In 2019, UArctic further developed its role in supporting knowledge-based decision making, in close collaboration with the Arctic Council and its working groups, national governments and agencies, and other regional and national partners. Thematic Networks were a focal point of this cooperation, as was our continuing partnerships in organizing the UArctic Congress. UArctic as an organization also embarked on a new phase bringing together our members under a new association.
The Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in May concluded Finland’s chairmanship period. As one of the key partners in implementing the Education priority, UArctic was also recognized in the Statement from the Chair. The Ministers welcomed the strengthened cooperation with UArctic, noting especially "the role of teachers and educators in fostering sustainable development in the Arctic and for providing positive future perspectives for its inhabitants." The Thematic Network on Teacher Education for Social Justice and Diversity in Education was also recognized for their contributions and conclusions on their Arctic Council project of the same name.
As an outcome of our partnerships with Arctic governments, two new collaboration frameworks were announced with Canada and Norway that help UArctic support those nation’s Arctic policies and strategies. The Canadian federal government’s investment of $4.5 million focuses on re-engagement and support on various initiatives to increase northern and indigenous capacity-building, especially related to circumpolar education and research cooperation. Likewise, the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research proposed a four million NOK increase in their annual funding. The increase followed the inclusion of southern Norwegian universities in UArctic’s north2north program and project funding, with the aim to engage the whole country in finding solutions for northern challenges and to boost circumpolar knowledge exchange.
As an additional part of our efforts to promote member engagement in different countries and regions, UArctic and the Harbin Institute of Technology established the UArctic HIT Training Centre as a regional centre to support UArctic members in China.
An important element in moving UArctic forward has been the process of refining our overall mission, vision and goals through the development of a new UArctic Strategic Plan 2030. With the current strategic plan period ending in 2020, the Board, our leadership and our members have engaged in an extensive and consultative process to reflect on our priorities. Overall, the new strategy is an evolution of the current one, but with a greater focus on the benefits that our activities have on society. As a result, UArctic will be able to more clearly demonstrate and document our impact.
In order to broaden our efforts and deliver on our mission more efficiently, we continued to develop capacity and ideas for philanthropic fundraising. Engaging relevant leadership and staff, we focused our efforts to learn about best practices, define our strategy, and identify and set priorities and targets. This work will continue until the necessary permits are in place, which will allow us to begin UArctic’s philanthropic fundraising in earnest.
Trent University hosted the 2019 UArctic Rectors Forum in August, which drew over forty participants from across the network’s senior leadership for a series of panel discussions around the theme “Made In the Arctic”. The panels drew on the experience of UArctic members and cooperation through Thematic Networks to address the challenges of incorporating multidisciplinarity and traditional knowledge in higher education, and the key question of how to make research more responsive to the needs of northerners and northern communities. The Forum concluded with a meeting in Ottawa with government agencies and other Canadian partners working in Arctic research and education. This was the last Rectors Forum as a standalone meeting. In future, rectors’ meetings will be included at the UArctic Congress or organized in conjunction with other events.
Over 130 participants from UArctic's member institutions attended the Council meeting in Stockholm, Sweden in September 2019, hosted by Stockholm University and KTH Royal Institute of Technology. The Council voted in eleven new members to join UArctic. Six of the new members are based in the United States, and the network also welcomed its first member from India. The new member institutions are Agricultural University of Iceland, Alaska Pacific University, Hólar University College, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, University College Copenhagen, University of New Hampshire, University of Southern Maine, Anchorage Museum, ARCTICenter - University of Northern Iowa, Battelle Memorial Institute, National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research.
The Council also welcomed three new Thematic Networks to UArctic, bringing the total number to 50. The new networks are Collaborative Resource Management, led by Nordisk Fond for Miljø og Udvikling; Local-scale Planning, Climate Change and Resilience, led by the University of Alberta; and The Arctic in Asia and Asia in the Arctic, led by UiT The Arctic University of Norway.
The 22nd Council meeting was also the last of its kind, as one of the main decisions taken by the Council was to establish UArctic as a non-profit association. The new association was formally registered on November 1, 2019 under the laws of Finland. Although the transition is largely a technical matter, with core operations, values and membership remaining the same, the association status will help UArctic function more efficiently, increase transparency, and open doors for future development. Members now have a stronger decision-making role in the network, and instead of a Council meeting, they will convene annually at a UArctic Assembly. The new association status will also help UArctic undertake fundraising initiatives for the development of existing network activities as well as the creation of new ones, as we move forward in this new chapter.
The UArctic Congress in Reykjavík, Iceland, originally planned for October 2020, will be arranged in May 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Congress is organized in partnership with the Arctic Council chairmanship, and will be arranged in conjunction with the Ministerial meeting. The call for sessions resulted in over 60 high-quality proposals, many of which are focused around the activities of UArctic Thematic Networks and Institutes.
Thematic Networks in 2019
Over the year, UArctic Thematic Networks continued their active collaboration in Arctic research and education. In total, their activities amounted to 28 graduate courses, including field and summer schools; 2 joint graduate programs, either being developed or already with enrolled students; 37 ongoing research projects; 104 peer-reviewed publications and scientific articles; 98 events organized, including workshops, science sessions at conferences, and art exhibitions; and 127 other outreach efforts, such as scientific talks, webinars, blog posts and newsletters. In addition, three Thematic Networks had staff or student mobility.
In addition to producing concrete outcomes, each Thematic Network has an impact in their field, the participating institutions, their faculty and students, and the society at large. Here are some examples of how our Thematic Networks are making a difference in the Arctic.
Arctic Engineering: Arctic engineering continues to be a critical part of engineering education and practice at University of Alaska Anchorage. Arctic issues are also included in engineering education curriculum at Lapland University of Applied Sciences, for instance in the civil engineering program.
Arctic Indigenous Skills: The Thematic Network provides a platform for students, especially indigenous students, from different Arctic regions to connect with each other.
Arctic Plastic Pollution: Through their partnership with the Icelandic chairmanship of the Arctic Council and its working groups, the Thematic Network has contributed to increasing awareness of plastic pollution in the Arctic. They have created a much needed space for various stakeholders – academia, private sector, local communities, governmental and intergovernmental organizations – for joint development of new transdisciplinary learning and research, as well as new solutions to reduce and solve plastic pollution.
Arthropods of the Tundra / NeAT: NeAT is becoming the one-stop-shop for expertise on tundra arthropods. Their community of students and established researchers benefit from the increasing flow of relevant information and opportunities in the field.
Collaborative Resource Management: The Thematic Network held an in-service course on co-management and community-based monitoring for people in public natural resource management positions in Greenland. They have started a dialogue among education and research institutions to exchange experiences, and ultimately increase the number of Arctic resource managers and scientists who are able to bring participatory approaches to natural resource management in practice.
Smart Societies in the High North (SmartNorth): The Thematic Network has built a strong partnership which is based not on competition but complementary principles and interests; an approach they believe is crucial when thinking about a Smart Circumpolar Arctic (e.g. from smart cities to smart communities and back).
Teacher Education for Social Justice and Diversity in Education: Through developing teacher education especially in the fields of indigenous education, inclusive education and rural education, the Thematic Network builds competence that better serves the needs of children, youth and local communities in the North.