Department of Biological Sciences (BIO)
Strategy 2016-2020

Biology 2020: Higher goals - deeper insight

BIO will provide fundamental and pioneering knowledge about the origin, development, processes and systems of life, and help to resolve the major global societal challenges.

Main content

BIO's strategy is based on UiB's overall strategy “Ocean, Life, Society” and the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences’ strategic plan "Deeper insight – joint effort - stronger influence" for the period 2016 to 2022.

BIO’s vision and goals


BIO will provide fundamental and pioneering knowledge about the origin, development, processes and systems of life, and help to resolve the major global societal challenges.

Overarching goals

  • To educate competent graduates with a broad scientific insight and a critical attitude
  • To produce and disseminate fundamental knowledge about life forms and life processes, from genome to biome and how these are influenced, changed and managed
  • To communicate relevant biological knowledge and provide input to schools, the public and policy makers
  • To play an active role in public debate by showing how biological knowledge and interdisciplinary cooperation can help to solve local, national and global societal challenges
  • To build a foundation for the application of biological and biotechnological knowledge in growth, innovation and management
  • To be an attractive, safe and inclusive workplace and learning environment

How do we achieve our goals?

Within our priority areas, we shall highlight academic connections and facilitate synergies both within and outside BIO, and increase external funding.

Priority area 1: Educating tomorrow's biologists

BIO's primary goal is to ensure the relevance and quality of education at all levels, in close cooperation with the Centre of Excellence in Biology Education - bioCEED.

Our teaching staff shall have an active and reflective attitude towards teaching and learning, which implies a collegial responsibility for teaching and a continuous process of quality improvement. We shall constructively align our study programmes as well as our learning outcomes, teaching and learning activities, and assessment. Students will be motivated through effective feedback, skill development and student-active learning methods. Furthermore, students will be trained to take responsibility for their own knowledge development and to becoming independent contributors to society.

We will educate competent graduates at the bachelor, master, PhD and post-doctoral levels through a combination of biological expertise and a broad natural science foundation to ensure that they are well equipped to fill important roles in research, education, industry, management and society.

From a basis of modern research, active teaching methods and an open door to the world around us, our students will develop the ability to apply scientific knowledge and methods to understand nature and to find solutions to society's challenges. With an in-depth focus on our priority areas, we will give students the opportunity to acquire knowledge, gain academic and general skills, and to develop research and professional ethics.

Doctoral education is one of BIO's core activities. It takes place primarily within the research groups, supplemented by external partners, with additional specialised courses and graduate schools, as well as through participation in international conferences, seminars, workshops and research stays. Our PhD candidates also have the opportunity for training in teaching, dissemination, innovation and other transferable skills.


Priority area 2: Biology’s major questions - from genome to biome

BIO will research the major questions in biology: How has life originated? How do life forms, life processes and patterns of life develop? How is biological diversity created and maintained? How does the interaction between individuals, populations and species maintain the functions and processes of ecosystems? What are the underlying biotic and abiotic factors behind these trends?

These major questions require new and often integrative approaches across research areas, taxa, scales and methods. Addressing these major questions in biology requires joint efforts, high ambitions, new pioneering hypotheses, and integrative process studies. BIO will focus on developing, adopting and combining new methods and technologies to find answers.

The major biological questions are also the focus of education at BIO. Students should be reflective, critical and inquisitive about nature, and they will be trained to think creatively and beyond the standard explanatory models and disciplinary boundaries.

Priority area 3: Marine ecosystems and sustainable bioproduction

BIO will be a key player in marine research, and produce research of high scientific quality and relevance through strengthened national and international cooperation. BIO will contribute to innovation and mutual stimulation through close and committed collaboration with applied research institutes, industry, business and management. Relevant topics for such research include fisheries, aquaculture and fish health, natural resource management, biotechnology, bioprospecting and the effects of pollution and climate and environmental changes. BIO will work closely with IMR, UNI Research and other partners in the Bergen Marine Research Cluster, and will be an important contributor to the establishment of Ocean City Bergen.

BIO’s basic research on marine organisms and their reproduction, development, growth, nutrient absorption and immune system – combined with studies of ocean primary production, viral, bacterial and parasite-host interactions – contribute to the fundamental understanding of ecosystem dynamics and a research-based and sustainable aquaculture industry. Our basic research on marine microbial food webs, marine species' life cycles and population dynamics, food choice and reproduction, coupled with studies on ecosystem dynamics, evolution and the effects of global and anthropogenic changes, provides a knowledge base for sustainable fisheries and coastal zone management nationally and internationally.

BIO will train graduates for a growing seafood and aquaculture industry. We educate marine biologists, aquamedicine, aquaculture and fisheries graduates who will contribute to the development of marine industries and the management of oceans and coasts. This requires the key elements of close collaboration with our surrounding community, the development of general and transferrable skills, an ability to solve problems and hands-on experience through work practice placements.

