Analyzing Arctic Research Trends


Two recent UArctic reports analyze Arctic research trends based on funding data and bibliometrics. As a key finding, they affirm the significance of the United States as a major Arctic research nation.


By Lena Maria Nilsson, Research Project Coordinator, Arctic Centre, Umeå University


The US dominates in both total spending and the number of initiated projects, which is in line with previous reports compiled by UArctic. In addition, the US continues to lead Arctic research contributions in terms of publication numbers.

The findings presented in the two reports are expected to drive further discussions and inspire new avenues for future analysis. Experts emphasize the value of ongoing data utilization to deepen our comprehension of Arctic research, recognizing the importance of documenting these insights for posterity.


Arctic Research Trends: External Funding 2016–2022

The report on external funding is a follow-up on two previous UArctic reports from 2016 and 2017. The analyses are based on data from the Dimensions database, a commercial platform that organizes data from more than 600 different research funders. Despite its considerable scale, instances persist where funding information is not accessible. “Dimensions is a fairly new and growing database – one can never expect it to be 100% comprehensive,” explains Rickard Danell, Professor in Sociology at Umeå University and one of the authors of the report.

Natural science dominates

In terms of disciplines, research related to earth science (#1), environmental science (#2), and biological science (#3) dominates. However, among the top ten are also medical, social science, and humanities research, exemplified by subject areas such as health science (#4), education (#7), and human society (#9). “There are significant similarities between this and the bibliometrics analysis in which the dominance of natural sciences was also evident,” notes Dag Aksnes, a researcher at the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research & Education, Norway and co-author of the external funding report.

Varying funding systems

One challenge of interpreting results on research funding is that the funding systems vary between countries. Countries like Denmark, in which a large portion of the grant data is not available through Dimensions, are disadvantaged in the calculation, while countries like Sweden benefit with a high proportion of externally funded research included in the database.

Sweden is also one of the countries that has increased in importance for funding and initiating research in the Arctic in recent years. Together with the US, Canada, Russia, and Norway, it now belongs to the top five countries that have initiated the most research projects in the Arctic region since 2016. Previously, that position was held by the United Kingdom.

EU the second-largest funder

The European Union also stands out as a significant player in Arctic research. Though large in size, EU-funded research projects are typically few in numbers, which makes the EU only the eighth-largest initiator of research projects. Looking solely at the size of funding, however, the European Union is the second-largest research funder in the Arctic. The largest funder is the US, with Norway, Canada, and Sweden following the EU.

UArctic institutions important players

From a global perspective, the report shows that institutions affiliated with UArctic are important players in Arctic research. In most of the countries that are part of the Arctic Council, UArctic members dominate as initiators of Arctic research. The exceptions are the US and Canada where most Arctic research takes place in institutions outside UArctic, and Sweden where the initiative does not differ between UArctic members and non-members.

Read the report in full:

Arctic Research Trends: Bibliometrics 2016–2022

The report on bibliometrics systematically examines the sustained growth of peer-reviewed publications on Arctic research since 1996. The analysis is based on e.g. publication indicators from the Scopus and SciVal databases. Arctic research in this context is defined as research performed within, based on material from, or aiming to be applied within the maximum geographical area defined as the Arctic by international collaborations related to the Arctic Council.

A 22-percent growth in publications

The report indicates that the earlier growth of Arctic research in the period of 1996–2015 has persisted between 2016 and 2021, with a 22% increase in the volume of publications. Despite this surge, the growth rate remains in line with the global average across all fields. The United States continues to lead Arctic research contributions, followed closely by Russia, Canada, China, and Norway. “Notably, China has experienced the highest relative growth, ascending from the eighth to the fourth-largest contributor,” says Dag Aksnes, the main author of the report.

Earth and planetary sciences the main topic

The report underscores that earth and planetary sciences, encompassing disciplines such as geophysics, oceanography, geology, and cryosphere studies, dominate Arctic research. Additional research is conducted across various fields, with biology as the second-largest discipline.

United Kingdom with the highest citation impact

The citation rate is a measure describing the impact of Arctic research. During 2016–2022, Arctic publications have garnered slightly higher citation counts than the average for all Scopus publications, indicating an increasing scientific impact. The top five countries from a citation impact perspective differ somewhat from the result when counting absolute numbers. The United Kingdom leads in scientific impact, followed by Germany, the US, Denmark, and Sweden.

Every third publication international

Collaboration remains a hallmark of Arctic research, as evidenced by the substantial international co-authorship rate. In 2022, over 36% of Arctic publications involved collaborators from different countries, compared to the Scopus average of 22% across all fields. Interestingly, this trend varies significantly across countries, with several nations producing most of their Arctic scientific publications through international partnerships. Russia stands out as an exception, with only 11% of its publications stemming from foreign collaborations.

Read the report in full: