The Arctic is undergoing rapid environmental changes as a result of climate change. The need to understand those changes and their impact locally and regionally is more important than ever. UK-based researchers produce high volume and high impact Arctic science.
An important element in maintaining that position is to ensure that researchers have straightforward, good value, safe and rapid access to Arctic research facilities. The UK Arctic Research Station in Ny-Alesund, Norway, has provided that access across a broad range of research themes – marine, terrestrial, glacial and atmospheric – since 1991. Political and public policy dialogue about Britain in the Arctic continues to grow. In its response to the 2015 House of Lords Select Committee Report: Responding to a changing Arctic, the Government acknowledged that whilst the UK’s Arctic Policy Framework: Adapting to Change, was the right one, more can be done to ensure the UK continues to take a leading role in Arctic issues that affect it. There is a strong case for NERC to strengthen its ‘National Capability’ portfolio at the UK’s only long term Arctic facility within the international research village of Ny-Alesund, in Svalbard, Norway (78 deg 55’30"N 11 deg 55’20"E). The facility, operated and managed by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), serves the entire UK NERC-funded research community and beyond. Over the last five years it has provided support to over 70 researchers and students, with over 1600 bed nights for researchers, and is directly acknowledged in over 30 publications. The facility provides dedicated support for fieldwork during the spring and summer season, including boating, through a Station Manager, as well as in-house laboratories. Accommodation and fieldwork support through the Station and the Station Manager is provided as part of the National Capability, with researchers usually only needing to meet their personal travel and subsistence costs. The Station provides access to a wide range of marine and terrestrial research sites in a part of the Arctic which is experiencing some of the most dramatic consequences of climate change, and where such change is expected to accelerate. This proposal will see the Station able to continue to provide that safe and effective access, and to deliver a new strategy to ensure that the Station meets the needs of users, including new and innovative research, over the next ten years. The proposal includes a small amount of funding for overall station administration and management in the UK and to ensure that the opportunities provided by the Station are promoted to as wide an audience of potential users as possible. More importantly, there will continue to be a dedicated Station Leader who will manage the facility itself and who will support researchers in carrying out their fieldwork, for example by driving the Station’s boat and ensuring their overall safety. The level of operational, business and scientific support has been consistently strong since the Station was established by NERC in 1991. We propose to build on this with a new strategic approach to capacity-building that takes advantage of skills and expertise within BAS and to develop a new administrative and functional model that is aligned to the high-quality operational support provided at Antarctic stations.