Automatgenererad bild.

19 December 2012

New hub of Arctic research

Umeå University is opening an Arctic Research Centre: ‘Arcum’. The Mistra Arctic Futures research programme has been one of the key preconditions for this initiative in interdisciplinary research on the Arctic and challenges to the region.

’Without Mistra’s initiative, we might not have had the idea. True, our projects in Mistra Arctic Futures haven’t enabled us to appoint 20 new researchers, but they’ve consolidated and broadened the research under way here. And that’s given us a flying start,’ says Peter Sköld, Director of Arcum and Professor of History at Umeå University.

The University has long had an area of excellence in research known as ‘Northern Studies’. Arcum is a step towards securing the future of this research. It is also a way for the University to clarify its ambition of being an important hub of international Arctic research.

‘Of eight countries in the Arctic Council, a high-level intergovernmental forum, seven have previously had similar centres of Arctic research. This year, when Sweden is chairing the Council, it’s especially appropriate to start an Arctic research centre here too,’ Peter Sköld adds.

Umeå University is hosting two of the five projects in the Mistra Arctic Futures programme. Dieter Müller is the project manager for one of them: From Resource Hinterland to Global Pleasure Periphery.

What research will be carried out at Arcum?

‘The research will be faculty-wide,’ replies Müller. ‘It’s partly about climate change and the challenges it’s creating, and partly about the natural-resource potential and various aspects of community development in Arctic environments. There’s also research into popular notions of the Arctic region. Umeå University has been doing scientific research at Abisko Research Station for a long time.’

What is your own research about?

‘I’m researching tourism in the Arctic — investigating the scope that exists and why it seems so difficult to bring about. It’s long been said that Arctic tourism has great potential, but there have turned out to be obstacles to achieving growth. We’re also looking at international prospects. Unlike much other social science research in the area, we’re trying to adopt the same perspective as inhabitants of the Arctic, rather than that of outsiders,’ says Dieter Müller.

Is there any collaboration between the two projects in Mistra Arctic Futures?

‘Right now, I’m writing an article jointly with Carina Keskitalo (the project manager for ‘Preparing For and Responding to Disturbance’) and a few other colleagues. In it, we criticise the Arctic Council’s Arctic Human Development Report for having too much of a North American perspective on the region. The peoples and livelihoods here in the Scandinavian Arctic are different from those in the North American parts: there are cities like Umeå and Tromsø. This doesn’t quite fit into the homogeneous picture of the Arctic sketched by the report,’ says Müller.

Johan Edman, the Programmes Director at Mistra, thinks one of the purposes of Mistra Arctic Futures has been to create lasting research environments. Accordingly, Mistra has partly attained the aims of the programme. The Board of Mistra decided on 11 December to continue the Arctic initiative in a new programme called ‘Mistra Arctic Sustainable Development’, which will replace Mistra Arctic Futures in a Global Context when the latter is concluded at the end of 2013.

‘The new programme will be more unified in organisational terms, and more like Mistra’s other programme initiatives,’ Erdman reports.

Text: Thomas Heldmark, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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