Arctic village with sea and mountains

For invited applicants only: Call for full proposals under the Nordic joint call “Sustainable Development of the Arctic”

  • Call Deadline: 28 November 2024, 13:00 (CET /Oslo time)
  • Available Budget for Nordic partners: Up to NOK 200 million
  • Amount of funding that may be sought to Nordic partners in a project: 18-24 million NOK
  • Amount that may be sought to US partners in a project: Dependent on specific program guidelines
  • Amount that may be sought to Canadian partners in a project: 2.5-4 million CAD
  • Duration: 3-4 years

Please note that NordForsk may make changes to the call text until 6 weeks before the deadline. Any such changes will be stated clearly.

This second stage of the two stage call is announced as a collaborative effort between Research Council of Norway, Research Council of Finland, Independent Research Fund Denmark, Research Council Faroe Islands, Swedish Research Council (VR) and Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development (Formas), Greenland Research Council, Icelandic Centre for Research with funding from the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, National Science Foundation (USA), Canada Research Coordinating Committee (Canada), and NordForsk.

Invited applicants can submit proposals for research projects within the framework of the call.

Please note that project leaders and project partners from USA and Canada need to ensure that proposals fulfil the national eligibility criteria from the respective research funding organisation (National Science Foundation (NSF), USA or the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF), Canada), see Annex 1. These come in addition to the general eligibility criteria described below and that apply to all applicants. Applicants from USA and Canada are required to contact their national contact points and advised to do so in the early phases of the proposal preparations.

Eligibility criteria

For proposals to be eligible for evaluation, the following criteria must be met:

  • Only invited applicants are eligible to receive funding from this call
  • The project described in the full proposal must be the same project as described in the pre-proposals, there cannot be substantial changes from the respective pre-proposal.
  • The proposal must address at least two of the three areas of science as used by the European Research Council: Life science; Physical Sciences & Engineering; Social Sciences and Humanities.
  • Proposals must be submitted electronically through NordForsk Call and Application Portal by the call deadline, by invited applicants only.
  • The proposal must be written in English.
  • The described research project must include partners from research performing organisations* in at least three Nordic countries.
  • The proposal must include a signed Letter of Commitment from each partner institution. Letters of Commitment must be signed by a person authorized to take on financial commitments on behalf of the institution for the entire duration of the project.
  • The host institution (Project Owner) for the research project must be established research performing organisation based in one of the countries contributing to the call. PIs from USA and Canada must be eligible to receive funding from NSF or SSHRC, respectively (see Annex 1).
  • If the project owner is a research institution in USA or Canada, the project must also have a co-host institution in one of the Nordic countries which NordForsk enters into contract with concerning the Nordic part of the project. A Co-PI must be appointed from the co-host institution and will serve as NordForsk’s contact point.
  • The project leader and Co-PI must be qualified researchers employed by the host institution (Project Owner).
  • A researcher may only serve as project leader for one proposal under this call. However, research institutions may be affiliated with more than one proposal.
  • Researchers and research groups must be based at a research performing organisation.
  • USA and Canadian applicants and project participants must comply with national rules (see Annex 1).

Proposals that do not fulfil the above eligibility criteria will not be processed.

*A research performing organisation is a legal entity which is a university, university college or a research institute, and is characterised by the following:

  • A primary goal is to independently conduct fundamental research and/or applied research and or research-based innovation where results are published.
  • The entity may be private or public but must not pay out dividends from its activities.
  • The entity must have significant production of academic, published research.

Background

The Arctic region has for several years undergone rapid changes with far-reaching and profound consequences on many areas and continues to do so. A key driver for this is the climate change, which is happening faster in the Arctic region than in the rest of the world, with a temperature rise that is three to four times higher than the global average. The climate change has a direct and significant impact on the ecosystems, the local communities, and the traditional ways of living. The declining Arctic Sea ice has moreover opened new transport routes, new and wider opportunities for resource extraction and generally resulted in an increased international interest in the region. Other drivers of change, sometimes reinforced by the climate change, are technology development, migration, tourism, demographic changes, and changes in the geopolitical situation. International relations, strategies and security issues involving both Arctic and non-Arctic states are of high importance, as is how cooperation may develop in the Arctic region and across the national borders.

Aims of the call

The aim of the call is to support research collaboration among participating countries in the Arctic region to bring forward new knowledge on how to ensure sustainable development of the Arctic. The objective of the call is to jointly fund interdisciplinary research projects of highest international quality, with potential for impact and societal relevance, and with clear added value from multilateral collaboration. The call has no thematic priorities, but three keywords can inspire the applicants when developing their research ideas into proposals: Security, Natural Resources and/or Societal Changes.

