8 Research and higher education
Svalbard is the most easily accessible high Arctic region in the world. With its geographical position, natural science qualities, favourable climate and infrastructure, the archipelago meets every condition for an effective platform and centre for national and international Arctic research. A further advantage is that extensive research has been going on on Svalbard for 200 years. A number of natural phenomena have consequently been under longer continuous observation there than in other Arctic areas. Moreover, Norway manages cultural remains on Svalbard that represent the cultural heritage of many nations after four centuries of activity and that constitute valuable material for cultural and other research. Environmental conditions have also been relatively thoroughly surveyed. The University Courses on Svalbard (UNIS) have added a further dimension to Svalbard. The archipelago has become a platform for education at a high international level. Thus, conditions there lend themselves very well to both national and international research and higher education.
The 1990s have seen a substantial increase in research and educational activities on the archipelago. Svalbard has become central to both national and international research in the Arctic. At the same time, the research and education activities have become more integrated into the local community. In the jobs created, and in its local purchases of goods and services, the sector makes important contributions to the Norwegian communities on the archipelago. Research and education are now among the major activities on Svalbard, and are more prominent in the overall political picture than they were before.
As in other sectors, there is in continued growth in research and education also a potential for conflict, among other things in relation to the overall environmental targets for the archipelago. Education and research must be developed so as to keep these areas of conflict as small as possible, though it must also be recognized how important such activities are to good effective management of the environment. The Government's objective of preserving Svalbard's wilderness nevertheless also sets limits to research and education activities on the archipelago.
8.2 The importance of Svalbard to research and higher education
8.2.1 Natural conditions
Svalbard makes up a considerable part of Norway's and Europe's last untouched wilderness. Biologically, the archipelago is among the richest land areas in the high Arctic. Plant and animal life exist to a large extent in their natural habitats and population sizes. Ecological systems are simple and relatively unaffected by human activity. At the same time, extreme environmental factors have resulted in special evolutionary adaptations in the organisms. This makes Svalbard well suited to studies of fundamental ecological and evolutionary processes in an original state.
The situation of Svalbard north of the "polar cleft" in the earth's magnetic field offers good opportunities for the study of fundamental ionospheric processes and flows of energy. What makes Svalbard special in this connection, however, is its suitability for research into "dayside Northern Lights", a phenomenon which can only be studied from a few land areas in the Arctic.
All geological periods are represented on Svalbard. Sparse vegetation and little debris make it possible to study geological structures and geomorphological processes directly and across large surfaces, and there are rich occurrences of fossils of many types of organisms. The geological formations of the continental shelf are well represented on Svalbard. Between them these factors make Svalbard highly suitable for research and education in the field of geology.
Large volumes of cold water and almost 95 per cent of all the ice which flows out of the Arctic Ocean pass through Framstredet west of Svalbard. At the same time, a large proportion of the Gulf Stream turns west and south under the ice to the west of the archipelago, while one important branch dips under the ice north of Svalbard and flows eastward into the Arctic Ocean. The heat exchange which this causes has a major impact on the climate and the weather in our part of the world. The Greenland Sea southwest of Svalbard is one of the two places on earth where deep-water formation takes place on a large scale, and water flows southwards and out into the oceans. This process has an important bearing on the global pattern of circulation in the oceans, and probably also a considerable influence on the greenhouse effect because CO2 is dissolved in the volumes of cold water and removed from contact with the atmosphere, cf. Fig. 8.1.
Figure 8.1 Map of sea ice patterns and ocean currents in the Arctic.
Model studies moreover show that any changes in climate will impact first and most powerfully on the polar regions. Svalbard's position in the far north improves the extent and range of registrations and monitoring of weather and climate parameters of importance to both weather forecasting and climate research. Svalbard and the surrounding sea areas are also important "archives" of information about earlier climate fluctuations. Glaciers on Svalbard, and the extent and quantity of drift ice, could also provide significant monitoring parameters in connection with future changes of climate. Svalbard is thus a key area for research and surveillance relating to changes in the global climate.
The depleted ozone layer is less extensive in the Arctic than in the Antarctic, because the temperatures in the atmosphere are higher. This necessitates going relatively further north than correspondingly south to investigate and monitor the ozone layer. Thus Svalbard is also a suitable platform for research and monitoring of this phenomenon.
Nearly all water and pollutants entering the Arctic Ocean from the large Arctic rivers flow past Svalbard. Ocean currents and winds also carry pollution from industrialized regions in Central Europe and the USA to the northern polar regions and Svalbard. Svalbard is therefore a central geographical location for monitoring long-range pollution. In addition, the simple ecosystems lend themselves well to research into the effects of pollution and the accumulation of environmentally hazardous substances in the food chain.
Svalbard possesses natural qualities of interest to technological research. Permafrost makes all construction and management of infrastructure demanding. Laying the foundations for roads and buildings, and thermal insulation, are obvious fields for study and teaching on the archipelago. Such research also has a practical bearing on community life on Svalbard.
Svalbard is rich in cultural remains, and thanks to the cold dry climate some remains which are up to 300 or 400 years old are well preserved. Material for instance from 17th and 18th century graves has an information potential often missing from other material from the Europe of the time. This is especially true of people from social strata about which there are few written sources. The archipelago also has a large number of interesting and unique historical remains from more modern times relating to hunting and trapping, scientific exploration, and industrial activity.
All satellites in polar orbits are "visible" from Svalbard. Svalbard is therefore ideally suited for receivers for the downloading of data from satellites. For details, see Box 7.1 The Svalbard Satellite Station. Polar orbiting satellites also collect earth survey data from the northern regions. Ground-based instrumentation, balloon releases and rocket launches from Svalbard are other sources of important information on possible climatic variations in the Arctic atmosphere. Such an "ensemble" of measurements can in practice only be carried out on Svalbard. Registrations made on Svalbard also provide international observation networks with enhanced coverage because of the archipelago's remoteness. This also applies to geodetic and seismological networks and downloading from satellites.
