Florian, what are the main activities of your thematic network?

-  Mostly we concentrate on annual courses for PhD students which we organize on the base of our partner universities. The next one will start in two weeks in Yakutia, Russia. Twenty students from several universities will take part in the course and this is our upper limit. Actually we received more applications from students than we could admit. It’s a good sign confirming that our activities are recognized and demand. The course itself is a combination of class lectures held by our international lecturers’ team and field trips. This time we will visit diamond mining industry objects, among them is the diamond kimberlite pipe “Mir”, one of the biggest in the world. The most important thing for us is not see it as touristic attraction but meet the people who do the real job.

You have partners from Canada, Alaska, Norway, Greenland and Russia, it must be difficult to communicate efficiently with everyone, how do you interact?

-  We do not use something very sophisticated, of course there is an e-mail exchange, we have our own blog, web site and use RSS option for distribution of our news. We also cooperate effectively with Scott Forrest, UArctic director for information services, and UArctic research office in Arkhangelsk.

What kind of challenges do you have working in this international network?

-  First of all, funding which is relevant for everybody. Currently we have the financial support from SIU and already plan a new application. Another challenge is that all of us work for thematic network on top of our jobs and need extra time for our activities, so thematic network is functioning on pure enthusiasm of its participants. It would be very good if we had a kind of “secretary” or administrator to care for organizational issues. One more thing which we are still missing are certificates for our PhD course graduates confirming their completion of the entire programme. Hopefully we will get them soon with support of UArctic International Secretariat.

What would you esteem as your main achievements?

Our activities are the bridge between research and education; besides we build a link between students and professors and help to strengthen connections between different researchers’ generations. Their articles, publications, other joint activities have a snowball effect and go in line with the main UArctic mission - empower the people of the Circumpolar North by providing unique educational and research opportunities through collaboration within a powerful network of members. Our work is also connected strongly with the extractive industries working group of IASSA, the International Arctic Social Sciences Association. This cooperation gives us the possibility to disseminate our research results more efficiently and get inspired with new ideas by our colleagues.

Could you give some tips to the new thematic networks’ participants, what is important to consider?

-  The main tip is to think first about the content then about bureaucracy, because everything in thematic networks comes from enthusiastic people who love what they do and ready to share it. Since thematic network is a grassroots initiative, organize things in the way you are most comfortable at, after that consider how to put it into structure. I’m very grateful to my colleagues Gunhild Hoogenson-Gjorv, Aytalina Ivanova, Jessica Shadian, Outi Snellman, Lars Kullerud and all co-organisers of our courses; our success would not be possible without them. Thematic networks are much more about the people and not about institutions. I wish we could have a greater appreciation of our activities from the universities’ leadership. Not every university uses all the advantages of thematic networks, which are very tangible examples of research cooperation on international level. So, we teach not students only, we teach each other and build our competences together.