Text and photos by Anna Kuznetsova
“The best investment in the Arctic region is the investment to knowledge”, – Anne Husebekk, Rector of UiT-The Arctic University of Norway
This statement of Anne Husebekk became a slogan for me during my Arctic Frontiers trip; it accompanied us, young researchers, during our work at the Arctic Frontiers PhD workshop.
Arctic Frontiers is one of the main scientific events in the Arctic region and about the Arctic region, and I was very happy to have an opportunity to be there and to present my work. It was nice that we attended not only scientific sessions but also the political part of the conference, as we could get to know the official positions of different countries and regions (and not only Arctic) about Arctic issues. The scientific sessions were wide – from biology and ecology to social sciences; from sea ice, fisheries and industry to policy-making, shipping and socio-economic issues. For me, as a social scientist, it was difficult at first to listen to the presentations about ecological issues, carbon, plankton, or oil and gas. However, all things are interrelated and the social life of people, their living conditions, directly depend on the processes occurring in ecology and biology. That is why it was very useful to get knowledge from natural sciences as well. We also presented our own research during the conference. I had a poster presentation about northern indigenous peoples and I was glad that researchers from different spheres and institutions showed interest in this topic.
Our PhD workshop started with the welcoming gathering, introducing the workshop itself, teachers, lectors and participants. The main part of the workshop was held in Svolvær, on the Lofoten Islands. The nature there is amazing! Mountains, fjords, water and snow! We were happy to work there, enjoying such a wonderful place.
One of the most interesting and useful things during the workshop was to write a research proposal for grant application. We were divided into several groups across our disciplines, home countries and working places. Honestly, it was not easy to be the only social scientist in a group and participate in the group discussions. But two nights spent in writing the proposal did the job and finally our proposal was done. The next step was to present it. We decided to introduce our project all together as each of us was responsible for different packages of the research. Some teachers noted that it was a good idea to have such representation – people from different places speak about one common topic and eventually our group won the research proposals competition! We were satisfied with the work done and this small winning and nice gifts were the great ending of the event. This experience was extremely useful for me. I was pleasantly surprised that I can contribute to natural sciences researches by conducting a part of the research about social issues.
In addition to the educational program, we had social gatherings allowing us to get to know each other, to learn something new from different disciplines, and to build our networks. We had excursions to museums and the coastal administration, meetings with artists and a walk around Svolvær acquainting us with the culture, history, people and nature of Norway and Lofoten. It was exciting to get to know about everyday life and traditions of local people.
Thus, as the Mayor of Tromsø, Kristin Roymo told us, we share a land, a tough way of living beyond geopolitics, very special weather conditions, and we need to stay together. I share this point like many others and think that the Arctic Frontiers PhD workshop gave us an opportunity to meet each other, to get to know our cultures better and to stay together.