Interdisciplinarity

Only truly interdisciplinary research will be funded. Much of the knowledge needs related to the Arctic demand research that dares to think across traditional boundaries between fields and disciplines and strives to create fertile ground for new approaches and insights. This call is for projects combining and integrating skills from multiple disciplines to contribute with new and groundbreaking knowledge for a Sustainable Development of the Arctic. The integration of methods, data, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from different scientific fields is crucial in the efforts towards expanding the scope of collective knowledge. The call is open to research proposals that combine at least two of the three areas of science as defined by the European Research Council (ERC): Life sciences, Physical sciences and engineering, and Social sciences and humanities. The interdisciplinary approach of the proposals will be assessed, as well as the boldness and originality of the research ideas. More details regarding ERC’s distribution of research areas into the three overarching categories of science can be found here: ERC_panel_structure_2024_calls.pdf (europa.eu)

The Arctic region

Can be defined in several different ways, climactic/botanical, marine, and political definitions can be used. In this call the Arctic region cover the areas considered as “Arctic” by the individual states that are members of the Arctic Council. More information can be found here Arctic States | Arctic Council (arctic-council.org).

Sustainable development

As the climate, geopolitics and societies of the Arctic region is changing, it is of utmost importance that the development of the region balances social, economic, and environmental sustainability. This is one of the main aims of the call, and the new knowledge and outcomes of the projects should support acceleration of the realisation of key Sustainable Development Goals.

Indigenous perspectives

About four hundred thousand of the inhabitants of the Arctic are Indigenous according to the Arctic Council. The way of life of Indigenous Peoples are greatly affected by both the environmental and social changes in the Arctic. It is an aim of the call to ensure that the knowledge produced give benefit and impact for the Arctic and all its local communities. When considered relevant, the Indigenous perspectives should be an integrated part of the proposed research. A statement of to what extent it is relevant to consider Indigenous perspectives in the project, and in that event, how this will be incorporated in the project, will be evaluated as part of the proposal assessment. Proposers preparing projects working near, with, or impacting, local and Indigenous communities are strongly recommended to engage communities early in the proposal development stages. Proposals that address research areas where the Indigenous perspective does not apply are equally welcome and not precluded from funding. For more information and links to relevant guidelines and documents see Annex 2.

Arctic added value

The Nordic Council of Ministers Vision 2030 is that the Nordic region will become the most sustainable and integrated region in the world. The three strategic priority areas for fulfilling the vision – A green Nordic region, a competitive Nordic region, and a socially sustainable Nordic region – are highly relevant for the Arctic region. Projects funded by this call should have potential to create substantial added value for the countries involved and for the Arctic region. The call addresses needs that are unique to the Arctic and of particular interest for the countries in the region.

International research collaboration in the Arctic has potential to bring added value to the region. The research projects should create outcomes and impact of greater value for the Arctic than what could be achieved through national activities alone. Research collaboration is an important aspect of collaboration between countries in the Arctic region and can help build critical mass by new combinations of expertise and experience from research communities. Applicants should elaborate on how the proposed project will contribute to Arctic added value by strengthening the Arctic region, enhancing scientific excellence of Arctic research and/or addressing needs or problems that are of special relevance to the Arctic. Arctic added value can also be about building on unique phenomena (e.g., geographical, climactic, cultural, linguistic, or social), data or collections.

Communication and knowledge exchange

To ensure impact beyond academia, knowledge sharing, interaction, and communication with key stakeholders in Arctic countries are necessary. The projects funded under this call must have a detailed communication and knowledge exchange plan. Where appropriate, the plan should describe the processes by which research-based knowledge can feed into practice and policy in collaboration with stakeholders.

Compliance to NordForsk policies on open access, gender equality and data management

The projects are expected to comply with the NordForsk policies on Open Access and Gender Equality. As stated in the gender equality policy, research institutions receiving funding from NordForsk must have a Gender Equality Plan in place before signing a contract with NordForsk.

The funded projects are expected to implement good data management practices such as the FAIR principles. Research institutions receiving funding from NordForsk must have a data management plan in place before signing a contract with NordForsk.

Artificial intelligence (AI) in grant applications

Any use of AI tools must be ethical and responsible, and respecting legal and research standards and requirements. The use of generative AI should be transparent. Applicants are advised to read the European Commission’s Living guidelines on the responsible use of generative AI in research.

