Newsletter EU-PolarNet 1​

May 2017

EU-PolarNet has entered its third year and so far, it has been a busy and exciting one. Yet, the best is still to come and we are looking forward to two “premieres”: For the first time our consortium will participate in the International Congress on Arctic Social sciences and convene two breakout sessions. Then, just a couple of days later, we will host our first policy briefing in Brussels together with the European Polar Board. What else has happened and is happening and how you can help us identifying polar research needs, you will learn from our newsletter.


What are key priorities for polar research? – The EU-PolarNet online survey

EU-PolarNet launched its second public online consultation in mid-April. This took the form of an anonymous survey with one key question: “What are the most important topics in relation to your work and/or everyday life (either locally, nationally or internationally) in the Polar Regions that should be solved by future research?“

With this survey, EU-PolarNet wants to enable the polar community and stakeholders to identify priority areas for future polar research. Respondents can indicate up to three priorities and are then asked to categorize their topics under one of the five overarching themes:  People and societal issues; Climate and cryosphere; Sustainable resources and human impact; Polar biology, ecology and biodiversity; and New technology. These overarching topics are based on the results of the EU-PolarNet Report on prioritized objectives in polar research.

The results of the survey will build a fundamental basis for a set of five so called polar white papers, which in turn are an important step towards the integrated European Research Programme – one of EU-PolarNet’s main deliverables.

The survey places special emphasis on receiving input from non-scientific stakeholders, especially those affected by the changes in the Arctic and Antarctic. The invitation to the survey and the survey itself were therefore translated into eight different languages – in addition to English: Danish, Greenlandic, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.

So far, more than 450 people from 34 countries have participated – and we invite anyone who has not had the chance yet, to do so until 2nd June 2017.

The results of the survey will be made available on the EU-PolarNet website.

Entering the next round – EU-PolarNet’s third General Assembly

On 3rd April 2017 – the excursion day of this year’s Arctic Science Summit Week – EU-PolarNet held its third General Assembly in Prague. Following the format of last year’s assembly, the meeting started with a closed, consortium-internal session in the morning and continued with an open session in the afternoon. Almost 70 people gathered in the meeting room after the lunch break, eager to hear about EU-PolarNet’s advances and to learn more about the so-called “European Arctic cluster”.

Andrea Tilche giving the opening presentation for the open part of the EU-PolarNet General Assembly

EU-PolarNet had invited the project coordinators of the newly Horizon 2020 funded Arctic projects, as well as representatives of the Sustained Arctic Observing System (SAON) and the project manager of the Framework Programme 7 funded ICE-ARC. The intent was to both learn more about the projects within this Arctic cluster and to discover possible cooperation opportunities in between the projects.

Andrea Tilche, Head of Unit Climate Action and Earth Observation (European Commission DG RTD), opened the afternoon session with an outlook on the European Union’s polar strategy. In his talk, he highlighted the importance of polar research for the EU. He outlined key aspects of the current policy framework, such as implementing both the Paris Agreement and the EU Arctic Policy, and stated the European Commission’s intent to step up its research and innovation investment, while reinforcing its support for polar research and IPCC assessments.

After Andrea’s overview and a brief introduction to EU-PolarNet by project manager, Nicole Biebow, the floor was given to the guest speakers. First off were Peter Pulsifer and Hannele Savela. While Peter presented the work and objectives of the SAON Arctic Data Committee, which he chairs, Hannele introduced the SAON Committee on Observations and Networks as well as the GEO Cold Region Initiative. Both committees and the initiative play an important role for the EU Arctic cluster, by giving access to data and sustaining observations in the Arctic.

Access provision was also the focus of the next presentation: INTERACT Coordinator Margareta Johansson gave an overview of the project’s first and second phase. In its second phase, which started in October 2016, the International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic will give researchers access to 43 stations (almost 20 more than in the first phase), while additionally offering virtual access to 29 stations. 

Programme manager Elaina Ford rounded off the first part of the afternoon session with a presentation of the ICE-ARC project. She showcased project achievements and ongoing work, such as the deployment of instruments, modelling and community based research efforts, as well as the organisation of high-level events. Although the project is in its final phase, ICE-ARC and EU-PolarNet still have a range of events they are jointly involved in, including the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik and the World Climate Conference in Bonn.

The second part of the afternoon was devoted to the newly funded EU projects, namely INTAROS, APPLICATE and Blue Action. Each project was introduced by the respective coordinator: Stein Sandven, Thomas Jung and Steffen Olsen. Besides outlining objectives and aims, each coordinator touched upon possible areas for closer cooperation. One discussion outcome was the idea to create project spanning task groups, within which project participants can share experiences and join forces in order to increase efficiency and minimise duplicates. Another suggestion was to hold annual meetings between the project partners to foster exchange. Both propositions should make way for closer cooperation between the EU Arctic cluster projects – we will keep you in the loop.

