Publisert 10. januar 2023
Professor Hanne Hvidtfeldt Christiansen (pictured) at the University Centre in Svalbard studies how permafrost reacts to climate change. As half of the Arctic lies in Russia, researchers have had to manage without data from half the Arctic region since Putin invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Here she explains the gravity of the situation.
‘If permafrost thaws, methane and CO2 are released. Without data from Russia, researchers can’t be sure their models for what will happen to permafrost in the future are correct.’
The crisis is particularly felt in Svalbard due to its Russian presence. She says there will naturally be more collaboration in the Nordic region, and with Canada.
‘There’s a new iron curtain now. I don’t think things will change enough for me to interact directly with Russian researchers ever again. During the Cold War, with the blessing of politicians, US and Soviet permafrost researchers visited each other to improve relations. But I think we’re a long way off that, unfortunately.’
The surge in prices has meant that most people’s pay fell in real terms in 2022. Public sector employees got a pay rise of 3.8 percent, which was meant to be an increase in real terms of 0.4 percent. Instead, it was all eaten up by rising prices. Many employees in the private sector, however, received higher pay rises and large bonuses. The president of the Norwegian Association of Researchers (NAR), Guro Elisabeth Lind, points out that pay levels in the manufacturing industry will impact the challenging wage settlement in 2023. ‘The public sector has lost out to industry for a couple of years now. We can’t put up with this for yet another year,’ she says.
NAR particularly wants to prioritise postdocs in 2023 and perhaps increase the minimum wage for PhD candidates. Lind also encourages universities to use their own funds (such as what is saved when older employees retire) to provide extra money for local negotiations, even when the economic situation is so tight.
15.7 percent of staff in ordinary research and teaching posts were temporarily employed in 2022, down from 16 percent in 2021, according to the Norwegian Association of Researchers’ (NAR’s) calculations based on statistics sent to the Database for Statistics on Higher Education by universities and colleges. But NAR doesn’t accept there has been a real decline because postdocs, fixed-term contracts, part-time or “permanent temp” posts aren’t included in the statistics. ‘The overall picture is unfortunately unchanged. There is just a different focus,’ says NAR president Guro Elisabeth Lind.
It was announced on 25 November that the government is to grant 1.64 billion kroner to cancel the Research Council of Norway’s debt. This means that the Council can provide funding for the Researcher Project for Young Talents – FRIPRO in 2023. Without this government grant the next call for proposals would have come at the end of 2023, with funding allocated in 2024. Now, young researchers won’t need to wait a year to apply, while other researchers still do. The Research Council of Norway has announced funding of up to 240 million kroner, and the deadline for applications is 15 March.