Financial framework

Invited applicants can apply for funding to establish a research project with a budget of maximum NOK 18-24 million for the Nordic partners of the consortium and a duration of 3-4 years. The funding for the Canadian and US partners comes in addition. Project funding will be available for the period 2025-2029. Please note that projects receiving funding from Canada must start before the end of March 2025. The intention is to provide funding for approximately 7-10 research projects under this call.

The Nordic funding allocated to the call is approximately NOK 200 million in total through a Nordic common pot. The Canadian funding allocated to the call is 20 M CAD. The USA funding allocated to the call is not a fixed sum, a decision will be made for proposals on the short list with US partners.

The USA and Canadian project partners will be funded directly by their respective national research funding agencies. National requirements do apply, and USA and Canadian project partners are therefore strongly advised to consult their respective funding agencies for further guidance (see Annex 1 for a list of eligible costs and a list of conditions for USA and Canada).

Funding may be used for costs that are necessary for the implementation of the project, such as:

  • Salaries of researchers corresponding to the person’s activity level in the project
  • PhD and post-doctoral positions corresponding to the person’s activity level in the project, and not covering salary during teaching or other departmental duties.
  • Running costs (data collection and analysis, consumables, minor equipment, premises)
  • Mobility and research stays, travels
  • Dissemination, outreach, and knowledge exchange activities (including open access charges)
  • Stakeholder involvement and activities
  • Indirect costs and overhead

All costs must be explained. Indirect costs and overhead may be included. NordForsk does not apply any fixed rate or model for calculating indirect costs for research projects. Such costs should be determined by the participating institutions according to their rules and models, and applicants are advised to consult these for further guidelines. US and Canadian project partners must consult their respective funding agencies for further guidance (see Annex 1 for a list of eligible costs and a list of conditions for USA and Canada). Note that payroll and indirect expenses must be calculated according to the relevant national rules, and the respective organisations’ own budgeting models. The feasibility of the budget will be assessed.

Partner institutions outside USA, Canada and the Nordic countries may participate with their own funding. This does not apply to institutions based in the Russian Federation, they may not participate in projects funded by this call. Salaries for applicants not affiliated to a research institution in USA, Canada or the Nordic countries cannot be claimed as part of the project costs covered by the Nordic grant. However, travel and accommodation costs may be covered by the grant.

Budgetary considerations

The projects shall participate in meetings, conferences and other events arranged within the framework of this call. Applicants shall include in their budget travel costs for at least three persons from each project for joint meetings initiated by NordForsk – such as a kick-off meeting and a final meeting/event (i.e., travel and lodging for one night).

Submission of proposals

The Project Leader must submit the proposal form and the annexes on behalf of the research consortium electronically through NordForsk Application Portal.

Applicants must submit a proposal in English electronically through the NordForsk Call and Application Portal no later than 13.00 CEST (Oslo Time) on 28 November 2024. It must contain all supporting documents as requested below:

  • NordForsk proposal form as specified in application portal.
  • Research plan (max ten pages, including management plan and references).
  • Communication and knowledge exchange strategy (max two pages).
  • CVs, including a short list of max ten publications (max three pages for Project Leader and max one page for each key researcher).
  • Budget specifications (max two pages and in standard templates).
  • Letters of Commitment from all the participating research organisations.

Please find further instructions and details in the application portal.

Assessment criteria

All eligible proposals will be rated using a scale 1-7 (1=poor; 2= weak, 3= fair 4= good, 5= very good, 6= excellent, 7= outstanding) based on the criteria described below, and a written statement will be provided. Normally, proposals rated 4 or below by the expert panel will not be considered for funding by the NordForsk Board. A panel of international scientific experts (peers) will assess the proposals according to the following criteria:

Contribution to call aims

  • To what extent is the proposed research appropriate to the aims and objectives of the call
  • To what degree does the proposed research support relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Research quality

  • To what degree is the research idea original and bold
  • What is the potential to develop new knowledge beyond current state-of-the-art
  • Are the objectives and research questions/hypothesis clear
  • Is the concept and methodology sound and credible
  • To what degree are the ethical considerations appropriate and how well these will be handled
  • Is the consideration and integration of gender perspectives appropriate, when relevant
  • Are the described expected research results and expected outcomes of the research credible

Interdisciplinarity of the research

  • Is the interdisciplinary approach sound in terms of participation and integration of different disciplines to achieve common goals of the project
  • Is the described added value to both or all scientific domains, as well as to the interdisciplinary space, appropriate and credible.

