9 Following up the long-term plan
9.1 Coordination and latitude
The long-term plan for research and higher education 2015–2024 is the Government's most important tool for ensuring good coordination and implementation of the policy for research and higher education. The long-term plan is also an important part of the Government's comprehensive quality injection for education and research that also includes the task of taking a closer look at the structure and financing system in the higher education sector.
The sector principle in research policy will be continued. The sector principle means that each ministry is responsible both for formulating policy and long-term knowledge development in their respective areas. The sector policy objectives have been set to solve important social challenges. Research and education is an important contribution to this. The long-term plan thus takes its starting point in both research policy and sector policy.
Research and higher education touch on most policy areas and involve the business community, the public sector, universities and university colleges, research institutes, expert environments and regional health authorities. Norway is also part of the global knowledge development trend and participates extensively in international cooperation on research and education with countries throughout the world. Norway is well-integrated in the European collaboration on research and higher education. This places great demands on coordination and cooperation, both at the political level and between institutions and parties, also as regards ensuring a good connection between national and international efforts.
However, better coordination is not synonymous with the closest possible coordination. The unpredictable nature of research means that very coordinated research systems may not be sufficiently adaptable, and that important signals on the need for change are not noticed. Therefore, it is important that the research communities have the latitude to act as strategic parties themselves.
9.2 Collaboration arenas for coordination and implementation
In the follow-up of the long-term plan, there must be sound connections between the institutions that offer higher education, the research communities, the business community and the public sector. In connection with the work on this plan, the Ministry of Education and Research received around 150 suggestions in the autumn of 2013. These suggestions have been highly significant for the Government's selected priorities and objectives. Assessments from sector players as regards the need for knowledge, expertise and capacity are very valuable, both in a long-term perspective and when the long-term plan is to be followed up with additional measures and commitments. Good cooperation arenas for these players are important in order to make long-term assessments of the need for knowledge and expertise within the six long-term priorities. Today, such assessments are based on information from projections of competence needs, national condition evaluations and international assessments and reports.
The Ministry of Education and Research is responsible for coordinating the policy for research and higher education. The long-term plan will lay the foundation for more comprehensive coordination of public commitment to research and higher education. Implementation of the plan will take place in cooperation with the parties that manage the public programmes for higher education, research, innovations and business development, such as the Research Council of Norway, Innovation Norway and the Industrial Development Corporation of Norway (SIVA). The Research Council will play a key role in this work.
The Government has set up annual summits with research and higher education communities on challenges and priorities in research and higher education policy. These summits will be utilised in following up the long-term plan.
The long-term plan is a new tool for coordinating and governing research and higher education policy. The follow-up of the plan therefore necessitates an assessment of how this new tool functions, and whether the objectives in the plan have been met.
The long-term plan aims for results and effects that take a long time to realise. While results can be measured in the form of indicators such as volume, quality and relevance in the research conducted, social effects depend on a number of factors in addition to research and higher education. Research and higher education can contribute to the adaptation to a low-emission society, while other adaptations and changes are also needed, for example in legislation regarding construction of new buildings. Therefore, we cannot automatically observe effects of research and education in the shorter term. Analyses are needed that utilise good and relevant indicators and explicit objectives that can be operationalised. As is the case with many social phenomena, the objectives in the long-term plan cannot simply be turned into quantifiable indicators. Assessments of the results must therefore combine quantitative and qualitative analyses.
Nevertheless, some results can be followed from an early point in time. For example, it will probably be possible to see whether the trend is running in the desired direction. One way of observing this is to check whether the increased commitment as a consequence of the long-term plan triggers increased activity in research institutions, higher education and in the business community. This can tell us something about whether the long-term plan has had an impact on mobilisation of activity, and whether the resources are being diverted toward the objectives and prioritisations in the long-term plan.
9.3 Knowledge base for continued work
In its work on the long-term plan, the Government has benefitted from knowledge from several sources, including national and individual ministry strategies and reports, input from academia and society, business and working life, and particular consultations with the Research Council of Norway.
An improved knowledge base for research and higher education policy is still needed. This is an international challenge, and not something that is specific to Norway. Work must continue to develop an understanding of how the system for higher education, research and innovation actually functions. This work can be viewed in context with comparable international work, for example in the OECD and through Horizon 2020.
A better knowledge base should include analyses of the cooperation between the business community, research communities and the public sector, and analyses of control systems in research and higher education policy. This is particularly relevant in connection with the upcoming White Paper on the structure of the higher education sector. Another relevant topic is a review of the relationship between national and international policy instruments for research and education, and to what extent there is good correlation and work distribution between the instruments.
There is also a need for a better basis of knowledge on commercial research policy, and on how research and higher education can become more relevant for trade and industry. In line with the Sundvolden Declaration, the Government will review the system of policy instruments for innovation, and will refine and develop the instruments that have the greatest innovation impact. A broad-meshed mapping has been undertaken of all commercial policy instruments with public financing where the objective is innovation and value creation, either direct or indirect. In connection with this mapping, it will also be relevant to implement a portfolio assessment of the Research Council's business policy instruments with particular focus on the relationship between open arenas of competition and thematic efforts.