Arctic research crosses scientific dividing lines
Interest in the Arctic is on the rise as climate change is affecting the daily lives of more and more people and the true economic potential of the area’s natural resources is becoming more evident. A large proportion of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas resources are located in the Arctic – a fact which is also drawing attention from the private sector. The Arctic Circle 2014 conference in Reykjavik from 31 October to 2 November 2014 was hosted by the non-profit organisation Arctic Circle and an array of other partners. With its 80 sessions and 1 400 participants from 37 countries, the conference confirmed that there is widespread interest in the Arctic.
Presentation of an Arctic research programme
NordForsk’s Marianne Røgeberg was invited to Arctic Circle 2014 to speak about the new joint Nordic Arctic programme, "Responsible Development of the Arctic: Opportunities and Challenges - Pathways to Action" at the session on “Science and Technology of Disappearing Ice: Current Priorities and Collaboration Between Researchers, Funders and Business Communities”. Ms Røgeberg described the development of the programme and stressed that research projects require collaboration between researchers from at least three different Nordic countries, but that other parties – both from other nations and industry – are more than welcome to take part as well. Funding is provided via a real common pot between the participating countries, so it is the best projects that receive funding.
NordForsk is also co-funding the Belmont Forum’s collaborative research action call for proposals on Arctic Observing and Research for Sustainability. A list of the projects awarded grants will be published in the beginning of 2015. The two calls share a number of similarities, including viewing projects that incorporate an interdisciplinary approach in a positive light. In order to ensure alignment between the two programmes NordForsk elected to co-fund the Belmont Forum call with NOK 2 million in funding. As the funding is being made available in a virtual common pot, the NOK 2 million will be allocated only if the proposal submitted includes researchers from at least three Nordic countries and has been ranked as excellent by the peer review panel.
Belmont Forum Program Director, National Science Foundation, Erica Key says:
- We have made great strides in coming together as funders to understand each other’s perspectives and approaches. Support for Arctic observing comes in many forms. In the Belmont Forum, international funders are partnering to fund the best science, including observations in the Arctic. Proposals must meet the Belmont Challenge, which requires natural science, social science, and end users to be included in each project. In our joint review process, we are looking closely at those connections.
Interdisciplinary cooperation requires time
The issue of interdisciplinary research questions was discussed in several sessions. NordForsk asked Dr Michael Karcher of the Alfred Wegener Institute to elaborate on the need for these:
“We need time and patience to work together with researchers from other disciplines. One problem between social and natural sciences is language – it may be as simple as we use the same term to mean very different things. In addition, the scientific approaches are very different. It takes time to figure out how to work together. For instance, in a project where one work package is more social science-oriented and one is more natural science-oriented, what kind of information do we exchange? What are the time scales? This takes more time than just one meeting. And it can be difficult to spend precious working hours on these processes. Luckily, it is fun, and I think it is definitely the way to go.”
At Arctic Circle 2014, the Icelandic Centre for Research (Rannís) and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) held two breakout sessions under the heading of Science and Technology of disappearing ice. The first session was “Institutional Scientific Cooperation”, and the second was “Current priorities and collaboration between researchers, funders and business communities”.
Institutional Scientific Cooperation:
Michael Karcher, Researcher, Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany.
Tero Vauraste, CEO, Arctia Shipping, Finland.
Erica Key, Program Director, Division of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation, USA.
Eyjólfur Guðmundsson, Rector, University of Akureyri, Iceland.
Páll Ásgeir Davíðsson, Director, Vox Naturae, Iceland
Moderator: David Hik, Professor, University of Alberta, Canada.
Current priorities and collaboration between researchers, funders and business communities:
Jan-Gunnar Winther, Director, Norwegian Polar Institute. Arctic Science: Challenges and Opportunities.
Michael Karcher, Researcher, Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany. The EU Framework Programs and scientific cooperation.
Steingrímur Jónsson, Professor, University of Akureyri, Iceland. Marine Research Institute: Challenges for oceanographic research in the Arctic.
Paul Holthus, Executive Director, World Ocean Council, USA. Smart Ocean-Smart Industries: Arctic Data Collection by Ocean Industries.
Marianne Røgeberg, Head of Arctic Affairs, Nordforsk, Norway. Crossing borders – Nordic
research cooperation in an Arctic context.
Hongqiao Hu, Head of Division, Polar Research Institute of China (PRIC). China-Iceland
Joint Aurora Observatory (CIAO).
Moderator: Þorsteinn Gunnarsson, Head of Division, Rannís, Iceland.
Text and photos: Linn Hoff Jensen