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Meld. St. 32 (2015–2016)

Svalbard — Meld. St. 32 (2015–2016) Report to the Storting (white paper)

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8 Knowledge, research and higher education

8.1 Introduction

Research and higher education represent an important focus area for Norwegian activity and presence in Svalbard. Its unique nature and location, long polar traditions, easy accessibility and modern infrastructure make Svalbard an attractive platform for Norwegian and international Arctic research and higher education. Research in Svalbard is of great interest to both the Norwegian and international scientific communities, and educational and research activity is on the rise.

The presence of researchers from many different countries creates many opportunities for international cooperation within the framework of Norwegian facilitation and regulations. Research activity also provides a basis for the unique study programme at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), where students from many different countries meet and gain common insights and knowledge that the world needs.

Research in Svalbard is important for knowledge development in many thematic areas, and has contributed to moving forward the state of the art in several disciplines. For example, new technology and improved logistics have made it possible to study life in Arctic waters all year round. New studies show that far more biological activity goes on below and near the ice around Svalbard during the polar night than previously assumed.

Norway is at the forefront of international polar research, and still ranks third in the world in the number of published articles dealing with the Arctic.1 This is therefore an area where Norway is uniquely placed to contribute to global knowledge development. Active publication, dissemination of findings and information sharing are vital if this knowledge is to be recognised and put to use.

The need for knowledge and expertise regarding the Arctic region is greater than ever before. Climate changes in particular pose major challenges to our knowledge. The climate changes are most noticeable in the Arctic, and Arctic species and ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to them. Developments in the Arctic region will have ripple effects around the world because of the key role the polar regions play in the global climate system. Insight in many disciplines is needed to understand the changes taking place and their impacts. This task is too great for one country or research discipline to resolve single-handedly. It requires interdisciplinary, international cooperation, sharing of data, and infrastructure. Developing climate models also requires many different types of data from the Arctic, and both Norwegian and international institutions provide infrastructure, contribute long, standardised measurement series, and participate in international measurement networks. These provide a basis for important system studies and for the reports issued by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Norwegian research in and around Svalbard also contributes to a solid knowledge base for Norwegian policy, management and business activity in the Arctic and in Svalbard.

Knowledge is vital for restructuring existing businesses and for creating a basis for new ones. This is why investments are being made in industry-oriented research and innovation throughout the country. This is the case for Svalbard, too, and cooperation between the business and research communities could potentially take advantage of the archipelago’s natural advantages. This means accommodating a business community that develops and uses the results of research and development work and that cooperates with other knowledge communities. Space research, cold-climate technology, logistics and tourism are potential areas of research in this context. The policy for research and higher education in Svalbard has several dimensions. It is a part of national policy for research and higher education, which places emphasis on quality, internationalisation, and leveraging of national advantages. It is also a central element in Norwegian policy for the High North and the Arctic, where knowledge is a key focus area. Research and higher education also constitute an important element in the Svalbard policy, and contributes to the achievement of overriding policy objectives such as maintaining Norwegian communities in the archipelago. The Government’s goals for research and higher education in Svalbard remains unchanged. These were most recently affirmed through the Storting’s consideration of Report No. 22 (2008–2009) to the Storting Svalbard (see Recommendation No. 336 (2008–2009) to the Storting):

  • Research and higher education shall be key elements of Norwegian activity in Svalbard in the years to come.

  • Svalbard shall be further developed as a platform for international research, higher education and environmental monitoring. The archipelago’s infrastructure and unique research possibilities shall be exploited even better than they are at present. The infrastructure must be supplemented with measures that further strengthen Svalbard’s position in international knowledge development.

  • Norway shall be a key player in the development of knowledge in and about Svalbard, not just a facilitator. A professional leading role must be ensured in particular through the professional standing and quality of Norwegian polar research.

  • All activity shall be in accordance with an overriding consideration of the environment. Research and higher education in climate and the environment is a natural focus area, and this research is itself dependent on the area being kept unaffected by local impacts as far as possible.

Norway has for many years facilitated higher education and extensive Norwegian and international research in Svalbard. As host for this important international activity, the Government now wants to facilitate conditions so that these unique research opportunities can be exploited in an even better way. The Government will therefore take action towards:

  • better use and coordination of resources

  • more clearly defined research priorities

  • improved quality and professional management

  • more clearly defined expectations for scientific quality, cooperation, and open sharing of data

This in turn will promote scientific advances and better results from the overall research activity in Svalbard, and support the objectives of minimising adverse environmental impacts and strengthening the scientific basis for the study programmes offered.

Section 8.2 discusses research and educational activity in Svalbard, and some key challenges and needs. Section 8.3 describes the priorities in this area going forward.

8.2 Status and challenges

8.2.1 Investments and increasing activity

The scope of research and higher education in Svalbard has doubled during the past decade, making this area a vital part of the activity in the archipelago. In line with the objectives stated in the previous white paper (Report No. 22 (2008–2009) to the Storting Svalbard), Svalbard today is a platform for international research, higher education and environmental monitoring.

It is an expressed objective that Svalbard’s unique natural advantages and accessibility be fully exploited for research and higher education purposes. At the same time, the activity itself must not cause harm to this platform. Research and higher education have taken place – and by and large ought to continue to take place – on the basis of established inhabited locations and research stations. There has been a relatively clear division of labour between research establishments, in keeping with the qualities naturally inherent in their locations. This, together with practical coordination of fieldwork, has helped minimise damage and wear and tear. This applies to both fieldwork for research purposes and field-based instruction. Increasingly, remote sensing and automated data collection have also been helping to reduce the environmental impacts while making it possible to collect data from otherwise inaccessible areas. Developing such solutions further requires a community that encourages innovation and technology development in Svalbard.