Research needs on climate-related effects on the Arctic cryosphere and adaptation options

AMAP and EU-PolarNet jointly organised an international stakeholder workshop for the third time – this time in association with the AMAP-organized International Conference on Arctic Science: Bringing Knowledge to Action, which took place on 24 to 27 April 2017 in Reston, Virginia. Themed “Research needs on climate-related effects on the Arctic cryosphere and adaptation options”, the workshop took up the findings of the AMAP Arctic cryosphere assessment Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) and the regional reports on Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic (AACA), which had been presented at the preceding conference.

AMAP/EU-PolarNet Stakeholder Workshop in Reston, Virginia

The central aim of this workshop was to discuss and identify the types of research needed to understand the many impacts and consequences climate change has on the Arctic cryosphere, as well as adaptation options for Arctic residents. Summaries of the conference highlights and four presentations on research needs related to the marine and terrestrial systems, natural hazards and risks to food security and human health created the basis for subsequent discussions.

One key point of these discussions was the question of which scales are needed. If knowledge gained from one region can give insights to another, this can assist with increased resource awareness and avoids duplication. Another important point that the workshop participants discussed was how generated knowledge is applied, how it is passing through the social ecological system and which new questions this process might generate.

Taking place in the US, the workshop was also part of EU-PolarNet’s objective to strengthen the Transatlantic Alliance with scientists from both the US and Canada. We were therefore very happy to find ourselves in a full room with many American and Canadian colleagues.

Breaking records: How high temperatures in the Arctic affect European society – EU-PolarNet’s first policy briefing

EU-PolarNet will host annual policy briefings in Brussels from this year onwards. The first briefing – co-organised with the European Polar Board – is coming up on 22nd June 2017 and runs under the theme “Breaking records: How high temperatures in the Arctic affect European society”. The lunchtime event is set out to give EU and national policy makers an overview of the state-of-the-art research on abnormal temperatures in the Arctic and their consequences for Europe. Dirk Notz, a sea ice expert from the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg, Germany, will give a keynote address on how Europe is affected by a warming Arctic. A subsequent panel discussion will build on the current scientific knowledge to reflect upon mitigation and adaptation options, which can reduce the vulnerability of both the European society and economy. The panellists are: Volker Rachold (Head of the German Arctic Office), Kirsi Latola (University of the Arctic Thematic Networks Director), Frej Sorento Dichmann (Senior Advisor Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation) and Nikolaj Bock (European Environment Agency).

Stakeholder engagement and interdisciplinary science – The EU-PolarNet sessions at ICASS

EU-PolarNet will join the International Congress of Arctic Social Science IX (ICASS) in Umeå, Sweden, this June. Held every three years, ICASS brings together people from all over the world to share ideas about social science research in the Arctic. As stated by the organisers, research on social sciences and humanities have a great responsibility to address the challenges for sustainable development in the Arctic, especially focussing on the many different parts of the Arctic and the people that live there.

This year’s congress is themed “People and Place” and aims at counteracting the stereotypic understanding of the Arctic – often characterized by the iconic polar bear and icebergs. A focus on people and place therefore will highlight the many variances across the region in terms of climate, political systems, demography, infrastructure, history, languages, health, legal systems, land and water resources etc.

Initiated by EU-PolarNet members Annette Scheepstra (University of Groningen), Kirsi Latola (University of the Arctic and Thule Institute) and Gertrude Saxinger (Austrian Polar Research Institute), the consortium will be hosting two sessions at ICASS IX: “Stakeholder engagement: moving from quantity to more quality” and “Incorporation of Social Science and Humanities in large EU projects”.

The first session “Stakeholder engagement: moving from quantity to more quality” (17.1) will take place on 8th June 2017 from 10:30 to 13:00 and focusses on the question how we can achieve that not only the quantity of stakeholder engagement is increasing, but above all the quality. The second session “Incorporation of Social Science and Humanities in large EU projects” (17.07) follows two days later, on 10th June 2017 from 13:30 – 15:00. It will look at the inclusion of social science and humanities in polar research projects and will trigger discussions on the way we can best achieve this in future projects.

If you are interested to learn more about the congress, please follow the link to the ICASS website.

A short introduction to the European Polar Board

by Renuka Badhe and Joseph Nolan

The European Polar Board (EPB) is an independent organisation that focuses on major European strategic priorities in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The current EPB membership includes 26 research institutes, funding agencies, scientific academies and polar operators from 18 European countries. The EPB works to support polar research across all disciplines in the physical, life and social sciences, and provides advice to policymakers at national, regional and international levels. Since 2015, the EPB has been an independent entity, with its Secretariat hosted by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) in The Hague. Established in 1995, the EPB was earlier an Expert Board of the European Science Foundation, formed to provide strategic advice on Arctic and Antarctic issues.


The EPB and EU-PolarNet

The EPB was involved in the planning for the EU-PolarNet project, and continues to provide some operational support through the project period. When EU-PolarNet comes to an end in 2020, the EPB will take over and maintain relevant products and deliverables, ensuring its legacy is sustained into the future.