In addition to the archipelago itself, the surrounding sea areas are also of great importance. The marginal ice zone and the Barents Sea constitute one of the world's most productive sea areas, as well as being highly important feeding and nursery grounds for species caught in more southerly sea areas. The marginal ice zone moves like a wave of biological production across the Barents Sea in the spring and autumn, and the biological processes in the zone are of great interest scientifically and from the management point of view. It should also be mentioned that the world's largest continental shelf is located at the rim of the Arctic Basin and under the marginal seas in the Arctic.
8.2.2 Infrastructure and logistics
Most of the basic infrastructure needed to support modern research and education can be found in Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund, as well as a diversified economic sector capable of supplying many of the goods and services needed in such activities. There has in recent years been an extensive expansion of research stations and research installations on the archipelago. In addition, there are regular flights between the Norwegian settlements on Svalbard and the mainland, and well developed tele-communications and data networks. Modern port facilities have also been constructed in the Norwegian settlements in recent years. The west coast of Svalbard is open to shipping for large parts of the year.
8.2.3 Treaty terms
The special terms of the treaty make Svalbard an attractive platform for international research. The Svalbard Treaty provides non-discriminatory rights for nationals of all signatories to enter and stay in the archipelago and the waters, fjords and ports within its territories. Article 5 states that conventions will lay down the conditions for scientific research. No such provisions exist, however, and by virtue of its sovereignty Norway makes decisions relating to scientific research. The Treaty lays down no requirement for equal treatment nor other conditions for research. It has nevertheless been Norwegian policy to grant scientists from all nations equal working conditions, and the research and education work on the archipelago today is distinctly international.
8.3 The importance to Svalbard of research and higher education
Sufficient research-based knowledge is a prerequisite for the environmentally sound administration of Svalbard. The protected areas on Svalbard are also important reference areas for ecological research, and more knowledge is needed as a basis for the management of these areas. Norway is also responsible for acquiring knowledge about and preserving cultural remains which show human activity in the polar regions through the ages. Norwegian research and Norwegian research bases are important means not only of meeting the obligations in the Svalbard Treaty with regard to preserving the region's characteristic wilderness, but also of upholding national interests and exercising sovereignty.
Research and education on Svalbard generate considerable local ripple effects. They have stimulated commercial and hotel activities, but have also put increasing pressure on the infrastructure and the housing market.
Where the University Courses on Svalbard (UNIS) are concerned, it has been estimated that between 40 and 50 per cent of their total annual expenditure is devoted to purchases of goods and services on Svalbard. In addition, UNIS attracts numerous activities in the form of courses, conferences, and visits from researchers and guest lecturers, none of which would otherwise have taken place on Svalbard. UNIS personnel also contribute significantly to the family community in Longyearbyen. The students in Longyearbyen are a major addition to the "young adult" category, from which active members are recruited to the community's clubs and societies. The introduction of student bed-sits has given new life to Nybyen.
8.4 Status report on research and higher education
8.4.1 Strategic plans and other planning documents
In 1995, the Research Council of Norway presented the report "Organisering av forskningen på Svalbard" (the organization of research on Svalbard). It dealt among other things with the development of a strategic plan for research on Svalbard, the establishment of a coordinating body for those concerned with research on the archipelago, planning aimed at making research activities in the various settlements mutually complementary, and cooperation on the safeguarding of research interests and environmental considerations.
In 1996, the Research Council of Norway adopted a plan entitled "Strategisk plan for norsk forskning i Arktis for perioden 1996-1999" (strategic plan for Norwegian research in the Arctic in the period 1996 to 1999). According to the plan, the principal objective of Norwegian polar research is to shed light on fundamental problems of a scientific nature and to contribute to the fulfilment of national administrative responsibilities in the polar regions and of the obligations which follow from international cooperation. The following central areas of research are emphasized:
- the Arctic as a natural laboratory;
- changes in the global environment;
- preservation of Europe's natural environment;
- the exploitation of natural resources;
- polar operations;
- cooperation and conflict in the polar regions;
- polar history, the protection of cultural remains, and Arctic languages.
The next step, in 1998, was the Research Council's presentation of the report "Strategi for videreutvikling av Svalbard som forskningsplatform" (a strategy for the further development of Svalbard as a platform for research). The report notes that research is a socially useful investment and an important contributor to settlement and community life, and that these facts ought to be taken into account in the further development of the communities on Svalbard. It proposes that the establishment of new infrastructure for research activities should take place within the sectors outlined in the plan and in such a way as to make the research activities in the various settlements complement each other. It further proposes that research on any major scale should be subject to environmental impact analysis along the same lines as other activities. The document points out the importance of maintaining high standards of Norwegian research on Svalbard, and of securing sufficient operating grants to make the most of the investments in infrastructure. UNIS should give more emphasis to postgraduate and doctoral training, and further developments at UNIS should be viewed in relation to the overall research activities on Svalbard. The need to protect the areas around Ny-Ålesund, including Brøggerhalvøya and Kongsfjord, as special research areas, is also noted.
8.4.2 Organizational measures
The Research Council of Norway
As envisaged in Report No. 42 (1992-93) to the Storting on Norwegian polar research, the Research Council of Norway has been given important strategic assignments in connection with Norwegian polar research. These include advising the Interministerial Committee for Polar Affairs and other administrative bodies. To meet these responsibilities, the Research Council established the National Committee for Polar Research. The main tasks of the committee are the improvement of the national coordination of resources and logistics and the drawing up of strategic plans for polar research. The committee also serves as the link to such international coordinating bodies as the European Polar Board (EPB), the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), and the Scientific Committee of Antarctic Research (SCAR).