Accordingly, Norwegian authorities have concentrated on developing and making available buildings, infrastructure and logistical services for research and education activity and on developing entities and services for practical and technical coordination, primarily through UNIS, the Norwegian Polar Institute, Kings Bay AS and the Svalbard Science Forum, and by establishing the Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System (SIOS). The various actors are discussed in more detail elsewhere in this chapter.

Longyearbyen’s role as a centre of research and higher education has been strengthened, and Longyearbyen now includes a large, broad-based scientific community centred around the Svalbard Science Centre. UNIS and the Norwegian Polar Institute each play a central role in this community. The Svalbard Science Centre also serves as an important meeting place for research dissemination, scientific debate, public education and information for students and employees, local inhabitants, tourists and other visitors. There is a wish to facilitate further development of this role. See section 6.2.4 for a more detailed discussion of the Svalbard Science Centre. In 2009, UNIS provided instruction to just under 400 students from 25 countries. The number of study places has risen steadily over the years. In 2015 UNIS had 690 students from 44 countries, equivalent to 202 student full-time equivalents. UNIS’s academic staff consists of 27 professors and associate professors, in addition to PhD candidates, postdoctoral fellows, researchers and technical and administrative personnel. In total these account for 110 permanent positions. In addition, there are 43 adjunct professors/adjunct associate professors. The number of scientific articles published has risen from 90 in 2009 to 104 in 2015, 38 per cent of which in level 2 journals (the highest quality level). This trend has earned UNIS a significant position in Svalbard’s knowledge landscape. See Box 8.3 for further discussion.

Several other organisations and research installations are located in or around Longyearbyen. These include EISCAT (European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association), which owns and operates an antenna facility outside Longyearbyen for exploring the upper atmosphere. This organisation is owned by research councils and institutes in the member countries of Finland, Japan, China, Norway, the UK and Sweden. The Centre for Polar Ecology, which is part of the University of South Bohemia, Czech Republic, was opened in Longyearbyen in 2014.

Ny-Ålesund has been developed as a research community where several international institutions are active. The state-owned company Kings Bay AS owns land and buildings, and is in charge of operations, with the exceptions of the Sverdrup station, which is owned by Statsbygg and rented by the Norwegian Polar Institute, and the geodetic observatory, which is owned by the Norwegian Mapping Authority. Ny-Ålesund is the world’s northernmost year-round research community. Since research activity began there in the 1970s, and particularly over the past 10–15 years, considerable government resources have been invested in developing Ny-Ålesund into an important platform for scientific research on the Arctic, global climate, and climate change. Ny-Ålesund’s favourable location alongside Kongsfjord is well suited to environmental monitoring and research. Ny-Ålesund has therefore evolved into an important node in international research and monitoring networks.

Regular flights operate to Ny-Ålesund, and Kings Bay AS provides joint facilities for accommodation and scientific research activity. Kings Bay rents out buildings to international research institutions that use the facilities as a base for research in Svalbard. Fourteen institutions currently have rental contracts and conduct permanent research activity in Ny-Ålesund. As measured by the number of research days in Ny-Ålesund, the Norwegian Polar Institute is the largest Norwegian research institution. The second-largest is the Norwegian Mapping Authority. The international institutions come from Germany, The United Kingdom, Italy, France, Japan, South Korea, China, the Netherlands and India.

A significant amount of research is also conducted elsewhere in the archipelago. The Norwegian Meteorological Institute has stations at Hopen and Bjørnøya, which primarily are used for routine meteorological observations. Radiosondes are also released on Bjørnøya. In addition, meteorological measurements are conducted for other Norwegian scientific institutions in both locations. The stations represent an important preparedness resource for search and rescue operations, and make logistics available to public institutions during (short-term) missions of benefit to society.

Trust Arktikugol has been facilitating research activity in the mining community of Barentsburg since 1962. Most of the research conducted today is associated with the Russian Academy of Sciences, Roshydromet, and the Polar Marine Geological Research Expedition. The Arctic Antarctic Research Institute (AARI), an institute affiliated with Roshydromet, plays an increasingly larger role. The research conducted covers a range of disciplines including archaeology, geology, hydrology, atmospheric research, oceanography and geophysics. Barentsburg’s research facilities have been upgraded in recent years, with installation of a satellite ground station and new chemical laboratories, among other improvements.

The Institute for Geophysics at the Polish Academy of Sciences has since 1957 had a research station based in Hornsund. This station has been permanently manned since 1978. It is also used as a base for visiting researchers from various – primarily Polish – institutions. The station has been expanded and is fully operational, with research being conducted in meteorology, geophysics, glaciology, and ionospheric and atmospheric science.

SINTEF established a field laboratory in 1984 in Svea, where it conducts technological research in cooperation with UNIS and private-sector partners. The level of activity is increasing, and there is a general increase in demand for facilities for research, development, testing and education in Arctic climate. Svea’s climate and geology afford stable fjord ice conditions and are conducive to research activity on topics such as dealing effectively with oil in ice, environment and security, construction and geotechnology, geology, materials technology, Arctic operations and safety, education and training. Svea’s coal-mining operation is currently suspended. In the time ahead, the Government will look into the continued management of Svea’s building stock and infrastructure after a possible decision to discontinue mining operations.

