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Impressed with Norwegian climate research

The conclusions of a new large-scale evaluation of Norwegian climate research are good news for Norway as a whole and for Norwegian climate research groups in particular.

Climate researchers cited extensively internationally

Norwegian climate scientists are the world’s most prolific in terms of publications per capita. In Norway, the number of research articles on climate research being published is climbing faster than in any other research field. In addition, the number of Norwegian researchers serving as authors for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group reports is very high.

The international citation rate for Norwegian articles on climate research is far above average, indicating the excellent reputation of Norwegian climate research and its international reach and impact.

“The evaluation has given us many good reasons to be proud of Norwegian climate research,” says Director General of the Research Council of Norway Arvid Hallén.

A model to take pride in

The evaluation report cites the expertise built up in connection with the development of the Norwegian Earth System Model (NorESM) as the core of Norwegian research on the climate system. The model is used among other things to generate climate scenarios, and NorESM-related activities have brought Norwegian researchers to the international forefront. The IPCC is using the NorESM in preparing its next report.

“The development of the Earth System Model is a good example of how Norwegian research groups can successfully join forces and make great strides. This project has received stable, long-term funding, and the evaluation report points out just how important this has been,” explains Mr Hallén.

High-quality climate change and social science research

For the purpose of the evaluation, climate research was divided into three thematic areas: the climate system and climate change; impacts of, and adaptation to, climate change and variability; and institutions and instruments for response to climate change.

According to the report, research on the climate system and on the impacts of climate change are the areas in which Norway is strongest. Social science-related climate research has emerged as a field relatively recently in Norway. Despite this fact, the report concludes that the research is of high calibre and carries significant international impact.

“The conclusion that Norwegian climate system research is world class came as no surprise, but it was very pleasing to read that Norwegian climate change research in the disciplines of ecology and population studies is so highly viewed. It is also noteworthy that social science-related research, which has only really taken off in the past few years, has already made its mark internationally,” says Mr Hallén.

Photo: Shutterstock According to the report, research on the climate system and on the impacts of climate change are the areas in which Norway is strongest. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Positive steps for the future

The evaluation committee identifies a number of concrete research needs in each thematic area of the report.

The committee also provides recommendations on how to organise climate research activities in the future. Among other things, the committee recommends that researchers are given greater latitude to define research questions themselves and suggests designing funding announcements that are more open to independent researcher projects across a broader range of thematic priority areas.

“The Research Council will give considerable weight to these recommendations when designing the new climate research programme. A key question will be how to make the next programme better than the existing one. By issuing less restricted calls the new programme may be able to incorporate an even greater number of innovative projects,” states Mr Hallén.

The programme Climate Change and Its Impacts in Norway (NORKLIMA) will be concluded in 2013, and the new programme needs to be in place by then. This autumn various boards at the Research Council will be collaborating to decide how to structure the new programme. The recommendations in the evaluation report represent important input in this process.

Quality is threatened

The evaluation report emphasises that reliable, long-term funding is essential to maintaining the strong research community Norway has today. The report also recommends that Norway further develops areas in which research quality is already high, while at the same time bolstering activities in a variety of new disciplines within the social sciences and humanities.

“Quality, breadth and interdisciplinarity in research are crucial to solving climate challenges,” says Mr Hallén, who does not see how these can be achieved with the amount of funding available today.
“The current level of funding is not enough to maintain the quality of the research being conducted today, let alone expand to achieve the necessary breadth which is recommended the new white paper on climate as well,” he asserts.

Nevertheless, Mr Hallén sees a ray of hope: the white paper on climate published this spring promises a continued escalation of funding in the field of climate research.

“The signalled increase in funding will provide the necessary conditions for conducting broad-based, high-calibre climate research in the years to come. Climate change is one of the world’s most pressing problems. The evaluation report clearly states that Norway has outstanding researchers in several disciplines, which puts our country in a position to solve major social challenges and make a significant contribution to the global effort,” concludes Mr Hallén.

The evaluation committee’s main recommendations:

The evaluation committee formulates six main recommendations and identifies a number of steps necessary for their implementation (please see the evaluation report for a complete description):

  • The Government should establish a clear and coherent national strategy for climate research and its funding. 
  • The Research Council of Norway should develop a new integrated long-term climate research programme, incorporating all relevant components. 
  • Build on strengths and develop capacities where Norway currently lacks sufficient scientific expertise. 
  • Ensure societal relevance as well as inter- and transdisciplinarity in research. 
  • Emphasise collaboration and cooperation as a basis for successful climate research. 
  • Prioritise outreach and stakeholder interaction.
About the evaluation:
In spring 2011, the Research Council of Norway appointed a committee of international experts to evaluate Norwegian climate research. Professor emeritus Thomas Rosswall chaired the committee.

The evaluation report provides an up-to-date overview of Norway’s position in the international climate research landscape. The report also provides recommendations on how to organise and prioritise activities to ensure that Norwegian climate research is aligned with the future needs of society.

The evaluation committee has taken a thematic approach and has examined the players in Norwegian climate research and the research landscape at the overall level, not at the level of individual research environments.

The committee is responsible for the content, scientific assessments and recommendations in the evaluation report.

Kolonne 1

The evaluation committee:
The international evaluation committee was led by Professor emeritus Thomas Rosswall of France, and was comprised of the following members: Senior Manager Michelle Colley, ICF International, Canada; Professor emeritus Bob Dickson, CEFAS Lowestoft Laboratory, UK; Professor Katarina Eckerberg, Umeå University, Sweden; Professor emeritus Eigil Friis-Christensen, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark; Professor Joyeeta Gupta, VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Professor Gordon McBean, University of Western Ontario, Canada; Professor Harold Mooney, Stanford University, USA; Dr Sanna Sorvari, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Finland.

Senior Researcher Antje Klitkou at the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) served as secretary to the committee.



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