Intense week for the Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

5 december 2022

Hans Ellegren smiling

Since 2021-2022, Hans Ellengren has been Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Hello Hans Ellegren, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Uppsala University and Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. How do you feel about your work involving the Nobel Prizes so far?

“Intense and fun! There are so many different aspects to Nobel work, more than I could have imagined. The Nobel Prize is one of Sweden's strongest brands, and maintaining that position requires us to handle every aspect involving the Prize with the utmost care. I have been impressed by how professionally the Academy of Sciences works to select laureates and compile informational materials on the subject areas of the Prizes. The Nobel Foundation umbrella organisation also has an impressive apparatus for getting information out.”

How does your schedule look this week?
“It’s full on, to say the least! The week gets under way with multiple trips to Arlanda airport to welcome the laureates to Sweden. Over the following days we will arrange a major press conference and the laureates will give their lectures. The Secretary General hosts a laureate dinner one evening, while events on other evenings during the week include the Nobel concert and the major reception organised by the Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Nobel Foundation. 10 December is the big day of course, which is traditionally followed the next day by a dinner at Uppsala Castle upon invitation of the king. The visit by some of this year's laureates to Uppsala on Lucia Day is separate from the regular Nobel programme, but there is usually a nice lunch held at the castle on that date.”

What has been the most enjoyable part of your role so far, and what has been most difficult?
“There are truly so many things that have been enjoyable! Being able to help place science and Sweden in the spotlight was a fantastic feeling. Calling the laureates was memorable, of course, while a more mundane bonus for me as someone interested in food was the chance to test and discuss the Nobel menu with this year’s chefs at City Hall. Nobel work takes a lot of time, and it poses somewhat of a challenge to take care of ongoing management at the Academy of Sciences simultaneously.”

Do you miss being able to conduct research yourself?
“It’s actually not so bad. In some sense, I felt I was done. Partly with my regular research, and partly following the publication of a series of history of science books about "Uppsala's own scientific academy", the Royal Society of Sciences. As far as research into evolution and genetics was concerned, there were certainly both financial resources and plenty of ideas left for future projects. But I felt it was probably enough for me after several decades of quite exhausting research work combined with management assignments at the University. In all honesty, however, I still have a ‘lifeline’ in the form of ongoing supervision of a doctoral student, which involves extremely exciting research into wolves!”