Svalbard Science Forum
In 1998, the Research Council of Norway established the Svalbard Science Forum, with representatives from the Norwegian Polar Institute, UNIS, Kings Bay AS, Svalbard Samfunnsdrift AS, the inhabitants of Longyearbyen, plus two research representatives appointed by the Research Council. The aim of the Svalbard Science Forum is to contribute to the coordination of research, research logistics and land use, and to provide information on infrastructure, service facilities available to research, and on research activities taking place on Svalbard. It will also provide guidance in such matters to new nations and research groups that wish to establish themselves on Svalbard. Other tasks for the Forum will be to help to maintain research interests when questions arise that affect scientific activities on the archipelago, and to promote Svalbard as an international platform for Arctic research.
Kings Bay AS
In 1996, Kings Bay AS changed its objects clause and board membership, in the light of a proposal from an interministerial working group that had examined its ownership, objects and organization. Kings Bay supplies services to and advances research and scientific activities, and contributes to the promotion of Ny-Ålesund as an international Arctic station for research in the natural sciences and for the monitoring of the environment. The company is responsible for planning and providing local infrastructure according to the needs and priorities of the research programmes. Other economic activities in Ny-Ålesund have to be conducted within the limits imposed by the research activities. The company is discussed in greater detail in section 7.3.3 Kings Bay AS.
In 1991, the research institutions which were engaged in activities in Ny-Ålesund formed a cooperation committee for local research, the Ny-Ålesund Science Managers Committee (NySMAC). The committee became operational in the summer of 1994. The Norwegian Polar Institute serves as secretariat for the committee. Kings Bay AS participates as an observer in NySMAC.
The committee's objects, terms of reference and organization are laid down in an agreement between the research institutions in Ny-Ålesund. Its functions include advising Kings Bay AS on local management and operations, and on the choice of technical infrastructure. NySMAC also aims to contribute to the development of Ny-Ålesund as an international Arctic research station, to advance cooperation between scientists and research institutions, to help to avoid extensive overlapping between research programmes and detrimental competition between the local research institutions, and to help to prevent other activities, including other research, from having a negative effect on research.
8.4.3 Research activities
The number of registered research projects on Svalbard has risen in recent years, as has the number of countries engaged in registered projects. Institutions from 17 countries in addition to Norway are now engaged in research work on Svalbard. The other countries represented are Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, the UK, Switzerland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Germany, and the USA. China has also expressed an interest in establishing research on the archipelago. At the same time, there has been a trend towards larger and weightier projects in which stations on Svalbard form parts of global networks.
The bulk of the scientific activity falls within the fields of geophysics, biology and geology. There has been especially notable expansion in geo-physics, which relates to the sharp increase in re-search into such global environmental questions as changes in the ozone layer, the climate, and long-range pollution.
Another measure of the level of activity is the number of guest nights spent in Ny-Ålesund. In 1991, research accounted for some 1 700 nights, a figure which had risen to 8 500 in 1995. In 1998, research accounted for 9 000 of a total of 23 000 nights spent in Ny-Ålesund. In the course of the 1990s, research has increasingly become a year-round activity.
According to Report No. 42 (1992-93) to the Storting, the level of Norwegian research on Svalbard was stable through the 1980s. With foreign input increasing over the same period, the Norwegian proportion of total research fell, amounting in 1988 to 22.5 per cent measured in scientist/days. In 1990, the Norwegian share rose to 30.5 per cent, but this must be viewed in relation to the decline in Soviet research on the archipelago.
Through the 1990s, the Norwegian authorities invested substantial resources in research and education infrastructure on Svalbard. In the 1993 to 1999 period there was also an increase in state financial support for scientific work, while a number of organizational steps were also taken aimed at strengthening Norwegian polar research in general and research on Svalbard in particular, cf. section 8.4.2, Organizational measures. The total volume of research on Svalbard has grown continuously in the same period, with the number of registered projects on the archipelago reaching 137 in 1998. Norwegian institutions were engaged in 64 of the projects, several of which were multinational. Norway remains the leading research programme participant, ahead of Germany, Britain and Poland.
The number of man-years worked by researchers and personnel directly engaged in services to research and higher education gives an idea of the level of activity in the sector. In 1993, 20 persons were employed in research and higher education. According to a report presented by Svalbard Næringsutvikling in August 1999, the sector accounted for 165 man-years in 1997. Adding students and man-years worked by Kings Bay AS employees gives a total of 195 man-years. The total number of man-years worked on Svalbard in 1997 was 1 058. In 1998 the number of man-years worked in research and education and by Kings Bay employees remained at 195.
In addition there are the man-years worked by visiting scholars, etc. The Research Council of Norway estimated a total of 50-60 man-years in 1996, while Svalbard Næringsutvikling reported that in Ny-Ålesund alone the figure reached 40 man-years in 1998.
Proposition No. 1 (1998-99) to the Storting shows that under the Svalbard budget the Ministries of the Environment, Trade and Industry, and Education, Research and Church Affairs allocated roughly NOK 144 million to research and education-related activities on Svalbard in 1998, including appropriations to Kings Bay. The total for the same purposes for 1999 was about NOK 138 million, and NOK 125.8 million has been proposed for 2000. The main reason for the reduction since 1998 is the termination of the heavy investments in SvalSat.
Funds appropriated in the budget of the Ministry of Trade and Industry for the development of infrastructure have been of great importance to research on Svalbard. The funding for research itself is mainly provided by the Ministries of the Environment and of Education, Research and Church Affairs, in the form of grants to, among others, the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Research Council of Norway, and the universities.