Priority area 4: Global social challenges

Many of society's major challenges require the knowledge that BIO develops and disseminates. Anthropogenic global changes affect natural processes, mechanisms and patterns, and it is essential to understand the effects of these changes in the short and longer term. We need biological knowledge to ensure sustainable social and economic development.

BIO undertakes research on how climate change, pollution and resource use affect the environment and biotic responses at several different levels: from gene regulation via physiology, immunology, reproduction and behaviour, to population dynamics, biodiversity and ecosystem services. It is essential to understand the critical limits of ecosystem functioning, vulnerability, health and ecosystem services, across biological organisational levels, organism groups and habitats.

BIO will educate experts with a broad perspective and deep academic insight. Management, healthcare and industry need solid biological expertise to make the transition to a sustainable and green society. BIOs education will provide a critical, constructive and reflective approach to global challenges, and promote scientific perspectives and methods as the basis for solutions to environmental challenges and policy.

Based on our expertise, and in line with our academic objectives and responsibility, BIO will contribute to capacity building with partners in the South through dedicated research and educational collaboration.

Global challenges require solutions that are increasingly interdisciplinary. Biology plays an important role as the combination of physical climate change and society’s actions affect organisms and ecosystems. BIO will occupy a leading international position by strengthening cooperation between key players at the University of Bergen, in the Bergen region, and nationally and internationally.

Strategic actions

To achieve our scientific and strategic goals BIO will:

  • optimise resources and efficiency in all job categories
  • actively manage and use our office, laboratory and teaching spaces
  • optimise the structure, maintenance and distribution of important infrastructure such as field stations, boats, and laboratories
  • prioritise the use of the department's resources and contributions towards particularly important initiatives and projects
  • provide start-up packages with new appointments
  • direct externally-funded projects, including infrastructure projects, towards the department's priority areas
  • collaborate strategically across departmental, faculty and institutional borders


Measures to ensure quality of education and teaching

BIO will have relevant study programmes that

  • are discipline-oriented and vocational, customised to our academic priorities and community needs
  • systematically build academic and general skills throughout the curriculum
  • link theory, practical skills and the needs of society
  • use adjunct professor positions to strengthen the academic breadth and relevance of the education programme
  • adopt teaching and assessment methods that support learning outcomes in all courses and throughout the study programmes
  • promote active participation from students and reduce the use of traditional lectures and exams

BIO will have a collegial and development oriented teacher culture that

  • has a professional attitude to teaching and learning, characterised by a systematic and scholarly approach to the teaching practice
  • provides professional teaching development and merit based on documented teaching quality
  • creates and participates in arenas for sharing experiences and development of teaching, and organises an annual Teachers retreat
  • continue the ideas and processes in educational development and teacher culture, both at BIO and UiB as a whole, even after bioCEED ends

BIO will have active and capable students in a good learning environment and

  • include students in the research environment and in the development of the department’s education
  • facilitate academic and social meeting places for students and staff
  • create teaching and student spaces that promote active learning and collaboration
  • use and develop the digital learning environment in a way that supports learning and personal development
  • give students guidance and foster motivation to complete their studies within the prescribed time
  • ensure good recruitment for our degree programmes through targeted information, visibility and promotion of our education


Measures for the development of doctoral education

     BIO will:

  • strengthen supervision competence among employees
  • ensure good scientific and administrative support to PhD candidates to improve retention and candidate throughput
  • ensure that each PhD candidate’s project is of high scientific quality and is feasible in terms of the project's budget, access to facilities and quality of the research questions before the start of their PhD studies
  • strengthen the research groups’ role as a learning environment for candidates, with responsibility for ensuring that they acquire scientific skills and good knowledge of, and attitudes towards, research ethics
  • better integrate external PhD candidates into BIO`s academic community, including facilitation of greater presence at BIO and active supervision from BIO`s member of the supervisory committee
  • discuss progress, completion plan and supervision at the annual appraisal interviews with PhD candidates and their supervisors
  • facilitate participation in graduate schools, international conferences, seminars, workshops and research visits abroad as part of the PhD programme
  • provide doctoral candidates with opportunities to acquire general and transferrable skills, and first-hand experience of the methodological approaches to their specific research area
  • establish best practice for assigning duty work to PhD candidates


Measures to ensure research quality

    BIO will:

  • provide a framework that ensures the further development of the already existing good and excellent research environments, and have processes and will identify and prioritise the development of excellent future research environments 
  • encourage and facilitate collaboration with first-rate academic environments locally, nationally and internationally
  • facilitate better and closer cooperation between our research groups and their external partners by the targeted use of adjunct professor positions, sharing of resources and infrastructure and joint project proposals
  • strengthen research and collaboration across disciplines by providing, for example, meeting places and thematic seminar series 
  • increase the scope of externally-funded research (especially via the EU) by maintaining a high standard of administrative support, introduce incentives aimed at externally-funded projects and facilitate the work situation of employees who take on big tasks. 
  • increase the quality and availability of publications by motivating submission to open-access journals of high quality
  • have clear future prospects for young researchers in recruitment positions: long-term accrual of expertise and quality such that early-career scientists (post-doc, short-term contract researchers) have a good basis for competing for permanent positions at BIO or our close partners
  • facilitate active emeriti so they can help supervise and mentor early-career researchers


