6 December 2016

Arctic research to intensify and expand

Arctic research

Roughly 170 University of Copenhagen graduate students, PhD students and permanent research staff interested in Arctic research recently gathered to identify and investigate the possibilities for interdisciplinary research opportunities – and get good advice about project funding. The event takes place at a time when the amount of attention being paid to both climate and geopolitically related Arctic issues is on the rise.

“It hasn’t been all that long since a Google search of the word ‘Arctic’ spat back links to the Arctic Monkeys, an English rock band – and perhaps a few articles about climate change as well. Today, the situation is vastly different. Everyone from Søren Pind, a Danish politician, to Donald Trump, has something to profess about the Arctic. And all have an Arctic related need of some kind. Even a distant Southeast Asian nation such as Singapore tries to brand itself as an Arctic state.”

With these words, Thomas Bjørnholm, Prorector for Research and Innovation at the University of Copenhagen welcomed the roughly 170 participants to the “UCPH Arctic Symposium”. The event was held in a packed Faculty of Science ballroom and conducted in English.

First official Arctic symposium at UCPH

The event was the first of its kind. Students and researchers at the University of Copenhagen gathered to gain inspiration for their own projects and meet up with a host of UCPH capacities from various Arctic research fields.

Among these was Professor Minik Rosing of the Natural History Museum of Denmark, head of UCPH’s “Greenland Perspective” initiative. He discussed the possibilities for local level interdisciplinary research in Greenland, and the barriers that must occasionally be surmounted in a country where communication between Nuuk and Copenhagen hasn’t always been optimal.

Various topics were discussed, projects exchanged and connections made. Panel discussion topics included:  “Where are the possibilities for cross-disciplinary research at the UCPH - and how do you find funding for your dream project? How do you build a well-functioning consortium, does it pay off and what kind of challenges do you meet in the process?”

No less than 125 researchers pitched projects and ideas, and UCPH’s Arctic Secretariat has now compiled them and communicated them back to researchers. The hope is that this process will catalyse new Arctic research partnerships across UCPH.

Long tradition of Arctic research

This is the first time that the University of Copenhagen has assembled students, researchers and other UCPH capacities involved in Arctic research to inspire young people from across the university faculties to forge new research pathways. However, UCPH already has one hundred years of experience in the region, particularly within the Greenlandic context.

A clear vision for UCPH’s strategic work exists in three primary areas:

  • Climate change
  • Natural resources
  • Humans and society

The current situation, noted by the occurrence of rare natural resources beneath Greenland and ice-free shipping lanes around it, has increased the region’s strategic and geopolitical importance. All types of reasons exist to intensify Arctic research and thereby strengthen the position of Greenland and Denmark internationally.

This was underscored in the day’s final presentation, delivered by Bo Lidegaard, a Greenland born historian, author and former editor-in-chief of Politiken, a Danish newspaper.

Underscoring the matter, Lidegaard stated, “If Greenland and Denmark unite behind Arctic research, the Danish Commonwealth will be seen as a highly visible window for the international research community, and as a result, we will elevate our standing in the Arctic as a whole.”

See pictures from the event.