8.4.4 The University Courses on Svalbard (UNIS)
The decision to establish UNIS was taken in the autumn of 1992, and activities began in August 1993. Specially built premises were completed in August 1995. UNIS is a foundation established by the four Norwegian universities.
UNIS has the following principal objectives:
- to be responsible, together with the Norwegian universities, for university-level Arctic-related research in selected subject areas, so as to form the leading Norwegian competence centre in those areas;
- to engage in research activities which support the teaching given and exploit the opportunities on and around Svalbard for research and teaching of high international quality;
- to be a resource for Longyearbyen.
Boks 8.1 UNIS
The rate at which UNIS was established is without parallel in Norwegian - and probably international - university history. Even before the foundation was formally established in January 1994, the first students had begun work in provisional premises. In 1995 the institution was able to move into its own new building in Longyearbyen. In its first four years, four different areas of study were set up, and the target figure of some 100 student year equivalents was reached. Both the teaching staff and the student body are international, and all teaching is in English.
UNIS has undoubtedly been a success, not only academically, but also in relation to the local community. The institution provides stable year-round posts and has had a considerable ripple effect in the community. In addition, Longyearbyen has received an influx of young people taking higher education, a category previously missing in the community.
UNIS has since its establishment gradually developed its curriculum. Until 1996 it offered three areas of study, Arctic biology, Arctic geophysics, and Arctic geology. In the autumn of 1996, a fourth area of study, Arctic technology, was added. Whereas teaching covered a total of 15 subjects in 1995, by 1998 the total had risen to 33, including 15 postgraduate and PhD courses.
Within the four subject areas, students are in principle offered three types of course: one-year courses, MA and PhD courses, and combinations of the two. So far, most UNIS students have taken one-year courses. Out of regard among other things for stability and integration in the Longyearbyen community, it has been considered important for the majority of the students to stay for longer periods of time. The number of students taking postgraduate and PhD courses is rising. In 1998, 33 postgraduate students were registered at UNIS, and 24 students took the master's examination. The length of student stays varies from three weeks to one year. In 1998, 229 students attended classes, corresponding to 100 student year equivalents. The internationalization of the courses is proceeding according to plan, and in 1998, 45 per cent of the students were foreign.
UNIS employs 14 staff members in research and teaching posts and 12 in technical and administrative posts. In addition, there are 10 holders of professor II posts.
The results achieved at UNIS to date have been excellent. Few students drop out, and hardly any fail their examinations. There has also been an increase in students taking postgraduate and PhD courses and completing parts of their master's dissertations at UNIS.
Research at UNIS expanded rapidly in the 1996-1998 period. Close cooperation has been established with field experts at the Norwegian universities, and with other Norwegian and foreign institutions. In 1995, members of the UNIS staff were co-authors of 14 refereed publications; by 1998 the figure had risen to 30.
Operating and investment funds are allocated to UNIS out of the Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs budget. The appropriation has risen from NOK 12 million in 1994 to NOK 30 million in 1999. The appropriation proposed for 2000 amounts to NOK 32 million.
When UNIS was established, it was decided that its activities were to be evaluated after five years. In 1998, the UNIS board appointed an external evaluation committee consisting of four professors, each of whom represented one of the four subject areas at UNIS. The report, which was submitted in March 1999, contained very favourable conclusions. Among the points made is that UNIS, together with other research institutions on Svalbard, deserves much of the credit for the emergence of Svalbard as an international platform for Arctic research.
There is further discussion of UNIS in section 8.5.3 The University Courses on Svalbard in the years ahead.
8.4.5 Infrastructure for research and education
There has in recent years been extensive development of research stations and other infrastructure for research and education. Investment in research-related infrastructure on Svalbard in the 1990s has amounted to about NOK 500 million.
The Norwegian Polar Institute established a separate office on Svalbard in 1978. The "MAB station" in Adventdalen was built in 1977-1980, in connection with UNESCO's Man and Biosphere Programme. The buildings were taken over by the University of Tromsø in 1983 and replaced by a new station for the university's Arctic biology department in 1987. The Auroral Station in Adventdalen near Longyearbyen was established in 1979 by the universities of Oslo, Tromsø and Alaska in cooperation. The present building was put up in 1982-83. The station is operated by the University of Tromsø. As part of a national seismic network, the Norwegian Seismic Array, NORSAR, set up a seismic recording station in Adventdalen in 1991. The station monitors earthquake activities in the north, while at the same time assisting in the surveillance of the nuclear test ban.
The European Incoherent Scatter Facility, EISCAT, is an international cooperative body formed by the research councils of Norway, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Sweden and Finland. A large new research radar facility was completed in Longyearbyen in the autumn of 1996, and has since had a second scanner added, ready for use in the autumn of 1999, at an investment cost of NOK 35 million. This has greatly enhanced the performance of the EISCAT installation in Longyearbyen. The investment became possible when Japan joined EISCAT. The purpose of the radar installation is to study processes in the atmosphere such as northern lights or ozone trends. The radar also has important practical uses in connection with navigation, satellite positioning, telecommunications, etc.
The Norwegian Space Centre established SvalSat in 1997. SvalSat supplies data services for research and other purposes. See also section 7.4.5 Space-related activities.
In Longyearbyen, investments in research and education in the 1990s were mainly divided between UNIS, EISCAT and the Svalbard Satellite Station (SvalSat). NOK 50 million was invested in the buildings completed for UNIS in 1995. NOK 120 million has so far been invested in EISCAT and about NOK 70 million in SvalSat. Plans exist for the further development of EISCAT, SvalSat and UNIS in the next few years.