Several infrastructure investments have been made in recent years for the benefit of research and higher education activity in Svalbard. This applies not least in Ny-Ålesund, where the Norwegian state, through Kings Bay AS, has invested resources in further developing basic infrastructure and new services for research purposes. Kings Bay Marine Laboratory, which opened in 2005, is particularly well suited to conducting research in marine ecology, physiology and biochemistry, though it can also accommodate studies in oceanography, marine geology and physics. The Zeppelin station is one of the most central stations in a global network for atmospheric measurements coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The unique international scientific community and good access to both Norwegian and international advanced research equipment provide opportunities for high-quality scientific research. Common facilities and services provided by Kings Bay AS, such as the marine laboratory and the canteen, have contributed significantly to international cooperation in Ny-Ålesund. In 2015 the job of laying fibre-optic cable between Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund was completed. This is a prerequisite for development of a new geodesic observatory for the Norwegian Mapping Authority and also helps improve conditions for research and environmental monitoring in Ny-Ålesund. The new observatory is currently under construction and is expected to be ready for use in 2018.

In 2013 the Office of the Auditor General of Norway performed an audit on the utilisation of research infrastructure in Norwegian areas of the Arctic, and concluded that some Norwegian research infrastructure on Svalbard could be better utilised (Document 3:13 (2013–2014)). In particular, the Office of the Auditor General mentioned the potential to increase utilisation of the Sverdrup station and the marine laboratory in Ny-Ålesund. This conclusion was based on the number of research days in Ny-Ålesund between 2011–2013, with statistics showing a decline in the share of Norwegian research days and low activity during the winter. The Storting has asked the Government to consider measures to increase utilisation of research infrastructure in Svalbard, including measures to increase Norwegian research activity in Ny-Ålesund (Storting resolution of 25 November 2014 No. 34). The underutilisation was largely rectified in 2014 and 2015. Norwegian and international interest in the marine laboratory has grown substantially in recent years, and utilisation reached record levels in 2014 and 2015, partly because UNIS began using the laboratory in connection with its study programmes. Although several measures have been implemented, it is important to stay mindful of the need to increase utilisation of scientific infrastructure in Svalbard and to have strategies to do so. SIOS is an important measure in this regard (see discussion in Box 8.2). In general, importance will be attached to achieving positive synergy and a practical balance between Norwegian-owned and foreign-owned research infrastructure in the coming years.

Nearly 1,000 researchers from around 30 countries visit the archipelago annually in connection with fieldwork.2 Many of them are affiliated to Norwegian or international institutions that conduct research on a permanent basis in Longyearbyen, Ny-Ålesund, Hornsund or Barentsburg. Measured in research days3, the number of researchers in Svalbard has increased by around 120 per cent in the past 10–15 years. Researchers from Norwegian institutions account for more than half the registered research days. Although the level of Norwegian research activity has increased substantially and is by far the highest measured, in terms of both research publication and research days in Svalbard, the Norwegian share has decreased slightly. This is due to a greater increase in activity levels for international institutions overall than for Norwegian institutions, though the trends in Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund have varied somewhat. The Norwegian share of research days in Longyearbyen has increased. In Ny-Ålesund, the number of Norwegian research days has increased, but the share of Norwegian research days has decreased due to a higher level of activity for the international institutions. The Norwegian share of research days there in 2014 was 35 per cent, about the same as in 2010. During the period 1996–2000, when there were fewer international research institutions in Ny-Ålesund, the Norwegian share was over 50 per cent.

Figure 8.1 The Norwegian Mapping Authority’s new geodetic observatory in Ny-Ålesund. The observatory is due to be completed in 2018.

Figure 8.1 The Norwegian Mapping Authority’s new geodetic observatory in Ny-Ålesund. The observatory is due to be completed in 2018.

Photo: Martin Nerhus Øen/Veidekke Arctic

8.2.2 Stronger need for coordination

The growing international interest in research in Svalbard contributes to knowledge development in the Arctic. The objective is for this to happen in accordance with Norwegian research policy, which places emphasis on international research and infrastructure cooperation and on open access to data and publications. At the same time, the high level of interest puts pressure on vulnerable areas in nature, creating a need for clearer and better coordination of research activity in Svalbard.

Coordination in Svalbard in general and in Ny-Ålesund in particular was also a key issue in the previous white paper on Svalbard. The Norwegian authorities have implemented several measures to this end, first and foremost by further developing and strengthening entities and services whose purpose is to enhance coordination.

The previous white paper (Report No. 22 (2008–2009) to the Storting Svalbard) signalled a stronger coordinating role for the Svalbard Science Forum (SSF). SSF is composed of the key national and international research actors in Svalbard, with representation by the four research locations: Longyearbyen, Ny-Ålesund, Barentsburg and Hornsund. SSF received a new, reinforced mandate from the Ministry of Education and Research in 2011. The Research Council of Norway leads the forum and serves as the secretariat. SSF’s secretariat manages and operates the Research in Svalbard database (RiS). The database is owned by the Research Council of Norway.

While is not compulsory to register research activity conducted in Svalbard in the RiS database, it is strongly encouraged. Moreover, from 2015 the Governor of Svalbard requires RiS database registration for research projects that need the Governor’s permission for passage, etc. pursuant to the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act. The Svalbard Science Forum, Svalbard’s Environmental Protection Fund and the Research Council of Norway also have registration requirements for projects receiving financial support. In Ny-Ålesund and at the research station in Hornsund there are internal procedures for registering in the database. All in all, development of the RiS database has improved the overview of research activity in Svalbard to the benefit of both the authorities and the research communities, and has made it possible to significantly improve coordination of research activity.

