am happy with this system and like being involved in shaping research in Sweden and internationally. As a researcher, I’m part of a larger system that is all about developing the research being done”, she says.
The international atmosphere is clear in the grand building that the institute occupies behind the Historical Museum and next door to the Cathedral Office. The beautiful stone staircase is lined with all the flags of the world. The students who have taken one of the two international Master’s programmes offered by the institute represent 85 different countries, and all of them should be able to find their flag.
Text: Maria Lindh
Photo: Gunnar Menander
More about Lena Neij
Career: Joined the IIIEE as a senior lecturer from Environmental and Energy Systems Studies at LTH in 2003. Applied for and got an endowed chair that was advertised in 2006. Director since 2010.
Lives: In Lund with husband and two children, 13 and 16
Inspired by: A document drawn up at Chalmers that describes leadership in academia in terms of four academic management domains: the formal linear organisation, the individual academic field, teaching and learning, and interdisciplinary and cross-boundary environments. “It’s important to distinguish between these different types of leadership and to know which management domain you’re in.”
Relaxes with: Gardening and sometimes the gym
Hopes for from the new university management: Visions for the University’s role in society