Measures to raise visibility of activities at BIO

    BIO will improve visibility and dissemination of our fundamental and independent research to management, industry and society at large, by:

  • strengthening the communication of our research and educational activity
  • promoting our research infrastructure externally
  • motivating and rewarding dissemination work and participation in public debates
  • facilitating training and support for dissemination to staff and students, for example through cooperation with, and use of, communication services at the University
  • being an active contributor to science dissemination in the Bergen / western Norway region, including through annual participation in the Science Week and popular dissemination in the media
  • marketing the study programmes at BIO and making information easily accessible to applicants online, and in other relevant contexts
  • highlighting career opportunities for our graduates, including through internships and work practice courses, career days and testimonials of former students.


Measures to facilitate innovation

There is a growing expectation that universities should contribute to society's development and competitiveness, in, amongst others, food, health and energy issues. BIO’s expertise is relevant for innovation and solutions of climate-related challenges, sustainable aquaculture and harvesting, bioprospecting, biotechnology and transition to a green and blue economy.

BIO will develop an innovation-culture that is receptive to researchers' ideas, thoughts and needs, supportive to the further development of ideas, and visible through positive internal and external attention.

To reach its objectives in innovation BIO will:

  • identify and develop contact points for innovation where applied problems meet our basic research
    • in aquaculture: with the Seafood Innovation Cluster, Bergen Marine Research Cluster, and strong actors such as UNI Research, IMR, NOFIMA, NIFES and key commercial players
    • in harvesting and processing of living marine resources: with, amongst others, IMR, NIVA and Uni Research
    • in health and healthy food: with, amongst others, the Sea and Health Initiative, NIFES, NOFIMA and medical research environments
    • in technology: with CMR, NTNU, SINTEF, IMR and others
    • in climate and the environment: with the Bjerknes Centre, NINA, NIVA,  management and administration, amongst others
    • in education: by collaborating with internal and external groups and experts in order to strengthen and develop education, especially bioCEED and other Centres of excellence in education
  • increase knowledge about the innovation potential of our research
  • contribute to a co-located Marine Cluster at Marineholmen
  • take an active role in applications for Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFI)
  • develop, use, test and document innovative teaching methods


Framework for achieving our goals

Increased external funding

BIO’s basic grant allows us to think long term, but BIO relies on externally-funded projects to ensure quality in our activities. To increase the scale of external funding BIO shall:

  • have modern equipment available
  • be an attractive partner nationally and internationally by having high scientific quality and excellent ethical standards in all our activities
  • increase participation and influence in relevant national and international programme committees and research council organisations
  • establish close collaboration with complementary research environments on thematic issues
  • contribute to the Bergen community's positioning on major initiatives, both nationally and within the EU Horizon 2020 programme, including through active participation in the Bergen Marine Research Cluster
  • develop a professional departmental administration to ensure quality in our core tasks and ensure that BIO's income through external financing improves


An excellent research and education environment is dependent on providing good career opportunities and attracting talent. Recruitment to academic posts is the most effective way the department can strengthen its research and education activities. BIO aims to recruit employees who raise the level of ambition in all our prioritised areas.

BIO will:

  • announce permanent scientific positions openly and internationally, with attractive start-up packages to recruit candidates who have the skills, ability and will to make BIO's education, research and communication even better
  • actively use BFS, YFF, ToppForsk and ERC grant schemes to recruit skilled researchers within BIO's priority areas
  • give teaching competence and ambition real emphasis in the recruitment process
  • emphasise personal qualities such as interpersonal skills, team spirit and research leadership in the recruitment process
  • ensure gender equality throughout the recruitment process
  • strengthen reception and integration of new employees (reception, follow-up, mentoring)


Infrastructure and technical support

BIO will:

  • identify equipment at BIO that can be part of core facilities at UiB
  • maintain and strengthen infrastructure that enables functional experimental research and education -  from genome, through organism, to the biome
  • be a driving force for the development of modern teaching rooms and digital learning tools that support student active learning
  • develop the Technician Forum and strengthen technicians’ opportunities for developing their skills to ensure the department's ability to use new technology and procedures
  • organise technical resources at BIO for the benefit of our teaching and research
  • ensure an active marine research station which supports BIO’s education and research.


Health, Safety and Environment

A safe and supportive collegial environment, where the community spirit is prominent, is essential for high intellectual creativity and productivity. To achieve this, BIO will:

  • create a culture and arenas where experience and knowledge can be shared, and solutions are openly discussed and implemented across communities
  • have a work environment that fosters creativity, learning, work capacity, health and welfare
  • improve procedures and raise expertise on hazardous work outside the department, including field work, cruises and travel
  • ensure best practice for annual appraisal interviews for all groups of permanent and temporary employees, including follow-up
  • ensure that students, visiting researchers and new employees receive the necessary training in equipment and procedures
  • give responsibility, and treat students and employees with respect and care
  • not accept abuse of power.