Conveying Arctic knowledge to users
Some 248 researchers, journalists, decision-makers and other interested parties gathered in Aarhus on 12‒13 November 2015 to discuss current challenges in the Arctic. The conference was organised as a MatchPoints seminar by Aarhus University along with 19 partners, including the Nordic Council of Ministers. The event was part of the Danish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers 2015, which emphasises the Arctic as one of its stated priorities.
The purpose was to convey knowledge from some of the world’s best minds to relevant end-users, i.e. politicians and other decision-makers who can bring these insights back home and translate them into action and legislation. But are there any obstacles to increased use of research-based knowledge in policy development? A participant from the Swedish Parliament said it can be problematic for politicians to take difficult decisions solely on the basis of information from scientists. Sensitive issues often need to be discussed by science journalists and the public before politicians can apply new facts to policy.
Michael Böss, who is Director of MatchPoints 2015 and an associate professor at Aarhus University as well as Director for the Canadian Studies Centre, says, “I believe we learned on the first day of the conference that if the Arctic becomes a region of conflict, it won’t be because of any special conditions in the Arctic, but rather because of escalating tensions outside the Arctic.” He also predicts that the conference will spawn two to three scientific papers.
Upcoming decision on new Arctic research centres
Danish Minister for Higher Education and Science Esben Lunde Larsen spoke at the conference, emphasising among other things the importance of research-based knowledge:
“In my view, research and science become the most obvious tools for approaching the Arctic and the challenges embedded within it,” the minister said. “If we as politicians are supposed to manage and develop policies that effectively steer our societies towards a future that is truly sustainable, then we must base those policies on the best available knowledge. And put it to use in a coherent and effective manner – and, maybe most importantly, with global impact.”
With regard to the Nordic tradition of cooperation, the minister went on to say:
“In the Nordic region, we have been interrelated throughout history to varying degrees. We have commonalities in culture, language and society. I see great potential in this, and we must seek to take advantage of this. We have a longstanding tradition of collaboration within research and science.”
The mission of NordForsk is precisely this – to facilitate Nordic research cooperation in order to pool Nordic resources and knowledge in the best way possible. NordForsk’s Head of Arctic Affairs Marianne Røgeberg was pleased by what the minister had to say, as NordForsk is in the process of assessing applications for Nordic Centres of Excellence. “I expect we will be able to announce three or possibly four Nordic Centres of Excellence by year’s end,” she says. “There will be large-scale interdisciplinary, multi-national research projects that will provide research-based knowledge to enable users, including decision-makers, to make better-informed decisions.” The new Nordic Centres of Excellence will likely be able to commence activities in the beginning of 2016.
Text: Linn Hoff Jensen