International scientific dialogue in the Arctic
The International Science Initiative in the Russian Arctic (ISIRA) has been working for 25 years. It was established back in 1993 as part of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC).
The leadership of the ISIRA and IASC determined the priority sectors of actions: planning international research programs to resolve key issues in the Russian Arctic; organizing a forum for cooperation in bilateral projects; helping research groups to get access for work in the Russian Arctic; and consulting on finance and project research.
Today the group includes 14 delegates, including representatives of the scientific organizations in Russia (Russian Academy of Sciences, Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute), Canada, Finland, Germany, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Despite the changes concerning the global political situation, the regional scientific cooperation in such an important region as the Arctic is being preserved, and is also developing quite actively in certain areas.
An example of this development is the successful organization of the first open extended meeting of the group in 2014. The group united about 60 experts from 23 countries to discuss current development matters and joint research projects in the Russian Arctic during the Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW-2014).
The new extended meeting was held at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, USA, in 2016, at the same time as the meeting of the Arctic Council. The gathering was attended by 55 participants from 19 counties, who discussed international projects held in the Russian Arctic. They also proposed the establishment of an additional IASC and ISIRA office in Arkhangelsk.
In March, the meeting was held in a more narrowed down format in Prague, but the participants discussed not only the possibility to expand the group by attracting all 23 IASC member countries, but also by holding an additional autumn session in Moscow, which took place between November 7-8 at the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
It was attended by 58 experts, scientists, representatives of indigenous peoples and scientific plus educational organizations from the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Norway, the US, Japan, Germany, Finland, Canada, France and Sweden. The Russian regions were represented by participants from Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Yakutia, Yamal, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan as well as Tuva. Such a geographical range allowed not only discussing the development issues of the group structure, but reviewing and expanding the ISIRA goals and organizing a joint international field expedition along the Northern Sea Route in 2020 plus difficulties and success of the international scientific cooperation not only in the Russian part of the Arctic, but in the entire macro-region.
The next meeting will be held as part of the POLAR-2018 conference on June 18, 2018, in Davos, Switzerland. The full information about the conference is available on the website https://www.polar2018.org.
By Yulia Zaika, Geographical Faculty of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, ISIRA Secretary.