The first research station to be placed at the disposal of the Norwegian Polar Institute was manned in 1968. In 1987, the University of Tromsø set up an installation in Ny-Ålesund aimed at experimental plant biology.
In the course of the 1990s, Kings Bay has built up a series of important new research installations at Ny-Ålesund. The air monitoring station on Zeppelinfjellet, owned by the Ministry of the Environment and run by the Polar Institute, was opened in 1990. The German "Koldewey" station was opened in 1991 and is run by the Alfred Wegener Institute. The British Natural Environment Research Council opened a station in 1993. Since 1993, the University of Oslo has rented the old school for use as a research station and in teaching. Japan's National Institute of Polar Research established a station at Ny-Ålesund in 1993. The Norwegian Mapping Authority opened a geodesy station in 1995. Italy's research council and institute of atmospheric studies are behind the Italian station, which was opened in October 1996. In 1997, the Norwegian Space Centre established SvalRak, launching services for scientific probe rockets, as part of the Andøya rocket launching range at Ny-Ålesund. For more details see section 7.4.5 Space-related activities.
A new research station for the Norwegian Polar Institute was inaugurated in Ny-Ålesund in August 1999. It has a permanent staff of three or four in year-round employment. Under the auspices of the French polar institute, French scientists have worked at Ny-Ålesund for many years, and in the summer of 1999 the institute entered into an agreement to rent a building there. Furthermore, a new and larger air monitoring station has been erected on Zeppelinfjellet.
In the period 1990-1997 , a total of some NOK 150 million was invested in buildings, instruments and laboratories for research in Ny-Ålesund. A further NOK 100 million was invested in upgrading Ny-Ålesund's social infrastructure.
Ny-Ålesund as a Large-Scale Facility
In 1996, Ny-Ålesund was given the status of a Large-Scale Facility (LSF) up to April 2000. LSF is a programme under the EU research programme for Training and Mobility for Researchers, Access to Large Scale Facilities under the Framework IV Program. LSF in Ny-Ålesund consists of the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Alfred Wegener Institute, the Norwegian Mapping Authority, the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, and the Natural Environment Research Council. Interested scientists from EU countries are invited to engage in polar environmental protection research at LSF's research facilities in Ny-Ålesund. The support from the EU covers travel and accommodation expenses for visiting European scientists, as well as all costs incurred by the research institution in connection with the reception and support of their guests. The latter includes practical and technical engineering assistance, access to advanced instruments and data, access to laboratories, logistics and field support, etc. Cooperation with the established scientific community is of course also available. The LSF programme adds to the importance of the monitoring and research base at Ny-Ålesund, which has attracted considerable European interest. The EU has given notice that the Large Scale Facility agreement will be extended to April 2003. Financial support from the EU for the period amounts to EUR 1.2 million, or nearly NOK 10 million.
The Norwegian Polar Institute's research services
The Norwegian Polar Institute's research services on Svalbard have been based at Longyearbyen airport since 1981, with a branch at Ny-Ålesund. In the Longyearbyen premises, there are a storeroom for field materiel, an engineering workshop, an electrical workshop, and a readying hall for field consignments.
The Polar Institute's research services package meets all the practical needs scientists may have in carrying out efficient and safe fieldwork. There is equipment in the stores for both summer and winter expeditions, and the staff give instructions in its use. The services also include a safety routine involving daily radio contacts with scientists and others in the field. In cooperation with UNIS and the Governor of Svalbard, a radio communications network has been established which covers large parts of the archipelago. Training is also offered in the use of firearms, and personnel can be made available to handle the practicalities of fieldwork. Its materiel and expertise mean that the Institute is well equipped to assist in rescue operations.
The Norwegian Polar Institute's research services also extend to the Norwegian research station at Ny-Ålesund and the air monitoring station on Zeppelinfjellet. The Norwegian research station offers offices, laboratories and other equipment, and IT and communication services to external Norwegian and foreign researchers. Norwegian and foreign research organizations are also invited to set up their measurement instruments at the station and to have them seen to and operated daily. A small vessel is also attached to Ny-Ålesund, for use in marine biology and marine geology research in Kongsfjorden.
The research vessel R/V Lance, owned by the Norwegian Polar Institute, is used among other things for research expeditions in the waters around Svalbard. It also forms part of the oil pollution emergency response for Svalbard, and since it is present in all seasons it also figures prominently in the archipelago's general preparedness.
8.5 The outlook for research and higher education
Research on Svalbard helps to provide the necessary knowledge on which to base Norway's administration of the archipelago and the surrounding sea areas, not least where resources and environmental protection are concerned. Like the educational activities, the research also helps to demonstrate and confirm Norway's polar interests and expertise, and helps to uphold national interests in respect of sovereignty and jurisdiction. At the same time, the international research is of substantial benefit to Norwegian research environments.
The 1990s have seen a considerable expansion of scientific activities on the archipelago, and research and education are now prominent among the activities there. Research and education policy is an important part of Svalbard policy as a whole. However, any further growth in research and education will have to remain within environmentally acceptable limits and be viewed in relation to other social and economic developments on Svalbard.
The overall objective of the Government,s policy for research and education on Svalbard is to provide favourable conditions for:
- the planned and controlled development of research and education activities in the best interests of those activities themselves, of the local communities, and of the national administration of the archipelago;
- the best possible use of the investments in infrastructure for the benefit of research and education, and of the opportunities which the foreign research provides for Norwegian scientific institutions to participate in international research projects;
- ensuring that the further development of research and education activities takes place within environmentally acceptable limits.