Textbox 8.1 The Norwegian Mapping Authority’s new geodetic earth observatory in Ny-Ålesund

The Norwegian Mapping Authority’s observatory in Ny-Ålesund is the northernmost of its kind in a global network of geodetic stations. It receives signals from quasars, which are distant celestial bodies located up to 13 billion light-years out in space. When collated with measurements elsewhere on the earth, this indicates movements in the earth’s surface with millimetre precision as well as how fast the earth is rotating and the exact position of the earth in space. This is important for satellite-based infrastructure, among other things. The new facility, a major investment by Norway, provides enhanced measurement accuracy and represents a substantial contribution to global cooperation in earth observation. The earth observatory is the northernmost observatory of its kind, and is part of a global observation and research network. The observatory will be upgraded with new technology and will combine multiple geodetic measurement techniques, resulting in enhanced measurement accuracy. The new observatory, with a cost framework of around NOK 300 million, will be completed in 2018.

SSF has contributed to the development of plans and priorities for research in Ny-Ålesund with initiatives for joint research programmes (flagship programmes) in Ny-Ålesund. SSF also advises the Governor of Svalbard in cases where that office processes applications by researchers and research institutions for passage, etc. pursuant to the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act. Furthermore, SSF assists the Research Council of Norway in managing two support programmes for research cooperation and fieldwork in Svalbard: the Svalbard Strategic Grant (SSG) and the Arctic Field Grant (AFG). Both Norwegian and international actors may apply to these.

An important government institution is the Norwegian Polar Institute, which serves as adviser to the Norwegian authorities on scientific and strategic matters. The Norwegian Polar Institute has a permanent staff deployed in Svalbard, and holds a central position in Svalbard and in Norwegian polar research in general. The institute plays a key coordinating role in Ny-Ålesund by acting as the secretariat for the Ny-Ålesund Science Managers Committee (NySMAC), a body for voluntary coordination for all institutions with permanent activity and large-scale research projects in Ny-Ålesund. The institute also hosts Norwegian researchers and researchers from international institutions not established in Ny-Ålesund. The Norwegian Polar Institute is therefore well placed to both facilitate and coordinate research activity in Svalbard, and is one of the tools available for managing and developing Norway’s role as host. See Box 8.4.

A particularly important initiative that can help strengthen coordination is the Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System (SIOS). SIOS is organising cooperation to facilitate mutual access to infrastructure and data already established in Svalbard by Norwegian and international institutions. This cooperation will offer researchers new opportunities to contribute to interdisciplinary studies of the earth system, where measurements associated with ocean currents, atmospheric and geological conditions, the extent of ice and snow, and plants and animals interconnect in complex patterns. This demands far more expertise, infrastructure and measurement data than any single research institution can provide. Svalbard is well suited to this type of research, partly because climate and environmental changes are easy to observe in the Arctic. In addition to the scientific benefits, the objective is improved coordination, resource utilisation and scientific quality. The project will also promote transparency in research activity and alleviate the pressure on nature and the environment.

In order to achieve these objectives, it is important to gain the participation of as many research communities as possible with relevant infrastructure in Svalbard. The Government will facilitate further development of SIOS from a preliminary project into an established cooperative organisation. This is described in more detail in section 8.3.3.

The Svalbard Science Centre also aids coordination through co-location of the central research institutions and serving as an important meeting place. An evaluation of the Svalbard Science Centre4 shows that it has contributed to increased cooperation and exchange of expertise between the Norwegian Polar Institute, UNIS and Svalbard Museum, and to improved information activity, logistics and support.

No consolidated, overall national strategy currently exists for research and higher education in Svalbard. Each institution by and large prepares its own activity plans. Certain initiatives establish some constraints; this is especially the case with respect to the Research Council of Norway’s Policy for Norwegian Polar Research 2014–2023 and the respective flagship programmes in Ny-Ålesund (discussed in section 8.3.4). SIOS will also set forth a common strategy for further development and cooperation on the use of research infrastructure.

There is therefore a need to clarify a direction for the types of research and higher education activity that should be prioritised in Svalbard. The Government will therefore take the initiative to develop an overall strategy for research in Svalbard. The framework for this task is discussed in more detail in section 8.3.

Textbox 8.2 Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System (SIOS)

The Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System (SIOS) is a Norwegian-initiated international cooperation project aimed at enhancing knowledge about global climate and environmental changes, with a basis in infrastructure in Svalbard. The participants include several Norwegian and international institutions with research infrastructure relevant for earth system science. ‘Infrastructure’ in this case refers to laboratories, observatories, field equipment, etc. SIOS itself neither owns nor operates the research infrastructure, but facilitates mutual access to existing equipment and the sharing of collected data. SIOS also helps improve coordination of new initiatives and research priorities.

The Research Council of Norway led the preparatory phase, with participation by all institutions conducting permanent research activity in Svalbard. The preliminary project received funding from the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme and was concluded in 2014. In 2015 a Norwegian consortium led by UNIS and the Norwegian Polar Institute started an interim project which, with Norwegian and international partner institutions, will prepare core services in the future SIOS cooperation project.

8.3 Policy instruments and measures

8.3.1 Further development of UNIS

Cooperation between UNIS and the mainland universities has been strengthened in recent years through the cooperation agreement in 2011, a new quota system in 2014, and an annual meeting of the deans of the faculties involved. The aim has been to ensure that all courses and subjects taken by students at UNIS be included in examinations and study programmes at the mainland university. There is nonetheless a need to further develop cooperation so as to make use of UNIS’s potential, to meet the requirement that 50 per cent of students come from Norwegian institutions, and to improve predictability for UNIS and the universities. It is particularly important to develop the cooperation on relevant study programmes at the universities and the course portfolio at UNIS in order to better facilitate stays at UNIS in more of its study programmes. UNIS will assess and revise its quota scheme in 2016.

