Arctic // Analysis

31 october 2013

Norwegian Research in the Arctic: Strategy, Priorities, Organization

Alexander Saburov Head of International Projects Section, Postgraduate of World History Department of M.V. Lomonosov Northern (Arctic) Federal University

Photo:
Flickr / Alexandra Purcaru
Tromsё - Gateway to the Arctic

An analysis of Russian and foreign media suggests that the general policy issues facing the main countries with interests in the Arctic region are currently rather well-studied. All the interested countries have devoted efforts to the region, priority areas for developing the landmass have been legally assigned, and the procedure for carrying out strategies in the has been defined. The subject of this paper is instead dedicated to the sphere of scientific activity and an analysis of the organization of research on the Arctic in Norway, a country which in the opinion of many experts, is pursuing by far the most consistent and sound policies in the region. With the term “Arctic research”, we have in the mind the organization of comprehensive studies of the region as well as policies for scientific development in the northern regions of Norway (Nordområdene – counties of Finnmark, Troms and Nordland).

Strategy for Northern Studies

The promotion of Norwegian Arctic research, as well as policies geared towards the development of the northern regions in general have always been the focus of attention at the highest level. A major priority for Norway's Arctic strategy, scientific inquiry is enshrined in the main and most up to date policy document for the North and the Arctic The High North: Vision and Policy Instruments, presented by the government to the Storting (Nordområdene: Visjon og virkemidler, hereinafter – The Development Strategy for the High North) [1] in 2011 (1). It should be noted that the Development Strategy for the High North ranks the category of science and education as number one among fifteen strategic priorities for Norwegian High North policy.

The Development Strategy for the High North ranks the category of science and education as number one among fifteen strategic priorities for Norwegian High North policy.

A more detailed Norwegian research strategy in the Arctic is defined in separate documents: The Research Strategy for the Arctic and Northern Areas 2006-2011» (Forskning.nord 2006-2011) [2] and The Research Strategy for the Arctic and Northern Areas, Revision 1 – 2011-2016 (Forskning.nord 2 2011-2016) [3]. These constitute the legal basis for Norwegian research in the North and identify priority areas of research, funding, as well as organizational structures; each is studied in detail in this paper.

Additional organizational documents for the development of scientific potential in the North include the Polar Research Policy (Polarforskningpolicy Norsk polarforskning. Forskningsrådets policy for 2010 - 2013 [4]), Climate for Research (Klima for forskning [5], 2008) and An Innovative and Sustainable Norway (Et nyskapende og bærekraftig Norge [6], 2008).

Photo: Flickr / smallpic
Vladimir Koptelov:
Russia and Norway in the Arctic

The Research Strategy for the Arctic and Northern Areas 2006-2011 substantiates Norway’s legal right to protect its interests, as well as bear responsibility for the sustainable development of the Arctic through the fact that most of the territory and the national waters of the country are located in the North. In addition, the document emphasizes that the north of Norway, compared with other countries in the region, is home to the largest proportion of the population, which is also engaged in the highest level of economic activity. Also highlighted is the special role of Norway in protecting the interests of indigenous people, as well as the environment and culture of the Arctic ([2], p.8]).

The need for developing Norwegian Arctic research at the state level was acknowledged in the mid-2000s, when government policy in the region was shaped. At that time, the development of science in the northern regions received fairly low priority, and problems in this area were identified as follows ([2], p.11):

  1. In 2003, per capita spending on science in northern Norway made up only 59 percent of the national average;
  2. Business funding for scientific research in the counties of Nordland and Troms was 35 and 39 percent of the national, respectively, while for Finnmark, the figure was only 5 percent only. The University of Tromso received 12 times more public funds than comparable private institutions. As for the University of Bergen, the proportion was 5:1; for the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Trondheim) - 3:1.
The need for developing Norwegian Arctic research at the state level was acknowledged in the mid-2000s, when government policy in the region was shaped.

