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SDU is a world leader in sports science

In the Shanghai ‘Global Ranking of Sport Schools and Departments’, SDU ranks ninth in the latest published rankings for 2022. For the past seven years, the University of Southern Denmark has been at the top of this as well as other sports science rankings. Jens Troelsen, head of department at the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics (IOB), explains more about the background for the splendid results.

Despite its relatively small size, the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics (IOB) at the University of Southern Denmark is punching above its weight in the rankings that each year determine which universities are doing best in terms of research publications and citations.

In several rankings, the Department, which has around 180 affiliated employees across nine research units, is among the best in the world in the field of sports science, which covers everything from research in clinical biomechanics and physiology to leisure and urban planning.

The Shanghai ‘Global Ranking of Sport Schools’ is one of these, and seeing off competition from more than 300 international research institutions SDU has attained a ranking of between number 11 and 6 for the past seven years.

World-leading research environment

Head of Department Jens Troelsen explains that in several areas, such as musculoskeletal health, IOB is categorically world class.

- We are very proud of our position in the various rankings. It confirms that we are doing very well in our relatively small department, where we are numerically underrepresented compared to other universities – and where all researchers spend half their time teaching, unlike in other research institutions. But we know that we’re good, and we can truly say that we deliver world-class research and teaching.

As for why the Department is doing so well, Jens Troelsen points first and foremost to the dedicated researchers, lecturers and the technical administrative staff employed at IOB: ‘They do an outstanding job.’ This is supported by the excellent laboratory and testing facilities that provide the framework for teaching and research on a daily basis.

- Our facilities are top-notch, which is the basis for us to deliver great research and teaching. In this way, we have good conditions for success, and we also try to include our students in research at an early stage in their education. For instance, we’ve set up an Early Career Researcher’s Committee to ensure favourable conditions for us to continuously train talented researchers.

Rankings are not our focus – but they are a nice pat on the back

High placement in the rankings is not in itself an express goal at IOB. But it has been mentioned at the Department that the citations of our research matter – and that a high ranking is a testimony to the high quality of the research publications.

- A high ranking is good for a sense of self, and at the same time it’s a collective reinforcement of being among the best colleagues at our department and at SDU as a whole. In general, researchers are focused on their own careers, but our great rankings show that we’re all moving in the same, right direction, and that our individual efforts actually mean something for the whole University,’ says Jens Troelsen.

However, the most important thing for the Head of Department is that IOB can continue to deliver current and relevant knowledge.

- We’re not interested in delivering a lot of metrics research that’ll end up gathering dust on shelves. We were created to spread knowledge about how the body in motion creates value for individuals and society, and we keep up with societal trends so that we can continue to deliver current knowledge and relevance to the world around us.

Optimism about the future – and a little concern

Jens Troelsen is positive about the future at the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, and the imminent relocation of New OUH in extension of the University of Southern Denmark will provide even better opportunities for practice-oriented research and increased research collaboration. However, there are also concerns about the prospect of fewer students and changing framework conditions for running education programmes.

- There will be ramifications if there are significant cuts in our teaching time and if a reform of the master’s degree hits us hard. I worry that we won’t be able to educate people well enough. This will affect not only future research, but also the number of teachers, consultants and knowledge disseminators. There is a general lack of focus on the consequences of physical inactivity as a societal challenge – and in this respect we have a lot to offer.

Meet the researcher

Jens Troelsen, Head of department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics at The University of Southern Denmark


Editing was completed: 11.09.2023