Report No. 39 (1998-99) to the Storting, A new era in research, contains a discussion of Svalbard as a research platform. Among the points underlined are the importance of Svalbard as a base for international cooperation in research and education, the need to make the best possible use of the investments in Svalbard, and the need for Norwegian activities to be on a scale and at a scientific level that make us significant contributors to the international research community.
8.5.2 Norwegian research activities
The Government attaches importance to the presence on Svalbard of considerable research activities. Norwegian research must be on a scale and of a quality that will provide a sound knowledge base for the administration of Svalbard, that will uphold national interests on the archipelago, and that will give Norwegian research institutions opportunities to participate in the international research community. One of the goals of Norwegian Svalbard research must be to play a leading role internationally in important areas. The substantial Norwegian investments in infrastructure in the 1990s indicate the areas to be given priority in Norwegian research. In the Government's opinion, Norwegian research must in future emphasize the use of existing facilities in order to make optimal use of investments.
8.5.3 The University Courses on Svalbard in the years ahead
The courses offered by UNIS have undergone a gradual development from exclusively first degree courses to the inclusion of a growing proportion of postgraduate courses, cf. section 8.4.4 The University Courses on Svalbard (UNIS). This makes it easier to fit courses taken at UNIS into the curricula of other universities, especially foreign ones. A higher proportion of postgraduate courses also makes UNIS more attractive to Master's and PhD students and research and post doctoral scholars. The opportunities for Master's students to stay at UNIS during parts of their courses of study are especially important for the academic links between UNIS and the universities. For students to be motivated to study at UNIS, it is important that the universities ensure that the courses given there can be slotted into their curricula and earn the full number of credits.
An increase in the number of PhD and post doctoral scholars can also help to advance cooperation with other institutions and thus to boost the research and education taking place at UNIS. There is also considerable scope for extending teaching activities connected with the established infrastructure and existing projects.
UNIS has proposed an increase in the student target figure from 100 to 120, to be achieved by upgrading Arctic technology, exploiting vacant capacity in existing disciplines, and raising the number of admissions at postgraduate and PhD level. An expansion of activities along these lines will call for more space, and a project has been outlined for bringing the academic environments in Longyearbyen together in a Svalbard Forsknings-park (research centre). Joint location in a research centre could help to give the Norwegian presence a higher international profile, lay the foundations for offering international cooperation in research and higher education under Norwegian control, and permit substantial synergies within research and higher education. For further discussion see section 8.5.7, Norway's role as host and organizer.
A report on the question of offering social science and/or humanities courses at UNIS has been drawn up. The report concludes that there are favourable conditions for a gradual expansion of the curriculum to include cultural and social disciplines. In its report of March 1999, an international committee which evaluated UNIS after five years of operation recommended that UNIS consolidate and expand its existing course programmes in preference to extending the curriculum to include social sciences and other subjects. The UNIS board has noted that any extension would require increased appropriations and further physical expansion of the institution.
UNIS is currently organized as a foundation with the four universities as founders. The Office of the Auditor General has questioned whether UNIS ought formally to continue to be organized as a foundation. In consultation with the founders and the board, the Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs is accordingly considering changes in the way in which UNIS is organized.
Educational cooperation between UNIS and Ny- Ålesund
The community at Ny-Ålesund can give UNIS new ideas on environmental research and teaching. Few other places possess as many advanced instruments for measuring physical environmental factors as Ny-Ålesund, and extensive programmes are being carried out there for research into terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Steps should be taken to enable better use to be made of these advantages for educational purposes and to enable UNIS to use Ny-Ålesund as an advanced field station, where students can attend practical courses, research can be carried out, and links can be established with the advanced projects which are in hand there. Increased use by students and teachers would mean better utilization of the local investments. In the six-month winter season, moreover, Ny-Ålesund sometimes has considerable vacant capacity.
Significant obstacles to the use of the station by Norwegian scientists and students are the cost of travel to and from Longyearbyen and board and lodging expenses. Compared with infrastructure investments, such costs are low, but for individuals they can add up to a sizeable proportion of their operating budgets.
Cooperation between UNIS and other institutions of research and education
There is also considerable potential in expanded teaching and research cooperation between research institutions on Svalbard and on the mainland. UNIS offers courses in a large number of subjects, but this means that the individual teaching milieux may be relatively small and vulnerable. To counteract this, and to increase academic cooperation with other institutions on both teaching and research, UNIS has recruited teachers to part-time posts and employed lecturers from other universities, colleges and independent research institutions. Experience to date with the professor II appointments has been satisfactory.
Two major innovative ventures in Norwegian polar research in recent years have been the establishment of UNIS in 1993 and the Polar Environmental Centre in Tromsø in 1994. They have given a big boost to recruitment and added new drive to Norwegian polar research. International cooperation and the network of contacts have also been enhanced. The Government wishes to call attention to the potential for synergy benefits in extended cooperation and better coordination between UNIS, the Polar Environmental Centre, and other institutions involved in research and teaching on Svalbard. Such cooperation can also be strengthened by making more use of part-time appointments and research scholars. Possible synergy benefits from closer cooperation between UNIS, the universities, and the Polar Environmental Centre include increased recruitment, strengthened Norwegian polar research, and expansion of research activity on Svalbard.
8.5.4 Fields for possible cooperation and synergy benefits, and future projects
In December 1998, a working group headed by the Research Council of Norway presented a report in which it identified a number of subject areas where there were special opportunities for cooperation and synergy, and described future development projects which are being studied. The subject areas concerned accord with the priorities established in the Research Council's strategic plan for Norwegian research in the Arctic (1995). The following is a brief description of the subject areas and projects.
Interdisciplinary climate and environmental research
According to the working group's report, the field of climate and environment research stands out as offering especially good opportunities for interdisciplinary cooperation and synergies. Conditions on Svalbard are especially favourable for interdisciplinary research into the climate, a field which also holds out great scope where teaching is concerned.
