Scientists identified knowledge gaps in Nordic Arctic research

Scientists identified knowledge gaps in Nordic Arctic research

More than 60 Nordic and international scientists joined forces at an Arctic workshop at Hanaholmen 30 – 31 May 2018. The workshop aimed to identify urgent research areas, knowledge gaps and research challenges, and was a collaboration between the 2018 Swedish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat and NordForsk.

The Nordic countries are leading research nations in Arctic science, and over the course of two days the participating scientists discussed and identified knowledge gaps which are particularly well suited for the Nordic countries, in international collaboration, to develop into world-leading Arctic research.

The first day of the workshop included opening words from Katarina Gårdfeldt, Director-General of the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, and Arne Flåøyen, Director of NordForsk, in addition to keynote speeches by the Swedish Minister for Higher Education and Research, Helene Hellmark Knutsson, and the Envoy for Climate Change and Northern and Arctic Affairs for the Government of Québec, Jean Lemire. 

The workshop took place at Hanaholmen, a cultural centre for Sweden and Finland just outside Helsinki, and is expected to lead to a report consisting of white papers on three research themes. The results are intended to promote sustainable development for the people in the Arctic, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and to provide an enhanced understanding of the global implications of a changing Arctic.

Rauna Kuokkanen new chair of NordForsk’s Arctic programme

Among the participants was the new chair of the Programme Committee for NordForsk’s Responsible Development of the Arctic programme, Rauna Kuokkanen, Research Professor at the University of Lapland, Finland. Professor Kuokkanen was very pleased with the workshop and hopeful about what the results might lead to.

Rauna Kuokkanen

“Personally, it was a great opportunity to get to know the field of Nordic Arctic research better,” the new chair said. “It was also a good occasion for social scientists and natural scientists to have quite detailed conversations about the current state and future needs of Arctic-related research. I hope it leads to closer and stronger collaboration between the fields and greater inclusivity in ways that recognise the multidimensional expertise also outside the academia, a point that was also raised at the workshop.”.

Professor Kuokkanen also took the opportunity to comment on her first impression of the four Nordic Centres of Excellence funded by NordForsk’s Arctic programme.

“The four Nordic Centres of Excellence are all ambitious and have already accomplished quite a lot in a fairly short time. I look very much forward to start seeing some preliminary results and new directions in terms of collaboration, also between the centres. The programme itself provides an excellent and unique opportunity for Nordic collaboration in Arctic research, and it’s great to see how it strives to bring natural and social sciences together as equals in a field that has traditionally been dominated by natural sciences,” says Professor Kuokkanen, who then continued with some thoughts about the future of the Arctic programme:

“Given the growing significance of Arctic-related research, I hope NordForsk’s Arctic programme will continue beyond the four Nordic Centres of Excellence and expand by strengthening collaboration throughout the circumpolar Arctic. I think NordForsk and the programme can play a key role in creating a distinctive network of research councils and grant organisations in the Arctic by actively involving Canada, the US and Russia in its work. This requires time, however, which in turn would mean that the programme needs to deliberate carefully and discuss its longer-term vision and plans,” she concludes.

About Rauna Kuokkanen

Rauna Kuokkanen is a research professor of Arctic Indigenous Politics at the University of Lapland and holds a position of associate professor at the Department of Political Science and Indigenous Studies Program at the University of Toronto. Her main areas of research include comparative indigenous politics, feminist theory, women’s rights and Arctic governance.

She was the founding chair of the Sámi Youth Organisation in Finland and has served as the vice-president of the Sámi Council. She has also long worked and advocated for the protection of Sámi sacred sites, particularly Suttesája, a sacred Sámi spring in Northern Finland.

Professor Kuokkanen’s new book Restructuring Relations: Indigenous Self-Determination, Governance and Gender, forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2018, is an indigenous feminist investigation of the theory and practice of indigenous self-determination, governance and gender regimes in indigenous political institutions.

Read more about NordForsk’s Responsible Development of the Arctic programme

Text and photo: Tor Martin Nilsen

Photo of Rauna Kuokkanen: Anna Muotka

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