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As a national research school, the RVS will consolidate and expand its activities.

It was recently announced that the RVS is one of seven new national research schools, with 23 million NOK provided over eight years by the Norwegian Research Council. This new project is called The national interdisciplinary Research School Religion-Values-Society, and starts as of January the 1st 2016. The new school is based on the profile and activities already established in the current RVS, yet this grant opens for more activity and closer cooperation.

– This grant gives us a whole other scope and range of possibilities than we have had in our work so far, says Geir Afdal, project manager and author of the application for the grant.

– This will help us expand our work to bring together scholars working empirically on religion, values and society in Norway, and beyond. This work is currently being done across a large number of institutions, in relatively small communities, and therefore we are an important tool in bringing these scholars together and in contact with international networks, he continues.

– We live in a world and a society where religion and values are changing, and there is an increased emphasis on, and appreciation for, acquiring knowledge to understand these processes in their many forms and on their many levels.

An expanding programme

The basic structure of the RVS-year, with one course in spring and one in fall, and the summer school in August, still stands, but is expanded by also including an annual PhD-seminar for presentations of and feedback to PhD-projects, regular online group sessions and a biannual seminar at Boston University. Moreover, the grant will enable wider invitations of lecturers and academic resources to our courses and seminars.

– The participating PhD-students will benefit from a much more extensive and also much better support for their projects, as well as a much more present national and international network that they will actively participate within, continues Afdal.

– Another important benefit is of course that participation in the RVS activities are now funded also for the PhD-students, however membership in the RVS will now also come with more obligations and a greater expectation of regular participation than there has been before.

An expanding network

As of now there are thirty PhD-student members of the RVS, but with the new school this number will be expanded to fifty. Regarding member institutions, the RVS currently consists of seven; MF Norwegian School of Theology, Diakonhjemmet University College, MHS School of Mission and Theology, the University of Agder, Volda University, the University of Oslo and Umeå University in Sweden. These will continue as members, yet with the new grant RVS expands to also include NTNU, the University of Bergen, the University of Tromsø and Uppsala University, Sweden, as well as cooperation with Boston University in the US.

– We are extremely happy to welcome the new institutions, especially Uppsala University and the cooperation with Boston University. We started our expansion beyond Norway already some years ago when Umeå University joined, but the inclusion of further international partners is very important both for the academic quality of our courses and seminars, as well as for the development of our PhD-students, Afdal comments.

Expanding supervision

The new RVS has an added emphasis on supervision and project management, which manifests itself for instance in a new component where supervisors associated with the school are brought together for sharing knowledge and experience, in order to provide closer and better supervision for the PhD-students.

- We aim to help our PhD-student members in their entire process, to secure good progress and all in all help shape their view and perspectives on research, Afdal concludes.