Arctic Interactions leads to new collaboration

Arctic Interactions (ARCI) is a research programme at the University of Oulu, which focuses on studying the Arctic region. After its initial preparation activities, the programme has made good headway. However, Covid and its restrictions had some impact on the practical activities of the programme: for example, the professors and researchers who came together and established their roles in the programme have mainly only met virtually.
Ilulissat town in Greenland

Substantial research community

"Fortunately, the programme has enabled us to start many new projects. New researchers have joined the programme and helped build a substantial research community," says the leader of the programme, Professor Björn Klöve from the University of Oulu.

Despite Covid, the programme has mostly progressed as planned. However, face-to-face encounters at international seminars have been rare. "Fortunately, things are now looking better in terms of the pandemic. We’ve managed to raise the University of Oulu's already high level of Arctic research, and to make the programme’s important research topics visible.”

Autumn will reveal the programme’s future

At the beginning, the programme’s focus was on recruitment and different preparation measures, but now in spring 2022, actual research work is in full swing. The project’s researchers have also secured external financing from the Academy of Finland through, for example, successful postdoctoral research, academy research and project funding applications. Noteworthy Northern-related applications have also been submitted to the Academy's Research Infrastructure. According to Klöve, this will enable specialisation and promote the profiling of Arctic research.

In autumn 2022, a wider-ranging ARCI seminar will be held, which will envision and ponder the progress of the research in more detail. The current part of the ARCI programme will conclude at the end of 2023.

"In the autumn, the extensive cooperation group that has formed around ARCI, including not only researchers but also funders and Arctic public actors, will meet. This group will tell us more about the views and needs of the stakeholders. I hope that the group will contribute to strengthening the funding base of the research and the programme as a whole," Klöve tells us.

War in Ukraine removes Russia from research cooperation

Russia's attack on Ukraine led to the country being excluded from international cooperation. This exclusion also applies to Arctic research cooperation. Many EU programmes in the Arctic region and Karelia ended abruptly in February.

"We’ve always had a ‘science for peace’ mentality in the research world, and have seen research cooperation as promoting peace between states. In the past, we’ve been encouraged to engage in wide-ranging cooperation with Russia. But now all existing cooperation with Russia is on ice and no new cooperation activity will be established. There are still some informal contacts between people, due to, for example, unfinished joint publications, but only on a very small scale," says Klöve.

"Russia is a major player in the Arctic, so a significant amount of information will now be unavailable to us. However, I fully understand, and personally support the imposed sanctions.”

Arctic waters play an important role in climate change

Professor Klöve was involved in writing the latest IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, published in February. He contributed to the groundwater section of the report, which also took into account Northern conditions. The writing process itself was somewhat unusual, as well as very hectic. The same texts were examined and amended several times in a short time span, and so the work to assure the quality of the content has been extremely thorough. Klöve’s work on the report lasted a year.

"From the climate change perspective, the waters and the Arctic are very important. The dry regions of the earth seem to be getting increasingly drier and the wet regions getting wetter. The sea level generally rises, which affects numerous things in both nature and people's lives. Land use has a particularly large impact on climate change. However, there are also many risks that we still don’t know about or have not identified. This is why the fight against climate change is so important," Klöve emphasises.

Sunrise in Baffin Bay during Healy NW Passage Expedition. Photo: Jeffrey Welker

Arctic interactions research theme

Arctic Interactions (ArcI), one of the University of Oulu´s interdisciplinary research profile themes, focuses on exploring environmental change and human-environmental relationships in the Arctic and promoting sustainable development in the region.