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Research investments in the Arctic should be better utilised

​Norwegian funding for research infrastructure in Svalbard is invested both in laboratories and research stations that require researchers to be present and instruments that download data regardless of presence. - These investments should be better utilised, says Auditor General Per-Kristian Foss.

Published 9/29/2014 11:00 AM

Document 3:13 (2013-2014) The Office of the Auditor General's investigation of the utilisation of research infrastructure in Norwegian areas in the Arctic was submitted to the Storting on 29 September 2014.

The Storting has emphasised that Norway shall be a leading polar research nation. Norwegian research activities and Norwegian research bases in Svalbard shall also serve as means for supporting national interests in Svalbard and achieving various goals in the Arctic. In addition, Norway has a long tradition of research in Arctic waters.

Relative citation rate is a common measure of research impact. The audit shows that in 2012 Norway ranked No. 17 of 22 nations in polar research in the Arctic. Concerning Svalbard research in isolation, Norway ranked 6th out of 15 nations for publications from 2005 to 2009. The audit shows that there is room to utilise important parts of the research infrastructure significantly better, including the fact that several of the installations have considerable spare capacity. The number of registered Norwegian research days in Ny-Ålesund has fallen by 20 per cent since 2011.

- The Ministry of Education and Research should consider measures to increase Norwegian research activities in Ny-Ålesund, says the Auditor General.

A research vessel's functional lifetime is estimated to be 30 years. The audit shows that four out of five Norwegian research vessels operating in Arctic waters, are above or near their functional life span. A ship's increasing need for maintenance leads to longer periods where the ship cannot be used in operations. Beyond the new ice-class vessel currently under construction, there are no plans for replacing the vessels.

- This may eventually have negative consequences for e.g. Norwegian marine research and monitoring of climate change, says Foss.

The audit also shows a lack of sufficiently good systems to ensure and check that the collected research data is made accessible to others. It is important that the Ministry of Education and Research and other ministries follow OECD guidelines for better sharing of scientific data.

- However, the Research Council's efforts to develop requirements for making research data accessible is an important step toward better utilisation of the infrastructure, says Foss.

The Minister of Education and Research sees that there is room for improvement and writes in its reply that the relevant ministries and users of the infrastructure will continue to work on this.m

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