In the further development of UNIS, consideration must also be given to whether students could complete a larger part of their bachelor or master theses at UNIS and whether UNIS ought to offer more of the basic courses that make up bachelor and master degree programmes. This in order to give more candidates from Norwegian universities a stronger Arctic academic profile and help utilise UNIS’s capacity outside the fieldwork season.

The Government wants to maintain and develop UNIS as a unique institution for university-level studies and research in Svalbard, with a range of academic programmes and research activity that capitalise on the natural advantages of the location. The UNIS board of directors has considered different scenarios for developing the institution. These scenarios describe both for potential academic expansion based on today’s natural sciences and technology profile, and new potential subject areas that also meet the requirement of Arctic relevance, such as tourism and security in the Arctic. Future expansion of UNIS would require further expansion of the premises at the Svalbard Science Centre.

Textbox 8.3 University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS)

The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) is the world’s northernmost higher education institution, and over the past 20 years or so it has expanded from a programme for a few Norwegian students to a world-class university centre for Arctic studies. UNIS trains candidates with polar expertise for work in public administration, the private sector and polar research. UNIS is highly popular with students from around the world, and promotes international cooperation and networks.

UNIS was originally created as a cooperative project among the four universities in 1993, but is now a limited liability company under the Ministry of Education and Research. All instruction is conducted in English, and the programmes are based on international research. UNIS offers study programmes in four disciplines: Arctic biology, Arctic geology, Arctic geophysics and Arctic technology. Most of the instruction is based on field activities and excursions, so the activity level is lower during the darkest time of year. UNIS has office space in the Svalbard Science Centre and provides most of its instruction there, though some instruction also takes place in Ny-Ålesund and Svea, as well as in the field. UNIS is not accredited as a university, and the courses that are taught must be part of ordinary courses of study at mainland universities. UNIS’s centre for auroral research, the Kjell Henriksen Observatory, is situated on Mine 7 Mountain in Adventdalen. In addition to the self-financed research in the four subject areas, UNIS participates in several externally financed cooperative projects, among them the Birkeland Centre for Space Science (BCSS), which is a Centre of Excellence at the University of Bergen. Other examples are the Sustainable Arctic Marine and Coastal Technology (SAMCoT) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the Research Centre for Arctic Petroleum Exploration (ARCEx) at the Arctic University of Norway. UNIS also participates in a Centre of Excellence in Education initiative in biology (bioCeed) at the University of Bergen.UNIS has received support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to establish a new Arctic Safety Centre in Longyearbyen. The Arctic Safety Centre is a cooperative project between the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, SINTEF, the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Governor of Svalbard, Pole Position Logistics, SvalSat, the Longyearbyen Community Council, Lufttransport and Visit Svalbard.

Textbox 8.4 Norwegian Polar Institute

The Norwegian Polar Institute is the central government institution for mapping, environmental monitoring and management-related research in the Arctic and Antarctic. The institute serves as adviser to the central Norwegian administration on scientific and strategic matters and as scientific adviser to the Norwegian Environment Agency and the Governor of Svalbard. The institute conducts extensive activities in Svalbard, including research, environmental monitoring, topographic mapping, geologic mapping, research and logistics services, operation of research stations, lighthouse inspection and advisory tasks. The institute is a key knowledge producer and possesses broad research-based expertise in areas where the environmental management authorities have direct management responsibility in the High North and polar regions or serve as a key driving force in both national and international processes. Furthermore, the Norwegian Polar Institute develops, revises and leads the Environmental Monitoring of Svalbard and Jan Mayen (MOSJ). Another important task of the institute is to help stimulate and coordinate national and international research in Svalbard through cooperation on research projects and by granting access to the institute’s infrastructure, such as research stations, field equipment and transport. Along with UNIS, the Norwegian Polar Institute provides important logistical services to many Norwegian and international research partners in Svalbard. In addition to its offices in Longyearbyen, the institute has a research station in Ny-Ålesund and owns an air monitoring station on Zeppelin Mountain. The institute’s research vessel, Lance, is also in regular use around Svalbard. In 2012 the Storting approved a resolution to build Kronprins Haakon, a new icebreaker research vessel. The Norwegian Polar Institute is charged with managing ownership of the vessel on behalf of the Norwegian state. The Institute of Marine Research will have operating responsibility and will lead the expeditions committee for the vessel. The Norwegian Polar Institute is charged with managing ownership of the vessel on behalf of the Norwegian state. The Institute of Marine Research will have operating responsibility and will lead the expeditions committee for the vessel. The expeditions committee will consist of the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Institute of Marine Research, and the Arctic University of Norway. According to plans, Kronpris Haakon will be ready for scientific expeditions in 2018, with Tromsø as its home port.

The Government will:

  • Maintain and further develop UNIS as a unique institution for university-level studies and research on Svalbard, with a range of academic programmes and research activity that capitalise on the natural advantages of the location.

  • Facilitate further cooperation between UNIS and mainland universities to make the most of UNIS’s potential, to satisfy the requirement that 50 per cent of students come from Norwegian institutions, and to improve predictability for both UNIS and the universities.

8.3.2 Improved quality and scientific leadership

Norwegian research, expertise and presence are important if Norway is to have access to – and contribute to – the international knowledge frontier in the Arctic. At the same time, the nature of the research is international, and Norwegian Svalbard research is an integral part of international research. An expressed objective is to develop and utilise both Norwegian and international expertise in different disciplines and thematic areas. It is also desirable and natural to have Norwegian leadership in key research fields. This requires central Norwegian research groups to be present, with high scientific quality, sufficient volume and strong international partners.

