UNIS partner in a new Norwegian Centre of Excellence (SFF)

UNIS partner in a new Norwegian Centre of Excellence (SFF)

Top image: The Kjell Henriksen Observatory is one of the UNIS research infrastructure facilities in the new centre of excellence. Photo: Njål Gulbrandsen/UNIS. 

UNIS is partner in a new Norwegian Center of Excellence (SFF centres) led by the Birkeland Center for Space Science in Bergen. The centre will receive NOK 16 million per year for up to ten years. – This is a testimony to the excellent work done by our space physics research group, says UNIS director Ole Arve Misund.

12 November 2012
Text: Eva Therese Jenssen

The Research Council of Norway has granted 13 research groups status as Norwegian Centres of Excellence (SFF centres) starting in 2013. The new centres will receive a total of more than NOK 2 billion over a ten-year period to produce world-class research.

One of these centres is the Birkeland Center for Space Science at the University in Bergen, where UNIS and NTNU also are partners.

The Birkeland Center for Space Science will enhance knowledge about the electrical currents coupling Earth to space, particle precipitation from space, the Northern Lights, terrestrial gamma flashes and other interactions between the Earth and space. This will in turn lay the foundation for improved space weather advisory forecasts and enhanced security for GPS, TV signals, payment systems and other satellite-based services.

Huge recognition of UNIS
– This is a testimony to the excellent work done by our space physics research group, says UNIS director Ole Arve Misund.

Dag Lorentzen. Photo: UNIS

Dag Lorentzen. Photo: UNIS

Professor Dag Lorentzen leads the UNIS-node of this centre of excellence.

– This is a very good day for space physics not only at UNIS but also for the whole Norwegian space physics community, since it is the first centre of excellence within this field in Norway, he says. – It is a huge recognition of the UNIS space physics group that we are part of this, says Lorentzen who together with colleagues Lisa Baddeley, Fred Sigernes, Margit Dyrland, Silje Eriksen Holmen and Xiangcai Chen will run the UNIS operations of the centre.

UNIS was asked to be part of the centre application because of our expertise in optics, aurora, radar and heating, in addition to the large research infrastructure facilities we have, such as the aurora station Kjell Henriksen Observatory and the SPEAR radar facilty, Lorentzen explains.

Fierce competition
The competition for status as a Centre of Excellence was fierce; 139 research groups submitted applications. Of these, 29 were found to be strong enough to make it to the final decision round. Only 13 passed the final test. Four of the centres are located in Oslo, three in Bergen, four in Trondheim, one in Ås and one in Tromsø.

The main criteria applied when awarding SFF status has been scientific merit – both of the planned research activities and of the centres’ key personnel. In addition, the Research Council has attached importance to factors such as the added value of creating a centre, national and international cooperation, gender balance, ethics, and environmental impact, according to the Research Council of Norway.

The new centres will receive a total of more than NOK 200 million annually for a maximum of two five-year periods. Funding for the second five-year period will be awarded on the basis of a mid-term evaluation carried out roughly 3 ½ years after start-up.

About the Norwegian Centres of Excellence (SFF) scheme
The SFF scheme is one of the Research Council’s primary instruments for promoting research of high scientific quality. A research group that is granted status as an SFF centre can look forward to ten years of stable funding.

Generous, long-term funding allows the SFF centres to establish an organisation designed to carry out targeted research of top international calibre and develop new ways to collaborate and reach the international forefront of their respective fields. An important secondary objective is to enhance researcher recruitment. The scheme was launched in 2003 with 13 SFF centres. In 2007 eight new SFF centres were established. The total annual budget for these 21 centres has been NOK 235 million. The initial SFF centres are all drawing to a close at the end of 2012, while 13 new centres are being established. The total annual budget for the new centres is NOK 208 million. (Source: The Research Council of Norway).

 

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