What are the expected ecological shifts in marine productivity and the economic transformations in fisheries markets due to climate change and technological developments? How may we learn about the culture and context of health in Greenland to build on existing curricula for health education? What is the role of the Arctic Council working groups and the Arctic Coast Guard Forum in the geopolitics of the region?
Taken individually, these research questions are very different from each other. However, they share a common denominator: they are all pursued within activities supported by a UArctic grant. The Danish Agency for Science and Higher Education (DASHE) has supported UArctic with three million DKK annually since 2010. The funding covers student and staff mobility through the north2north program, some operational costs of the UArctic International Secretariat, and networking and educational activities like the projects mentioned above. In this latter case, UArctic members from Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands can apply for funding for activities related to research and education in and about the Arctic: workshops, PhD courses, field trips, and other platforms of knowledge exchange.
The question of what impact DASHE seeks by funding UArctic is best answered by looking at these activities and their role in the landscape of Danish Arctic research. Denmark has a robust research tradition with regard to the Arctic, characterized by a range of major research initiatives. One example is the East Greenland Ice-core Project (EastGRIP) that aims to drill and retrieve an ice core from the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream in order to improve the understanding of how ice streams 'behave' and contribute to future sea-level change. Another example is the Greenland Ecosystem Monitoring program (GEM), an integrated monitoring and long-term research program that has been running since 1995. GEM has established a coherent and integrated understanding of how ecosystems function in a highly variable climate, based on a comprehensive, interdisciplinary data collection by Danish and Greenlandic monitoring and research institutions.
These excellent initiatives notwithstanding, there seems to be more to Arctic science than frontier research programs and Centers of Excellence. Networking activities, PhD courses, field trips, knowledge exchange and exploration of ideas are all invisible building blocks of scientific collaboration. In a way, they constitute a crucial part of what moves science forward. Most of these activities take place peer-to-peer, without the involvement of home institutions, governments or other organizations. Nevertheless, such elements of scientific activity are often overlooked in the scientific process, and therefore attract little attention in the Danish and international funding landscape. In other words, funding mechanisms for networking activities related to research and education are scarce.
The answer to the earlier question is this: the kind of impact we seek is achieved by giving researchers and students an opportunity to explore new research partnerships through networks, workshops, PhD courses and other informal platforms of Arctic knowledge exchange and resources. Funding transnational research networks enables establishing new collaborative relations within Arctic research. In the aforementioned project on health education in Greenland, Illisimatusarfik (University of Greenland) explored the possibility of distributed learning for their nursing students via workshops and field activities with other post-secondary institutions who have established innovative approaches to distance education. In a similar vein, the project on Arctic geopolitics aims to facilitate an understanding of how safety and security is organized and regulated in the Arctic via a recurring summer course in cooperation between University of Copenhagen, University of Greenland and Memorial University of Newfoundland.
At the centre of DASHE’s call for UArctic project funding stands the development of transnational networking and educational activities. This way, the purpose of the DASHE funding aligns with the larger aim of the UArctic network: to create a strong, sustainable circumpolar region by empowering northerners and northern communities through education and shared knowledge.