Norwegian polar researchers are generally attractive partners for international polar research cooperation. Norway has strong research communities with active research activity in Svalbard and, in a number of areas, leading expertise. Scientific leadership is developed and expressed through international research cooperation. The Svalbard research is distinguished by its high level of international cooperation. About half of the articles have international co-authors. Norwegian polar researchers represent the most important cooperation partner for international researchers in Svalbard. This suggests solid Norwegian leadership in Svalbard research. As many as three of four Norwegian articles dealing with Svalbard were co-written by authors from other countries. This is positive, and there is a wish to maintain and further develop this position. Conducting research in Svalbard must therefore be made more attractive to Norwegian researchers. At issue are the academic and social environments, the design of funding programmes, infrastructure, and research opportunities for both established and young Norwegian researchers.

The Government’s objective is for Svalbard to be used for high-quality research in priority areas. A 2015 report by the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU), titled Norsk polarforskning – forskning på Svalbard (Norwegian polar research: Research in Svalbard), shows that, regardless of nationality, articles dealing with Svalbard are less frequently cited than the global average for articles dealing with polar research. The relatively low citation count may be due to the research topic or project design, but it may also indicate that the quality of international research in Svalbard could be better. In any case, the Government is concerned with emphasising quality in the future work of facilitating research activity in Svalbard.

The Government will:

  • Continue the focus on polar research and the special emphasis on Svalbard research, in order to help strengthen the volume and quality of Norwegian research in Svalbard. The Government will also consider possible measures to encourage Norwegian researchers to take advantage of the research opportunities available in Ny-Ålesund.

  • Facilitate increased international cooperation through bilateral and multilateral arrangements. Horizon 2020 also advertises funding for Arctic research. The general policy instruments available through the Research Council of Norway, including those that encourage Norwegian participation in Horizon 2020, will contribute to this.

  • Conduct a review of research on Svalbard and consider how policy instruments can be directed with even greater effect towards both increasing Norwegian Svalbard research and encouraging the international research community to cite such research.

Textbox 8.5 Research Council of Norway

The Research Council of Norway acts as the central government adviser on research policy issues, and annually allocates about NOK 9 billion to research and innovation projects. Through its programmes and schemes, the Research Council of Norway funds several research projects and activities in Svalbard. In addition, the Research Council of Norway manages the two support programmes Arctic Field Grant and Svalbard Strategic Grant, based on recommendations and advice from the Svalbard Science Forum (SSF). The Research Council of Norway regularly initiates surveys of resource input and scientific publication activity in Norwegian polar research. Furthermore, the Research Council of Norway has regional responsibility to facilitate more research-based economic development in Troms county. In 2015 the area of responsibility was expanded to include Svalbard, and the Research Council’s work with the business community in Svalbard was consequently intensified. The regionally responsible body cooperates with Innovation Norway Troms and Svalbard. The Research Council of Norway has a permanent presence in Longyearbyen by virtue of its responsibility as secretariat for SSF.

8.3.3 Clear Norwegian role as host

Interest in the Arctic is steadily growing, both nationally and internationally, and institutions from more and more countries are contributing with Svalbard-based research activity. Norway facilitates research and higher education in Svalbard, and will actively continue scientific research and practise a clear policy for hosting such activity. Research activity in Svalbard will be conducted in line with relevant Norwegian regulations; see Chapter 5, ‘Legislation’, and Chapter 7, ‘Environmental protection’.

The Government will further develop Norway’s hosting policy by improving coordination and clarifying priorities and conditions for research activity. The aim is to achieve higher quality, more cooperation, transparency and sharing, and better utilisation of resources across institutional and national boundaries. Therefore, more emphasis should be placed on generally accepted criteria for developing and measuring quality with respect to utilising infrastructure and limited resources. International cooperation should be further promoted. Research findings, data and infrastructure should be made more easily available for mutual access and sharing.

The Government will develop an overall strategy for research and higher education in Svalbard. The strategy should communicate Norway’s expectations for the knowledge communities in Svalbard and give direction for further development in different geographic and thematic areas. This particularly applies to expectations regarding cooperation, transparency and sharing of data across institutional and national boundaries. The strategy should contribute to quality, effective resource utilisation and transparency with regard to the international activity in the archipelago. It should also be a tool for setting priorities when expanding and using infrastructure, services and scientific activity in vulnerable nature areas in and around Svalbard that will reduce the need for infrastructure development and traffic through the natural environment. Moreover, the strategy should identify instruments and measures for pursuing objectives and strategies, and identify priority areas to which Norwegian research can contribute with especially good effect.

The Research Council of Norway will be tasked with proposing such a strategy, based on a wide-ranging process involving central authorities, the Governor of Svalbard, and all actors undertaking research and educational activity in Svalbard. The Research Council will also have primary responsibility for evaluating how the strategy is implemented.

Based on the strategy, broad cooperation will be facilitated on research infrastructure and data for earth system science through the Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System (SIOS) (see discussion in section 8.2.2). The establishment of a consortium, through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the participating institutions, is envisaged. The consortium will form its own governing bodies where participants will make decisions regarding organisation and priorities. The consortium’s decisions and the SIOS cooperation shall operate within the framework set by the Norwegian authorities for research activity in Svalbard. A non-profit limited liability company, wholly owned by UNIS, will be established to attend to recruitment, agreements, the secretariat function and services the consortium will need. SIOS will produce maximal synergy if all central Norwegian and international research institutions in Svalbard actively participate.

