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Comment: The Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences

Merger experiences 4: The Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences

The Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, PLEN, has gone through two mergers during the past 6 years. In 2008, the Department of Agricultural Sciences and the Department of Ecology were combined, and in 2012 there was a merger of the Department of Plant Biology, Biotechnology and 1/3 of the Department of Soil Science and Environment.

Both of these mergers were met with opposition from department staff, but greater support among staff became apparent down the road in relation to both mergers, and of the idea of creating an economically and academically powerful department. In particular, there was great support for collaboration between programmes and instruction, areas where people had already worked across boundaries in the previous departments.

Without doubt, this collaboration helped these mergers succeed. Many researchers already knew one another from cooperation in their teaching roles, and it was therefore quite natural to expand this interaction through common visions and goals for the new department. It is still too early to assess whether the merger has been a success, but as measured by the number of students, research grants, partnerships, research publications and patents, things are definitely moving forward. Naturally, there has been healthy scepticism among some members of the staff apprehensive about an enormous department and its potential for distancing management and staff.

Therefore, we have used lots of time and energy to develop management and communications channels, so that there is an attentiveness to the department’s 500 employees. Last, but not least, we also use energy and resources to develop a common identity via a range of social and professional events for both staff and students.

By Svend Christensen, Department Head

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