In 2011, The Research Strategy for the Arctic and Northern Areas, Revision 1 – 2011-2016 was modeled on the first strategy Forskning.nord, taking into account changes in the national and international framework occurring since 2006 ([3], p.3). Increased attention to international cooperation in the region is one distinctive feature of the new strategy. The bottom line is specified below. A separate section of the document is devoted to international scientific cooperation in the Arctic, which is viewed as a tool to attract knowledge and technologies, enhance the quality of Norwegian research and assist the government in solving problems of the North. In addition, the idea of promoting scientific cooperation in the region can be found in almost all the priority areas identified in the document. The strategy emphasizes the need for extensive research cooperation with Russia, both in the form of activities carried out under the EU framework programs that encompass collaboration with Russia and in launching joint projects and competitions with Russian research funding institutions.

Acknowledging the growing need for international cooperation in the region, the document notes ([3], p.7) such factors as the Treaty on Maritime Delimitation and Cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean signed by Norway and Russia, economic development in Russia, the successful marking of the International Polar Year (2007), the strengthening role of the Arctic Council in solving problems in the region, and increased attention to the Arctic displayed by the leading nations of the world.

According to the Research Strategy for the Arctic and Northern Areas, by 2020 Norway is to become a leading nation for research on the Arctic and northern areas; the country will be recognized for its sound management of resources, and Northern Norway will become a prosperous region with a developed and innovative economy.

Norwegian Research Policy Priorities

According to the Research Strategy for the Arctic and Northern Areas, by 2020 Norway is to become a leading nation for research on the Arctic and northern areas; the country will be recognized for its sound management of resources, and Northern Norway will become a prosperous region with a developed and innovative economy.

The document identifies six priority areas for Arctic research policy which reflect the needs of the country and the people of Northern Norway ([3], p.12):

  1. The International and Arctic dimension (research on a wide range of issues related to international relations in the Arctic and the socio-political development of Arctic countries).
  2. Environmental issues and biological resources.
  3. Energy, petroleum and mineral resources.
  4. Social development in the Arctic and Northern areas.
  5. Knowledge-based industrial development (through integration of business, science and education in the northern areas of Norway).
  6. The unique research potential of the Arctic (e.g. studies of the Arctic ice cover and water circulation in the Arctic Ocean and of their impact on climate change; the development of scientific infrastructure in Svalbard as a unique platform for research and international cooperation).

Organization of Norwegian Research in the Arctic

The Strategy identifies three main activities to meet these challenges:

  1. Creating the best possible knowledge for public administration in the North, for the region’s trade and industrial sectors, and for society at large.
  2. Developing international scientific cooperation in the Arctic, including the identification and analysis of problems related to potential conflicts of interest among states in the region.
  3. Strengthening research-based industrial development in Northern Norway; the establishment and expansion of contacts among businesses, research institutions and leading Norwegian and international experts; and the commercialization of research.
Photo: Reuters
Norway Oil and Gas

The Research Council of Norway (RCN, Norges Forskningsrådet) serves as the chief body for developing national research policy goals and translating them into action. Its other functions are to promote Norwegian science, domestically and abroad, to advise the government on research policy, manage funding allocated for research, distribute grants, and promote the internationalization of Norwegian research [7]. The RCN also provides a central meeting place for those who fund, carry out and utilize research.

The RCN organizes Norwegian scientific research in the Arctic through an impressive number of topical programs and funding sources. The list of ten most significant programs is given in Appendix 1.

The Research Council of Norway notes the efficiency of large, complex programs (there are seven of them, including PETROMAKS, NORKLIMA, and NANO2021) [8], aimed at promoting key areas of Norwegian research and involving a wide range of participants: universities, colleges, research institutions and business.

Funding Norwegian Research in the Arctic

The share of the state in financing Norwegian Arctic research, as well as science in general, by far exceeds other sources. It is mostly carried out through competitive tenders within the framework of the above-mentioned programs.

The share of the state in financing Norwegian Arctic research, as well as science in general, by far exceeds other sources. It is mostly carried out through competitive tenders within the framework of the above-mentioned programs. According to data from the RCN statistical portal [9], funding is handled by different ministries, with the Ministry of Education and Research responsible for 36 percent of the total, the Ministry of Trade and Industry – 13 percent, and the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy – 9 percent (2).