To improve overview and coordination, it is important to further develop the Svalbard Science Forum (SSF), SSF’s secretariat, and the Research Council of Norway’s office in Longyearbyen. This will prove extremely useful to established research communities and new researchers arriving in Svalbard. The Arctic Field Grant and Svalbard Strategic Grant funding programmes are important for international cooperation, but they should be designed, more so than they are today, to encourage activity aligned with research priorities. The proposed strategy for research and higher education will provide a good basis for this. At the same time, SSF’s information and dissemination activities should be intensified in order to improve the overview of research projects and make it easier for research communities to find and enter into cooperation with each other. There is also a need to further develop the RiS database with a view to improving, among other things, the effectiveness of the Governor of Svalbard’s procedures for processing applications to conduct fieldwork pursuant to environmental legislation. The objective is to have all the research communities in Svalbard use the database to enter information regarding their activity and actively use it to enhance cooperation. The Svalbard Science Forum is an important arena for achieving this objective.

The Government will:

  • Develop an overall strategy for research and higher education in Svalbard. The Research Council of Norway will have responsibility for preparing a strategy proposal on the basis of a wide-ranging process. Central government authorities, the Governor of Svalbard, the business community and all research and higher education organisations in Svalbard will be involved. The Research Council will also have primary responsibility for evaluating how the strategy is implemented.

  • Facilitate formal establishment of SIOS in the course of 2016. As the host of SIOS, Norway will help cover a significant share of the expenses. The participating institutions are also expected to contribute through membership fees and other resources.

  • Further develop the Svalbard Science Forum (SSF) and the Research Council of Norway’s office in Longyearbyen. Objectives, tasks and roles will be updated in a new revision of the mandate. The Research Council’s stimulus funding and support programmes related to SSF will be designed in line with the priorities in the strategy.

8.3.4 Issues specific to Ny-Ålesund

The Government wishes to strengthen Norway’s role as host and coordinator of research activity in Ny-Ålesund. Ny-Ålesund shall be a platform for world-class, international scientific research cooperation, with Norway in a clear role as host and with professional standing and leadership in relevant areas. There is a need, meanwhile, for more clearly defined strategic priorities, improved academic and practical coordination, and more systematic development and management of building stock and infrastructure.

Activity should be be more clearly aligned with the overriding research objectives, with a basis in research priorities, scientific quality, a greater level of cooperation, and open sharing of data and results. A gradual shift is also desired away from research stations located in separate buildings to centres thematically aligned with priority areas and equipped for shared use.

A research strategy for Ny-Ålesund will be developed with a view, in part, to strengthening Norway’s role as host and supporting its Svalbard policy. Such a strategy will be a useful tool for assessing and allocating time and space in existing buildings and laboratories. It will also provide a basis and guidelines for long-term plans for further development of infrastructure, buildings and services in Ny-Ålesund. This will also form a basis for communicating clear expectations to all actors in Ny-Ålesund.

The research strategy should be seen in the context of the overall strategy for research and higher education in Svalbard. The Research Council of Norway will be responsible for drawing up the research strategy for Ny-Ålesund, in consultation with the relevant ministries and with Norwegian and international research communities. This process should secure sufficient support and breadth of participation among scientists while and at the same time protect the various Norwegian research interests in Svalbard.

The Norwegian Polar Institute, which is a directorate organised under the Ministry of Climate and Environment, will be responsible for implementing and following up the research strategy in Ny-Ålesund in consultation with the Research Council of Norway and with relevant ministries and actors. The Norwegian Polar Institute already has a presence in Ny-Ålesund. The institute is a key research actor with professional standing and international credibility, and is the Norwegian state’s principal body for protecting Norwegian interests in the polar regions. These aspects are vital prerequisites for satisfactorily implementing the strategy.

Figure 8.2 Ny-Ålesund.

Figure 8.2 Ny-Ålesund.

Photo: Max König, Norwegian Polar Institute

Organisation, operation and ownership

The research strategy will provide guidelines for the development and operation of infrastructure in Ny-Ålesund. In the future, operational responsibility for Ny-Ålesund should be seen in the context of implementing the research strategy. Since the Norwegian Polar Institute will coordinate the operative implementation of the research strategy, it is natural that responsibility for managing state ownership in Kings Bay AS be transferred from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries to the Ministry of Climate and Environment. This will help concentrate and clarify responsibility for following up the overriding objectives and strategies for Ny-Ålesund and enable relevant issues to be viewed in broader context. As planned, responsibility for managing the state’s ownership in Kings Bay AS will be transferred from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries to the Ministry of Climate and Environment on 1 January 2017. Responsibility for managing the state’s ownership in Bjørnøen AS, which owns land and buildings of historical significance on Bjørnøya and is administratively subordinate to Kings Bay AS, will simultaneously be transferred from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries to the Ministry of Climate and Environment. Consideration will also be given to whether the ownership rights held by Kings Bay AS and Bjørnøen AS to the land in Ny-Ålesund and on Bjørnøya should be transferred to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, which manages all state-owned land in Svalbard.

The Government will:

  • Strengthen coordination in Ny-Ålesund through the development of a research strategy for Ny-Ålesund by spring 2017. The research strategy for Ny-Ålesund should be seen in the context of the overall strategy for research and higher education in Svalbard and should support Norway’s role as host and its research policy in Svalbard. The Research Council of Norway will have responsibility for drawing up a strategy in cooperation with the relevant actors, research bodies and ministries.

