Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Five quickfire questions for Lars Bo Nielsen

After the summer holidays, Lars Bo Nielsen will no longer be dean of the Faculty of Health, but instead Director General of the Danish Medicines Agency. Lately, the media has been full of portraits of the 56-year-old medical doctor and professor, but here Lars Bo Nielsen answers five questions that he has not yet been asked.

2021.06.17 | Ulla Krag Jespersen

Lars Bo Nielsen is not particularly attracted to the limelight, but a few times a year he has given the faculty staff an informal video greeting. Photo: Simon Byrial Fischel, AU Health.

1. Why are you leaving – was AU just a step on the career ladder?

When my wife and I moved to Aarhus a little more than four years ago, we were one hundred percent committed to living here. But we also agreed that if one of us wished to move back to Copenhagen, then we would do so together. And now that we’ll become grandparents this summer, we want to be close to our children and grandchildren.

It’s not that we’re tired of Aarhus, it’s more that the scales have now tipped in favour of Copenhagen. I couldn’t have applied for the job as director general of the Danish Medicines Agency if I hadn’t been dean. Now I have the chance to utilise the insights and the professionalism I’ve acquired here at AU, but at the same time, I also have a new opportunity to more directly influence the way in which we utilize research- and health data for the benefit of society.

I’m also moving further away from research, which was my original field. You could say that my transition from researcher to more of an administrator is now complete.

2. What is your biggest achievement as dean?

I hope I’ve contributed to new activities and decision-making processes that give people the opportunity to influence and develop their workplace. I think I've succeeded in involving the departments in some important interdisciplinary initiatives, and I'm proud to be the head of a faculty where we’ve strengthened our international collaboration, created transparent career paths, revised the degree programmes and established five professional networks.

3. And your biggest failure?

My biggest challenge as dean has probably been that my expectations have been too high in terms of how far and how quickly initiatives can be implemented in a large organisation. There are also things I’d like to change, but which aren’t possible to do because of the structures we have at AU.

Nor have I been good enough at getting people to work together on research projects across departments and faculties. At any rate, there’s been too few tangible results.

And I haven’t managed to establish a visible platform for outsiders. I would’ve liked to have seen more popular scientific events and workshops, so that the outside world can see what’s happening at our fantastic faculty. It’s important to strengthen collaboration with society in general and involve people in what research we should be doing in the future.

4. What will be Health's biggest challenge over the next five years?

For Health and for AU as a whole, a major challenge will be to maintain the transition from a very locally anchored university to an institution that takes on a bigger leading role both nationally and internationally. The will to do it is there, but the international focus is constantly being challenged, both internally at AU and externally in the political reality.

Another task will be to constantly show the value of health science, not least for some of the strong foundations, who are currently fixated on climate, technology and the green transition. Here, Health must interact and communicate with these areas and prove its value and its potential. This requires good framework conditions, both internally at AU, nationally and on an EU level.

In this context, it’s also important for researchers to ask what they can do for society and not just for other researchers. Social utility and impact are on the agenda everywhere. Both the foundations and the government talk about them. It’s a trend that is here to stay.

5. Will we find you on social media in your new job?

The Danish Medicines Agency is fully dependent on the public's trust and support in relation to the decisions it makes. And here social media is a form of communication that reaches more people and a broader audience than traditional media.

There is also an organisational framework in which you communicate and share knowledge more on e.g. Twitter, than we have a tradition for at the university.

So yes, I'm going to make a virtue of necessity. But I can't promise that I'll be on TikTok from day one...

Read the article Farewell to a visionary dean with an eye for detail.

Read Hans Erik Bøtker to become acting dean at Health.

People news, PhD students, External target group, Health, Public/Media, Health, Technical / administrative staff, Academic staff