Since 2006, the Research Council of Norway has registered funding for all research projects related either thematically or geographically to the northern areas and the Arctic. According to the 2011 RCN report, in 2006, the total amount of funding was 440 million NOK [10]. In 2007, this rose to 617 million NOK – funds allocated within the framework of the International Polar Year provided for half of the increase and the new initiatives of the Research Council of Norway, particularly in the oil and gas industry – for the other half. In 2007-2010, funding for research related to the North ranged between 616 and 636 million NOK per year, with significant increases in the field of natural sciences (climate and environment), which was conducted through a number of RCN programs. However, in 2011 and 2012 there was a decline in funding (571 and 553 million NOK, respectively) [11], mainly due to the following reasons:

  1. The completion of projects, carried out under the framework of the International Polar Year (a decrease of 27 percent);
  2. The completion of projects under the PETROMAKS program, related to the study of the production of hydrocarbons and transportation in the northern regions; new projects under this program are more focused on the study of the North Sea shelf (a decrease of 31 percent);
  3. The completion of projects under the NORKLIMA program, most of which dealt with the study of the climate of polar areas. New NORKLIMA projects, as a rule, rarely include only the study of the Arctic region (18 percent decrease).
Photo: RIAC
Arctic resources and infrastructure (in russian)

It is also worth noting that in 2012, about 40% of the total Arctic research funding received organizations from the northern regions (the county of Tromso received the predominant part of all allocations, namely 75 percent, while Nordland received 15 percent, and Svalbard and Finnmark – 6 and 3 percent, respectively). The remaining 60 percent of Arctic research funding was allocated to organizations from other regions of the country.

Arctic Research in Russia

A brief analysis of the organization of Norwegian Arctic research reveals that it has been the focus of attention at the state level together with the northern regions of Norway. It is reasonable to assume that the region will remain a priority for the Norwegian government in the coming years. In general, it is possible to assess the organization of Norwegian research in the Arctic as falling in line with the national interests of the country, the priority areas of the development of the northern regions and the global scientific mainstream.

As to Arctic research in Russia, one cannot but note the large scale of work carried out by RAS structural units (the Kola Science Center, the Ural Division, and the Siberian Division), the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute and other institutions concerning the comprehensive study of the Russian sector of the Arctic. In 2010, the establishment of the M.V. Lomonosov Northern (Arctic) Federal University in Arkhangelsk marked an important step in strengthening scientific potential and promoting academic training in the region.

However, science and technology development have become national priorities in the region only after the adoption in 2013 of the Strategy for the Development of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation and National Security for the period up to 2020.

However, it should be noted that as of today, Russia lacks holistic and comprehensive organization of its research in the Arctic, although the issue is periodically raised by authorities, academics and the media. Back in 2010, the joint meeting of the RAS Council for Coordination of Regional Departments and Science Centers and the RAS Scientific Board on the Arctic and Antarctic Research adopted a decision on the “urgent definition of Arctic research priorities jointly by the Government of the Russian Federation, the regions and the RAS..." [12]. However, science and technology development have become national priorities in the region only after the adoption in 2013 of the Strategy for the Development of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation and National Security for the period up to 2020.

But at this point in time, the main activities in this sphere have only been outlined and are not yet backed by actual funding. The Federal Goal-Oriented Program for the Development of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation is only now being worked out [13].

In this regard, it seems reasonable to examine and adopt the appropriate practices of Norway, taking into account the specifics of scientific research organization in our country:

  1. The creation of an elaborate regulatory framework, specifying priority directions for Arctic research development as well as the development of science in the Arctic area of the Russian Federation. However, it is necessary to avoid the excessive complication of this legal framework, as in Norway there are too many documents at the same level.
  2. The creation of a special scientific program (or a set of programs) for priority areas of Arctic research and science development in the Arctic area of the Russian Federation.
  3. The promotion of joint projects for scientific and educational institutions and business, including those aimed at the economic development and improvement of living conditions in the Arctic area of the Russian Federation.
  4. The creation of a single open database for existing research programs, reporting and funding information (except for Defense Studies).
  5. The promotion of international scientific cooperation in the Arctic through co-financing research infrastructure, support for the academic mobility of students and researchers, and the funding of joint scientific projects. It should be noted that certain steps in this direction have already been made. For example, in 2013, the Russian Foundation for Humanities (RFH), the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) and the Research Council of Norway (RCN) announced joint international research projects competitions.