Arctic Added value

  • Does the project have the potential to create impact on Arctic research through the research collaboration (e.g. by achieving necessary critical mass, enhancing cost-effectiveness by sharing data and research infrastructure, mobility, competence building, enhancing scientific excellence, promoting new innovations and patents, building on unique strengths of the Arctic Region, phenomena, or data)
  • Does the project have the potential to create impact for the Arctic societies (e.g. by providing a useful knowledge base for citizens, policymakers, practitioners, and other actors to create societal impact, addressing needs that are unique to the Nordic and Arctic countries)

Indigenous perspectives

  • To what extent is the description of relevance of Indigenous perspectives in the proposed research project clear and plausible
  • If Indigenous perspectives are considered relevant, to what extent is the incorporation of Indigenous perspectives in the research project inclusive, credible, appropriate, respectful, and ethical

Quality of the research team

  • To what extent does the research consortia include the necessary experience, expertise and merits in relation to delivering the proposed research and how is the complementarity of the research consortium as a whole

Feasibility

  • How is the quality and effectiveness of the work plan, including extent to which financial and personnel resources are appropriately assigned in line with the objectives and deliverables
  • Are the management structures and procedures, including risk management, appropriate

Communication and knowledge exchange

  • Are the plans for stakeholder involvement appropriate
  • How is the quality of the plans for knowledge exchange and communication, including the extent to which such activities align with project objectives

The Call Committee will also assess the criteria Contribution to call aims, Arctic added value, and Indigenous perspectives. In addition, the committee may pursue a balanced portfolio of funded projects in relation to the call aims and objectives whilst maintaining research scientific quality as the primary criterion.

Processing of proposals, stage two

NordForsk's guidelines on impartiality will be applied to handle possible conflicts of interest.

The process of evaluating the proposals will be administered by NordForsk. The process leading up to a funding decision includes the following steps:

  • Eligibility: Proposals will be examined to check eligibility and adherence to the requirements of this call. Only applications which meet all the conditions set out in this call text will be eligible and will be included in the evaluation procedure.
  • Peer review panel: The proposals will be evaluated by an international expert panel. The panel will use the assessment criteria as specified in this call.
  • Call Committee: The Call Committee will assess the top-rated proposals, using the assessment criteria as specified above. Based on the assessments of the expert panel, the committee’s assessment and the aim of a balanced project portfolio, the Call Committee will submit a recommendation of projects to be awarded funding to the NordForsk Board.
  • Funding decisions: The NordForsk Board will take the final funding decision based on the recommendation from the Call Committee. This is expected to take place in the March 2025. The funding decision will be announced shortly after the decision has been made. All applicants will receive written feedback from the expert panel. NSF and SSHRC will take the final funding decision on their respective national contributions, based on the recommendation of the Call Committee. This is expected to take place late March 2025.

Please note that NordForsk may adjust the process described above in case unexpected events.

Management and monitoring of the funded research projects

The outcome of the funding decision will be notified to the project leader through the application portal. The national funding agencies in USA and Canada will send funding letters to their national project partners after national procedures have been completed. NordForsk will sign a contract with the Nordic project owner co-host organisation if the project owner is based in Canada or USA. This contract will set out the specific funding rates and details in accordance with NordForsk Standard Terms and Conditions of Contract. USA and Canadian project partners will be funded by their respective national research councils. The NSF and NFRF will take the formal decision for their financial contribution and enter into contract with the national project partners in line with their own routines and procedures.

A consortium agreement regulating the rights and obligations of the various institutions/partners involved in the project must be signed by project partners before any funding will be disbursed. The project start date can be before the consortium agreement is signed.

The project leader will be responsible for submitting annual reports consisting of a scientific progress report, a financial report and an impact report. A final report must be submitted to NordForsk at the end of the funding period. In addition, participants from USA and Canadian must report to their respective national funding agencies according to national rules.

The projects are expected to participate to a reasonable extent in meetings, conferences and other events arranged within the framework of this call.

The Project Owners are responsible for the implementation of human resource strategies for researchers in keeping with the basic principles of the EU Charter for Researchers and the EU Code for the Recruitment of Researchers, where applicable.

Technical support
support@nordforsk.org

For other matters, please contact Special Adviser Kristin Andersen:
kristin.andersen@nordforsk.org