EPB Strategy 2017-2022

During its Spring 2017 Plenary meeting in Prague, the EPB approved a new Strategy for the period 2017-2022. The Strategy is structured around the EPB’s Vision of being the strong and independent voice of the European polar research community, and its Mission to coordinate, promote and advance European high-latitude research. In implementing the Strategy, the EPB will continue to work regionally, representing the polar research community within Europe, and internationally, representing Europe as a global power and a strategic partner for both Arctic and Antarctic research around the world. The EPB Strategy document and accompanying Implementation Plan will be available via the EPB website.

EPB Activities

EPB activities are aimed at implementing its Mission in line with the 2017-2022 Strategy. Much of its work is to improve coordination and integration of polar logistics, infrastructures and scientific cooperation between Members and the research communities they represent across Europe.

A key element of this work focuses on polar research infrastructures. The EPB is developing an online access portal and webGIS for a database of European polar research infrastructures created for the EU-PolarNet project – an example of the EPB’s ongoing work to sustain EU-PolarNet’s legacy. The database system, including European research stations, vessels, aircraft, and other facilities in the Arctic and Antarctic, will allow researchers to plan and organise field activities with a single access point for information on all European facilities. As an online system, the database will be fully updateable and expandable, with infrastructure managers in control of publicly available information.

The EPB provides policy advice at national, European and international levels by compiling and communicating expert knowledge from the research community represented by Members. Along with partners, the EPB is involved in various policy initiatives on a range of issues affecting or affected by the Arctic and Antarctic, including climate change, conservation, search and rescue, sustainable development, and science policy.

The EPB works to bring together different stakeholders for issues affecting or affected by the polar regions, particularly with a European focus. Through a variety of events, the EPB promotes communication between different experts and actors in the polar regions, broadening audiences and perspectives on a variety of issues. For each EPB event an online product or record of discussions and outcomes is produced. This allows for future reference and increases the impact of ideas and discussions that take place.

Recent EPB events include a townhall session at the European Geoscience Union General Assembly 2017 in Vienna, titled “Polar change and implications for mid-latitude weather – science and policy for society in Europe”. The session brought together a spectrum of experts who discussed the ongoing physical changes in the polar regions, how these might be influencing weather in mid-latitudes, how this translates into risks and hazards in Europe, how these are communicated to policymakers and the public, and how the European research community can come together to best improve knowledge and address the issue.

Upcoming EPB events that will bring together researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders around a focused issue include a side-event at the 2017 SCAR Biology Symposium in Leuven, and a workshop at the 2017 SCAR Humanities and Social Sciences Expert Group Conference in Hobart. Furthermore, the EPB is co-convening several sessions at the 2017 Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavík with relevant partners, including with EU-PolarNet.

EPB Partnerships

In addition to working with its extensive network of Members, the EPB collaborates with a variety of other regional and international organisations with aligned objectives. Many of these partnerships are formalised with memoranda of understanding, including with IASC, SCAR, ESA, ECRA, INTERACT and, most recently, APECS. With collaboration and coordination central to the new Strategy, the EPB is always open to potential collaborations that will help to advance polar research for the benefit of Europe.

For more information about the EPB, please visit

Good reads: New reports on the state of the Arctic

Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic 2017

The Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) has released its new report on Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic – short SWIPA report 2017. The report concludes that the Arctic is shifting into a new state with profound impacts on human health and safety, industries and economies, and ecosystems around the world. Implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, however, could limit the extent to which the Arctic climate changes over the remaining decades of this century.

The assessment is an update of AMAP’s 2011 SWIPA report. More than 90 scientists contributed to the report, which was peer-reviewed by 28 experts. The assessment mainly covers the period 2011–2015, with updates to include observations from 2016 and early 2017.

Link to Summary for Policy-Makers:


The State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report

The biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council, Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), has published a new report on the State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity. The report identifies trends in key marine species and points to important gaps in biodiversity monitoring efforts across key ecosystem components in sea ice biota, plankton, benthos, marine fishes, seabirds and marine mammals. The report found that changing food availability, loss of ice habitat, increases in contagious diseases, and the impending invasion of southern species are taking their toll on Arctic marine animals, and pointing to an ecosystem on the verge of a major shift. Over 60 international experts in CAFF’s Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program were involved in the report.

Further information can be found here:

Upcoming conferences and events

  • Ninth International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences: People and Place
    Date: 8th – 12th June 2017
    Location: Umeå, Sweden
    More information
  • 3rd International Symposium on Krill
    Date: 12th – 16th June 2017
    Location: St Andrews, Scotland
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  • Breaking records: How high temperatures in the Arctic affect European society – Policy briefing
    Date: 22nd June 2017
    Location: EU Liaison Office of the German Research Organisations, Brussels
  • XIIth SCAR Biology Symposium
    Date: 10th – 14th July 2016
    Location: Leuven, Belgium
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  • Depths and Surfaces: Understanding the Antarctic Region through the Humanities and Social Sciences
    Date: 5th – 7th July 2017
    Location: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
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  • Conversations from the North Conference
    Date: 27th – 29th August 2017
    Location: University of Aberdeen, UK
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  • Serving Society with better Weather and Climate Information
    Date: 4th to 8th September 2017
    Location: Dublin, Ireland
    More information