Top-level research in the spirit of Nansen

The Nordic Centre for Research on Marine Ecosystems and Resources under Climate Change (NorMER) opened its first annual meeting October 11th on the site where Fridtjof Nansen defended his thesis in April 1888. Rector of the University of Oslo Professor Ole Petter Ottersen used the occasion to encourage researchers to let the spirit of Nansen inspire them.
Top-level research in the spirit of Nansen

Norway's minister of research Tora Aasland, State secretary Kristine Gramstad, and Professor Nils Chr. Stenseth. Photo:©Terje Heiestad

The NorMER centre is among the latest established Nordic Centres of Excellence. The centre started its activities in 2011 and will combine international and interdisciplinary expertise to explore the biological, economic, and societal consequences of global climate change on fisheries resources in the Nordic region, with a primary focus on Atlantic cod.

“With its emphasis on ecology, evolution and economics, the NorMER centre will generate knowledge of benefit to us all. And if we add empathic thinking to the mix, it will make it even better,” Professor Ottersen (photo) stated, pointing out, in true Nansen spirit, that Norway’s responsibilities extend beyond Ole Petter Ottersen, rektor UiOits national borders.

First steps

Norwegian Minister of Research and Higher Education Tora Aasland emphasised the importance of marine research both for sustainable food production in the future and for generating knowledge about diseases and vaccinations. She referred to the groundbreaking findings about the immune system of cod made by Professor Kjetill  S. Jakobsen of the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES) at the University of Oslo. “One of the exciting challenges of the project is to find a way to transfer knowledge gained from marine research to research on vaccines for use on humans,” she stated.

The year 2011 has been dedicated to providing information and promoting discussion about research. One obvious reason for this, as Minister Aasland pointed out, was that 2011 saw the 200th anniversary of the University of Oslo. Equally important, however, is the fact that this process is the first step towards the preparation of a new white paper on research that the Norwegian Government is planning to present in spring 2013.

“Research activities carried out at the various Nordic Centres of Excellence are crucial for generating results. But we are not able to fund everything, and so are forced to make choices. Thus, it is to everybody’s benefit that the Nordic countries have agreed to launch this initiative,” Minister Aasland stressed, also pointing out the fact that the NorMER centre has the interdisciplinary prerequisites to be able to conduct groundbreaking research in a global age.

Industrial development

State Secretary Kristine Gramstad from the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs also emphasised the importance of the NorMER centre’s research. “More knowledge is essential if sustainable development of marine resources is to be achieved. Today Norway exports seafood products to 150 countries. This would not be possible had it not been for the work of researchers,” she stated. Government policy clearly supports the development of Norway as a leading producer of seafood with the industry as the engine of this development. Gramstad also stressed the fact that sustainable growth cannot be achieved without a dedicated research effort.

Young researchers

Professor Nils Christian Stenseth of the University of Oslo and project manager of the NorMER centre, emphasised the role of the newNorMER forsamling centre in cultivating a new generation of researchers who can serve as “the glue in the system” and inspire other researchers to achieve high scientific goals. “NorMER will seek a high profile through international publication, both in specialist scientific journals and more broadly targeted journals such as Nature,” he stressed.

The scientific presentations at the opening of the annual meeting focused on the need for research as a management tool (Professor Jeffrey A. Hutchings, Dalhousie University, Canada), the cod genome (Professor Kjetill S. Jakobsen, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), University of Oslo) and new knowledge from long-term data studies (Dr Robert Dickson, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, UK).

Read more about NCoE NorMER here or on the NorMER website

Text: Pål Mugaas, Millimeterpress
Photo: ©Terje Heiestad, Millimeterpress