Nordic top-level research becoming an international brand

The Top-level Research Initiative is about to become a brand that creates new and great interest for Nordic top-level research. Professor Nils Christian Stenseth needed no more than 24 hours to put together an Advisory Panel of international experts for his new Nordic Centre of Excellence – all of them accepted immediately.
 Nordic top-level research becoming an international brand
- Interest was great in participating in the Advisory Panel for the new NCoE NorMER. This interest confirms that the concept of Nordic Centres of Excellence (NCoE) is getting attention also outside the Nordic region, says Professor Nils Christian Stenseth from the University of Oslo. He manages the new NCoE NorMER together with Professor Carl Folke from the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

The ocean, the tundra and the stars
NordForsk gathered about 40 researchers and research managers for a kick-off seminar in Stockholm 24 February, aimed at the three new Nordic Centres of Excellence within the TRI sub-programme Effect studies and adaptation to climate change.

NCoE NorMER will use Atlantic cod as a model organism for studying climate change effects. Professor Lauri Oksanen from Finnmark University College and the University of Turku manages the NCoE Tundra, which will study changes in the tundra in a warming climate. Professor Michael E. Goodsite from the University of Aarhus manages NCoE NORD-STAR together with Professor Richard Klein from Stockholm Environment Institute, studying sustainable adaptations to the impacts of climate change and unintended consequences of climate policies.

A unique collaboration
There were all happy faces, both among researchers and Nordic research management throughout the seminar. The researchers were naturally satisfied having received funding, but also because the NCoE concept is a unique collaboration across national borders.

The Nordic research collaboration is thus well on the way to create the added value that the Nordic Prime Ministers had in mind when the Top-level Research Initiative was launched during a ministerial meeting in Punkaharju, Finland in 2007.

- I can confirm that there is a great interest for the Top-level Research Initiative in Europe, because we have really made something happen. This is a system that makes it more valuable for Nordic researchers to work together, and the system creates incentives for co-funding from other sources. It certainly looks like we‘re about to meet the objectives of making Nordic research more visible. The new Nordic Centres of Excellence can be described as the jewel in the NordForsk crown, said an enthusiastic NordForsk Director Gunnel Gustafsson.

The best are getting better
- This looks very promising. The three centres have high international ambitions, and the outside world has noticed that something big is about to happen. The new research centres have excellent scientific quality. They include a number of experienced researchers, but they also focus on the education of doctoral candidates and postdocs. Nordic researchers have many common interests and generally find it easy to collaborate with each other. Thus there is good reason to believe that these centres will have an enormous international influence in their respective research fields, stated Chair of the Programme Committee, Mogens Henze. He is Professor at DTU Environment at the Technical University of Denmark.

The interest in participating in the Advisory Panel of NorMER does not only reflect the fact that the NCoE concept is interesting, but also the fact that Stenseth and Folke are acknowledged for excellent research through many years. - The idea behind the Top-level Research Initiative was not to build a new top level within Nordic research, but to give those who already are the best the opportunity to become even better, explained Mogens Henze in his opening speech.

The atmosphere during the kick-off seminar was so good that a proposal from the back row suggested Mogens Henze should run for office as the next Prime Minister of Denmark – a suggestion he politely declined. - I take this as a sign of the researchers’ appreciation for what we have managed to create, he later commented.

Read more about the NCoEs here

Read more about the sub-programme ”Effect studies and adaptation to climate change” here

Text and photo: Bjarne Røsjø, BR Media.
Photo from the left: Chair of the Programme Committee Mogens Henze, Michael E. Goodsite and Richard Klein from NCoE NORD-STAR, Lauri Oksanen from NCoE Tundra, Nils Christian Stenseth and Carl Folke from NCoE NorMER.