The highlight of 2016 was undoubtedly the first-ever UArctic Congress, hosted by St Petersburg University in September. The UArctic Congress 2016 brought together our members, partners and scientists from across the globe, which provided unique networking opportunities with such a wide range of Arctic actors and stakeholders. Over 450 participants representing 200 institutions from more than 20 countries took part. The Congress also featured a science section with over 250 oral and poster presentations.
UArctic held all of its organizational meetings at the Congress including the Council, the Board, the Rectors’ Forum, and the Student Forum. Rectors from UArctic member institutions had the opportunity to meet with the Board, UArctic Thematic Networks and most importantly the representatives of the Student Forum. These meetings produced broad discussions on how circumpolar higher education, networking and cooperation can be improved. The Student Forum featured strong representation from our Student Ambassadors, both from the initial set and most recent appointees. The final Congress Declaration, as well as the response from the Student Forum, are available for download from the UArctic website.
We are already hard at work planning the next UArctic Congress, which will be held in Oulu and Helsinki, Finland in September 2018. This event is strongly linked to our continued close partnership with the Arctic Council during the Finnish chairmanship. As Finland has chosen education as one of its chairmanship priorities, the Thematic Network on Teacher Education for Social Justice and Diversity in Education will be featured prominently in the cooperation.
UArctic’s strengthened focus on research cooperation continues to be a dominant theme. The Arctic Science Summit Week in Fairbanks in March 2016 saw the launch of the UArctic Research Infrastructure Catalogue, an online database of our members’ facilities. This tool promotes science collaboration between members, and makes the best use of limited resources. UArctic also presented the first set of baseline research analytics reports at the UArctic Congress, done in cooperation with Digital Science, Über Research, Altmetric and Elsevier. The reports are available online on the UArctic website.
Seven new members joined the UArctic network in St Petersburg, with continued strong growth from North America and non-Arctic states. Trent University, University of Colorado, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of North Dakota, Churapchinsky State Institute for Physical Education and Sports, Korea Polar Research Institute, and Universität Hamburg were voted in at the Council meeting.
We also added six new Thematic Networks, expanding the breadth of issue-based research cooperation across UArctic. The list of networks now includes Arctic Coastal Communities for Sustainability, Arctic Economic Science, Arctic Safety and Security, Language Documentation and Language Technologies for Circumpolar Region, Sustainable Arctic Resources and Social Responsibility, and Sustainable Production and Foraging of Natural Products in the North.
UArctic strengthened its leadership by welcoming three new Vice-Presidents to the network. Previous Council chair Pål Markusson (UiT The Arctic University of Norway) was appointed as our first Vice-President Mobility in late 2016. In early 2017, long-time Vice-President Research Kari Laine (University of Oulu) was succeeded by Arja Rautio from the same institution, and our new Vice-President Academic Michael Castellini (University of Alaska Fairbanks) replaced John Eichelberger (also of UAF). UArctic’s renewed leadership also led the development of our new 2017-2020 Strategic Implementation Plan that will guide UArctic’s work in the coming years.