Svalbard is ideally located for monitoring global long-range pollutants. Stations on Svalbard are now included in all the global networks for monitoring pollution and greenhouse gases, and are making important contributions to the understanding of how these substances are spread across the globe.
Research into the transport mechanisms and effect mechanisms is important. The biological diversity on Svalbard has many unique characteristics, and the ecosystems there are good models because they are simple and relatively undisturbed by human activity. The report states that know-ledge acquired through research into these systems can be of general value, and can be applied to more complex systems which have been significantly changed by human influence.
Space and atmospheric research
Svalbard also has special natural qualities that make it suitable for space and atmospheric research. There are exceptional opportunities both for observing natural phenomena and for receiving signals from polar orbiting satellites. In consequence, the international research community has invested in major installations such as EISCAT Svalbard radar near Longyearbyen and SvalRak at Ny-Ålesund. Together with the air monitoring station on Zeppelinfjellet near Ny-Ålesund and the establishment of SvalSat with several satellite telemetry stations at Longyearbyen, these give space and atmospheric research on Svalbard the only infrastructure of its kind in the world. According to the report, efficient utilization of this infrastructure will produce an increased scientific yield, with a ripple effect in the industrial and commercial sector on Svalbard and in northern Norway.
Together with the substantial infrastructure connected to remote sensing satellites currently being built up in northern Norway and on Svalbard, the regular launching of new satellites carrying advanced remote sensing equipment is providing unique opportunities in such areas as remote sensing, image processing and earth resource surveys.
A research centre and cultural history repository in Longyearbyen
In January 1999, a commission including representatives of UNIS, the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Directorate for Cultural Heritage/the Governor of Svalbard, and the Directorate of Public Construction and Property presented a project for the development of a "Svalbard research centre, Longyearbyen" in connection with the UNIS building and the surrounding site. The proposed extension comprises new office premises, intended to make it possible to bring the research institutions in Longyearbyen together in one location, and to provide premises for foreign scientists and research parties with projects or programmes of varying duration on Svalbard. The premises are also intended to make UNIS more flexible with regard to student numbers and research activities. In addition, the proposal comprises two buildings containing more teaching rooms, laboratories, and a storeroom for expedition equipment. In principle, the committee's proposal envisages building in a number of stages. According to the working group set up by the Research Council of Norway, a research centre would take advantage of a potential for cooperation in research and teaching which is not currently being sufficiently utilized.
Furthermore, it is proposed that the facility should house a repository for archaeological material from Svalbard, to which a simple laboratory should be attached for preventive and urgent conservation prior to transportation to the mainland for the principal conservation. Office space for visiting scholars is also proposed in connection with the repository.
The Government regards the dispersal of archaeological findings from Svalbard to various locations in Norway and abroad as unfortunate. In connection with the adoption of the cultural remains regulations in 1974, the removal of cultural remains from Svalbard was forbidden, but exemptions were granted because of the lack of storage facilities on Svalbard. The material which is now abroad was lawfully exported following exemptions from the cultural remains regulations. The return of any such material will therefore have to be based on voluntary agreements. The Directorate of Cultural Heritage has begun negotiations with authorities in the Netherlands and is in the process of reaching an agreement. Most of the material on the mainland is in Tromsø Museum, though some is also in the Museum of Natural History and Archaeology in Trondheim and in the Maritime Museum in Oslo. Movable cultural remains on Svalbard are state property.
In the Government's opinion, cultural remains from Svalbard should be collected there, and objects on the mainland should be returned there if a repository is established. The return of materials must, however, be effectuated in close cooperation with those mainland institutions which are currently responsible for them. It must also be possible to arrange loans of material to researchers elsewhere who need to study it for extended periods of time.
It would also be desirable if information on cultural history could be disseminated both to residents and to the large numbers of visitors to Svalbard, a good strategy for fostering attitudes conducive to the preservation of remains.
Marine laboratory at Ny-Ålesund
The report by the Research Council of Norway's working group points to the need noted by the international research community at Ny-Ålesund for a well equipped and functional marine laboratory there. The report points out that this would be an important step towards the establishment of wide-ranging and long-term research programmes in the Kongsfjorden, especially in the field of experimental marine biology. If built, a marine laboratory at Ny-Ålesund would complement existing facilities, and the infrastructure needs of the majority of subject areas would then be met.
8.5.5 The location of infrastructure for research and education
The Governments intends infrastructure for research and education to be located primarily in settlements. Research and education which require investments in new large-scale infrastructure should as a general rule be located in Longyearbyen. Ny-Ålesund should at the same time be further developed as a central base for research in the natural sciences, but in such a manner as not to impair the natural features on which its role as a station for Arctic research and environmental monitoring is based. The Government's intention is that developments in Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund should be coordinated. Research activities in the two settlements must be mutually complementary.
8.5.6 Ny-Ålesund - an international research and environmental monitoring station
Ny-Ålesund has become known as an international reference station for research relating to the climate and the environment. This includes research into long-range pollution and climate change, ecological research based on unaffected ecosystems, and research on the effects on organisms of human activity and physical environmental factors. "Radio silence" is another important advantage at Ny-Ålesund, permitting the effective use of passive receiving equipment.
These features of Ny-Ålesund have an effect on the kinds of research and industrial activity that can be carried out there, and for the scale of the overall activities. Ny-Ålesund's further development must be as a "green" research station. This presupposes far-sighted administration of Ny-Ålesund and management of the surrounding natural environment, and ambitious goals for limiting human impact. These goals must be guiding parameters for day-to-day operations at Ny-Ålesund.
