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Norwegian Polar Research: Of great quality

Polar research receives increasing interest internationally due to the large environmental changes occurring in the Polar Regions. Thus, in late 2016, the Research Council of Norway (RCN) initiated an evaluation of Norwegian polar research, and NILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research was among those institutes included in the evaluation.

The finished report is the first full thematic evaluation of Norwegian polar research. It will be of great value not only to the Norwegian Research Council and relevant Ministries, but also to the research institutions and communities, providing measures to further develop Norwegian polar research, and the research in Svalbard.

– This is a solid evaluation of Norwegian polar research and we want to congratulate the RCN with an important and useful report, says Kari Nygaard, Managing Director of NILU.

NILU/EBAS alone in offering open access
Access to high quality data is key to all research on climate and environmental change. Thus, the committee have identified several data centers that serve or intend to serve Norway’s polar research community, among them the EBAS database at NILU (http://ebas.nilu.no). EBAS, along with IMR’s Norway Marine Data Centre (NMDC) and NERSC’s Arctic-ROOS portal, serve as nodes in European data networks such as Copernicus Climate Change Service, European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme, and EuroGOOS.

Through these European nodes the Norwegian data holdings also serve larger international conventions (e.g. the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution for EBAS data). EBAS hosts two World Data Centres under the auspices of WMO-Global Atmosphere Watch: Aerosols (https://www.gaw-wdca.org/) and Reactive Gases (https://www.gaw-wdcrg.org/).

In the evaluation, the committee states that NILU/EBAS appears as the only current Norwegian open access participant in the community of nearly 40 data centers from 13 countries supporting open data publication in ESSD and Scientific Data.

– Government funded research data needs to be available for all users as soon as possible, states Kari Nygaard.

– The global challenges we are facing, with a rapidly changing climate, underpins the importance of open access to data and research information, thus promoting shared knowledge and collaboration.

Strengths, weaknesses and further efforts
The evaluation committee have further identified many strengths within Norway’s polar research programs. Among those are cold-region technology and engineering, good use of Svalbard for research and education, and a strong justification for continued Antarctic research. They also detect very strong political commitments by Norway to national and international polar research.

In all, they find that Norwegian polar scientists are world leading in the following disciplines:

  • The Arctic climate system
  • The Arctic ecosystem
  • The biogeochemical environment in the Arctic
  • The industrialized commercial Arctic Glaciology, ice dynamics and marine ecosystems in the Antarctic
  • Outer atmosphere and seabed geophysics

They likewise identify key weaknesses, lack of coordination and collaboration being one. Among others are a funding model tending to deter rather than encourage collaboration, and the challenges of recruiting young researchers.

According to their conclusion, the present talent, infrastructure and resources give the Norwegian polar research community a very strong national and international potential. However, it is also a community that could and should enhance its coherence and impact.

EBAS-gruppen ved NILU
A large group at NILU is involved in the EBAS data centre activity. From left: Markus Fiebig, Norbert Schmidbauer, Ann Mari Fjæraa, Cathrine Lund Myhre, Wenche Aas, Karl Espen Yttri, Paul Eckhard, Anne-Gunn Hjellbrekke, Sverre Solberg and Kjetil Tørseth. Richard Olav Rud was not present when the picture was taken. Photo: Ingunn Trones/NILU