  • Give the Norwegian Polar Institute responsibility for operational implementation and monitoring of the research strategy in Ny-Ålesund. In order to appropriately follow up the strategy in Ny-Ålesund, regular dialogue will be established between the Research Council, the Norwegian Polar Institute, Kings Bay and the relevant ministries.

  • Transfer responsibility for managing the state’s ownership in Kings Bay AS from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries to the Ministry of Climate and Environment with effect from 1 January 2017. The purpose is to coordinate implementation of the research strategy with operation and development of Ny-Ålesund. Responsibility for managing the state’s ownership in Bjørnøen AS, which is administratively subordinate to Kings Bay AS, will also be transferred simultaneously from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries to the Ministry of Climate and Environment.

Textbox 8.6 Kings Bay AS

Kings Bay AS owns land, facilities and most of the building stock in Ny-Ålesund, and provides services to the research activity conducted there. The company also owns Kings Bay Marine Laboratory. Many Norwegian and international research institutions rent buildings and facilities from Kings Bay. The Norwegian tenants are: the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, the Norwegian Mapping Authority, the Northern Research Institute (NORUT), the Andøya Space Center and the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS). The international institutions are: the Alfred Wegener Institute, the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, the German Research Centre for Geosciences, Institut Polaire Francais/Paul Emile Victor, the Korea Polar Research Institute, India’s National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research, the British Antarctic Survey and the Arctic Centre of the University of Groningen. Kings Bay AS owns and maintains Svalbard’s largest collection of automatically listed heritage buildings. These valuable cultural heritage sites have been cared for and repaired, but the protection regulations impose some constraints on how the building stock is used and developed.

8.4 Summary

The Government will:

  • Maintain and further develop UNIS as a unique institution for university-level studies and research on Svalbard, with a range of academic programmes and research activity that capitalises on the natural advantages of the location.

  • Facilitate further cooperation between UNIS and mainland universities to make the most of UNIS’s potential, to satisfy the requirement that 50 per cent of students come from Norwegian institutions, and to improve predictability for both UNIS and the universities.

  • Continue the focus on polar research and the special emphasis on Svalbard research, in order to help strengthen the volume and quality of Norwegian research in Svalbard.

  • Consider possible measures to encourage Norwegian scientists to take advantage of the research opportunities available in Ny-Ålesund.

  • Facilitate increased international cooperation through bilateral and multilateral arrangements. Horizon 2020 also advertises funding for Arctic research. The general policy instruments available through the Research Council of Norway, including those that encourage Norwegian participation in Horizon 2020, will contribute to this.

  • Conduct a review of research on Svalbard and consider how policy instruments can be directed with even greater effect towards both increasing Norwegian Svalbard research and encouraging the international research community to cite such research.

  • Develop an overall strategy for research and higher education in Svalbard. The Research Council of Norway will have responsibility for preparing a strategy proposal on the basis of a broad-based process. Central government authorities, the Governor of Svalbard, the business community and all research and higher education organisations in Svalbard will be involved. The Research Council will also have primary responsibility for evaluating how the strategy is implemented.

  • Facilitate formal establishment of the Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System (SIOS) in 2016. As the host of SIOS, Norway will help cover a significant share of the expenses. The participating institutions are also expected to contribute through membership fees and other resources.

  • Further develop the Svalbard Science Forum (SSF) and the Research Council of Norway’s office in Longyearbyen. Objectives, tasks and roles will be updated in a new revision of the mandate. The Research Council of Norway’s stimulus funding and support programmes related to SSF will be designed in line with the priorities in the strategy.

  • Strengthen coordination in Ny-Ålesund through the development of a research strategy for Ny-Ålesund by spring 2017. The research strategy for Ny-Ålesund should be seen in the context of the overall strategy for research and higher education in Svalbard and should support Norway’s role as host and its research policy in Svalbard. The Research Council of Norway will have responsibility for drawing up a strategy in cooperation with the relevant actors, research bodies and ministries.

  • Give the Norwegian Polar Institute responsibility for operational implementation and monitoring of the research strategy in Ny-Ålesund. In order to appropriately follow the strategy in Ny-Ålesund, regular dialogue will be established between the Research Council, the Norwegian Polar Institute, Kings Bay and the relevant ministries.

  • Transfer responsibility for managing the state’s ownership of Kings Bay AS from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries to the Ministry of Climate and Environment with effect from 1 January 2017. The purpose is to coordinate implementation of the research strategy with operation and development of Ny-Alesund. Responsibility for managing the state’s ownership in Bjørnøen AS, which is administratively subordinate to Kings Bay AS, will also be transferred simultaneously from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries to the Ministry of Climate and Environment.

Footnotes

1.

Source: ‘Norsk polarforskning – forskning på Svalbard. Ressursinnsats og vitenskapelig publisering – indikatorer 2014’ (Norwegian polar research: Research in Svalbard. Resource input and scientific publication: Indicators 2014). Dag W. Aksnes, Kristoffer Rørstad, Report 2015:37, Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU).

2.

Svalbard Science Forum: Estimates based on data registered in the Research in Svalbard database.

3.

NIFU:2015. The term research days indicates how many days were spent in Svalbard for research purposes, but is not an exact measurement of the amount of research. For example, data and observations gathered during research stays in Svalbard are normally processed at the home institution instead of in Svalbard.

4.

‘Svalbard forskningspark: Etterevaluering, desember 2014’ (Svalbard Science Centre: Ex-post evaluation, December 2014). Erik Whist, Gro Holst Volden, Knut Samset, Morten Welde and Inger Lise Tyholt Grindvoll (NTNU 2014).

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