The Government also wishes to point out how important it will be for Kings Bay to further develop its strategic plan on the basis of cooperation with the research communities, the land-use regulations for Svalbard, and current legislation, and of the plans and strategies of the Research Council of Norway. It will also be important to cooperate closely with the Research Council on matters of research policy, and to consult whenever appropriate with the Svalbard Science Forum and the Ny-Ålesund Science Managers Committee (NySMAC).
NySMAC has carried out an environmental impact assessment of the activities in the Ny-Ålesund and Kongsfjord area, including commercial activities connected with cruise tourism and fishing in the Kongsfjorden. The report points out a series of measures that can be effected to reduce the environmental impact of activity in the Ny-Ålesund area to a minimum, and to prevent such activity from lowering the quality of the area as a reference area for climate- and environment-related research. The Government assumes that Kings Bay will take the necessary steps, in cooperation with the research communities and other interested parties.
At the same time, the Government wishes to emphasize the importance of protecting the area around Ny-Ålesund, including the entire Brøgger peninsula and the Kongsfjord area, as an area devoted to research, and that this must impose limits on other activities which may harm or hinder research work in the area. Moreover, research that may be detrimental to ongoing activities or incompatible with relevant research strategies ought not in principle to be permitted at Ny-Ålesund. Existing activities must be subject to strict requirements in order to reduce and limit disturbance of the natural environment, waste and pollution, and reduce the risk of acute emissions.
8.5.7 Norway's role as host and organizer
Reasonably priced and efficient services are an important factor when research institutions decide where to locate their activities. Good research services also improve safety and permit more efficient utilization of research resources. Adequate infrastructure is an important stimulus to expansion of activity.
Norwegian research bases and services will feature prominently in the part Norway plays as organizer and host to research interests on the archipelago. Norway has promoted and controlled development in the sector by means of an active organizing policy, under which the public sector has been responsible for basic investments in both research and social infrastructures. At present, the research infrastructure is largely run on a commercial basis, with the research institutions entering into short-term contracts with the Norwegian owners or with the operating companies.
The Government continues to regard it as desirable for foreign research communities to use Norwegian infrastructure and Norwegian research bases on Svalbard rather than building up their own. This is important out of regard for both the natural environment and the controlled development of research on Svalbard. The Government considers the present organization of the research infrastructure to be suitable, and believes it should be continued.
In the Government's opinion, any further development of infrastructure and services for research and education will have to be considered in relation to the further economic development on Svalbard, and to the development of local government in Longyearbyen with the appurtenant "municipal" responsibilities.
A further increase in the efficiency of coordination and cooperation between national participants engaged in research projects on Svalbard is necessary. The Government nevertheless considers it important to give the organizational structures which have now been established time to consolidate before contemplating any further measures aimed at strengthening the institutional structure. Another measure which the Government regards as important is to provide the resources needed to give the universities and other institutions better opportunities to engage in research on the archipelago. The Government refers to Report No. 42 (1992-93) to the Storting, which envisages an increase in polar research efforts over time, to be brought about among other things by more efficient resource utilization, and by priorities in R&D funds.
Viewed in this context, it will in the Government's view continue to be an important responsibility for the Norwegian Polar Institute to offer Norwegian polar researchers a range of common services, and to help to ensure that both national and international research activities are set up in ways which uphold national interests on the archipelago. The research services of the Polar Institute have accordingly been considerably expanded in recent years, and have gained recognition in both Norwegian and international research circles.
8.5.8 Research and education in relation to the environment
The Government's objective of protecting Svalbard's natural wilderness entails limits which also apply to research and teaching activities on the archipelago. The desire to preserve Svalbard as an international reference area for national and global environmental research indicates that it is also in the interests of research to keep Svalbard's natural environment as untouched as possible. The principle that all sectors have an individual responsibility for taking the environment into account in their spheres of responsibility figures prominently in the Government's environmental policy. On Svalbard, research and education are among the fields of activity that can have a bearing on the fulfilment of central environmental objectives, and where sec-tor-al responsibility is therefore especially important. Research and education on Svalbard will be integrated into the ministries' sectoral environmental plans of action, which will be drawn up in the year 2000.
One objective is for research and education initiatives, as a general rule and unless their impact on the natural environment is insignificant, to take place in settlements. However, field activities are central elements in both research and education, and motor transport is often a prerequisite for such activities. Importance must therefore be attached to seeking to reduce the burden on the natural and cultural environment by coordinating the practical and logistical needs of different research projects. In that connection it is also necessary to consider total traffic in the region. Emphasis should also be given to scientific coordination between various research projects where collection of and experimentation with biological material are concerned, so as to reduce their impact as much as possible. Environmental considerations must also be fundamental to all activities in and utilization of the areas in and around the settlements for research and education purposes.
The expansion of research and education is increasing the pressure on protected areas. The purpose of the protection is to preserve the areas as reference areas for research. Research in those areas should be limited to activities that can not be carried on elsewhere, and that do not conflict with the purpose of the protection.
The Government intends to make environmental impact assessments mandatory for any kind of technical intervention outside the planning areas which can be expected to have a more than insignificant impact on the natural environment. This also applies to research on any significant scale.
In the continuing expansion of research and education activities, especially in the vicinity of Longyearbyen, including additional building of instrument parks, etc., there is also a potential for conflict both with the interests of outdoor activities and with other commercial activities including tourism. Parts of that industry need attractive and relatively untouched areas near the settlements in which to carry on their activities. In this connection, the Government makes reference to the land-use regulation. In addition, a strategic scientific plan should be drawn up for the utilization of the areas reserved in the land-use plans for research and education, in which future activities are viewed in relation to other land-use interests in the area.