Appendix 1 RCN Programs on Research in the Arctic Region

 
PETROMAKS (Stort program for petroleumsforskning) [14] A major research program in the field of oil and gas, introduced in 2004. The Program has received high marks from the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, making the country “one of the world leaders in oil and gas research.” In addition to carrying out a wide range of research projects (from methods of exploration to developing effective solutions in the field of occupational safety and health), the Program supports the creation and development of innovative scientific infrastructure (Centers of Excellence, Centers for Research-based Innovation). The Program has also provided funding for more than 430 doctoral and postdoctoral scholarships. The government of Norway has allocated about two billion NOK (10 billion rubles) to the Program, which is then matching by co-financing from commercial organizations.
NORKLIMA (Klimaendringer og konsekvenser for Norge) [15] This Program focuses mainly on climate change and its impacts on nature and society. The Program has been in operation from 2004 to 2013 (an extension is expected) with an annual budget of 70-110 million NOK.
BIOTEK2021 (Bioteknologi for verdiskaping) [16] This Program is a research initiative in the field of biotechnology. Prior to 2013, there was a similar Program on Functional Genomics (Funksjonell genomforskning, FUGE), which carried out projects on bioinformatics analysis and the use of biological resources in the Barents Sea.
ROMFORSKNING [17] This Program is designed to support Norwegian space-related activities. Monitoring the Polar regions is one of its important spheres of research.
VRI (Virkemidler for regional FoU og innovasjon) [18] This Program is geared toward research and innovation at the regional level in Norway. At the moment, the Program supports 55 various projects, 11 of which are carried out in the northern regions of the country.
MAROFF (Maritim virksomhet og offshore operasjoner) [19] This Program supports research and knowledge-building that will contribute to innovation and environmental value creation in maritime industries. The Program has been implemented since 2002, supporting a number of projects in the field of technology and navigation safety in northern waters.
Special Programs on Arctic Research
BARENTS 2020 A fund of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway supporting research and educational projects on Arctic issues since 2006. One such program is NORRUS (Russland og nordområdene / Arktis), focusing on the study of the Russian society, politics, business as well as international relations in the Arctic [20]. In addition, Barents 2020 and other funds of the MFA of Norway support academic mobility in areas related to the Arctic, inviting leading scholars to work at Norwegian research institutions. Barents 2020 promotes creating relevant joint educational products with foreign universities (for example, English-language master's level program Offshore Oil and Gas Fields Development Technology, created in collaboration between the Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas and the University of Stavanger). Apart from that, Barents 2020 funds the development of research infrastructure: the BarentsWatch system of marine areas monitoring, Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System SIOS. In 2010 the Program supported the establishment in Tromso of the High North Research Centre for Climate and the Environment (FRAM Center) with more than 500 scientists from 20 research institutions.
POLARPROG (Polarforskningsprogrammet) [21] This Program supports a wide range of research on the Arctic and Antarctic. Research affiliated with Svalbard receives priority, including developing Svalbard as an international research platform. This Program started in 2011 and has the annual budget of 45 million NOK.
NORDSATS (ForskningsløftiNord) [22] This Program funds research conducted by organizations from North Norway to strengthen links between business and research institutions in the region. As of 2013, five major research projects received support in various fields, i.e. materials and construction technology in a cold climate, the development of tourism in the northern regions, satellite monitoring of the Arctic, etc.
ARKTEK [23] This is an infrastructure development program for the oil and gas industry in the North, involving scientific organizations and business structures. The Program supports six projects.

1. As a rule, a government presentation to the Storting (parliament) involves a progress report or a proposal for public policy in a particular area (in this case – policy in the High North).

2. Of the total funds administered by the RCN from 2005 to 2011.

References and Sources

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