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Connecting Science with Society

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - EU-PolarNet (Connecting Science with Society)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2020-06-30

The Polar Regions are sentinels of climate change and human resilience and they are also a proven bastion for international cooperation in research and nature protection. In contrast to lower latitudes, datasets from the Polar Regions are still insufficient to understand and effectively predict the effects of change on our climate and society. This situation can only be improved by an integrated scientific approach, a high degree of coordination and closer cooperation of all actors on an international level.

Therefore, the overall objective of EU-PolarNet has been to establish an on-going dialogue between stakeholders and scientists to increase mutual understanding and identify new ways of working that will deliver economic and societal benefits. The results of this dialogue should be refelcted in an Integrated European Research Programme (EPRP) co-designed with all relevant stakeholders and coordinated with the activities of polar research nations beyond Europe. The EPRP is accompanied by a feasible implementation plan which provides a set of key recommendations for addressing existing and forthcoming scientific and logistical needs.

EU-PolarNet ended on 30. June 2020. The project has been a central plank of the EU´s Arctic Research efforts as stated in the integrated European Union policy for the Arctic (JOIN (2016) 21). EU-PolarNet provided 54 deliverables and accomplished three milestones. In addition, EU-PolarNet took over the coordination of the EU Polar Cluster which was not foreseen in the original work plan. Thus, EU-PolarNet fulfilled all its task and actually exceeds its originally planned work.
EU-PolarNet was based on a collaborative and three-phased approach that makes use of synergies among the different activities needed to reach the objectives.
The first phase provided the background information necessary for the research planning and the stakeholder dialogue. Important results of phase 1 were:
• The development of an international cooperation strategy (D1.6)
• A report on key questions in polar research and a prioritisation of these (D2.2)
• An inventory of existing monitoring and modelling programmes (D2.3)
• A survey of existing polar research data systems and infrastructures (D3.1)
• A European Polar Infrastructure Catalogue (D3.2)
• A stakeholder map identifying the most important stakeholders (D4.5)
The second phase included the research planning incl. stakeholder consultations and infrastructure optimisation work. Important results of phase 2 were:
• A strategic analysis of the different monitoring and modelling programmes and related infrastructures (D2.5)
• Five white papers addressing priority questions in polar research (D2.8)
• A survey of existing use of space assets by European polar operators (D3.3)
• A survey of polar commercial infrastructures (D3.4)
• Data management recommendations for polar data systems (D3.5)
• A gap analysis on the technical and operational requirements for satellite operations in polar research (D3.6).
• A report on needs, gaps and opportunities of stakeholder consultations (D4.14)
The final phase of the project focussed on the development of the EPRP and the white papers. Important results of phase 3 were:
• A roadmap for the optimisation of monitoring and modelling programmes (D2.6)
• A European Polar Research Programme (D2.10)
• A white paper on European polar infrastructurew including an implementation plan for the EPRP (D3.7)
• A white paper on European polar data accessibility (D3.8)
• A white paper on stakeholder engagement on polar research (D4.15)
EU-PolarNet enhanced the coordination of European Polar research to provide an unified European voice to decision makers and to provide evidence-based policy advice. It provided ad-hoc written replies on policy-related questions, identified experts for assessments, published documents for policy makers, organised events at conferences that were visited by policy makers and invited policy makers to policy briefings and a Townhall event in Brussels.
All results of EU-PolarNet were disseminated via the EU-PolarNet website, the projects newsletter, its social media channels and on workshops organised by EU-PolarNet. Important deliverables such as the Infrastructure catalogue and the five white papers have been published as professionally designed brochures available as hard copies and as pdf for download. A summary for policy makers for the five white papers has been produced and distributed as hard copies to policy makers at relevant events and the 2nd EU-PolarNet policy briefing. A brochure informing on the outcomes of the four international stakeholder workshops has been recently published. The EPRP and the white papers on infrastructures (D3.7) and stakeholder engagement (D4.15) will be published as high-quality brochures soon.
EU-PolarNet transferred all research prioritisation outcomes directly to the EC for exploitation as calls in Horizon 2020. The projects results have also contributed to the 2016 Arctic policy of the EU and the last two Arctic Science Ministerial Meetings and will be used to update the EU Arctic policy currently under development.
EU-PolarNet involved numerous European and international researchers and stakeholders in all its activities. This has substantially increased the scale and ambition of European cooperation in Polar Research.
In terms of coordinating access and interoperability of Europe´s polar infrastructure, EU-PolarNet has achieved that the international polar community convey agreed priorities which shall define the development of new and interoperable instruments or a better access to infrastructure. The infrastructure catalogue and the white paper on infrastructures are vital steps to increase the coherent and efficient use of European resources.
EU-PolarNet´s cooperation with the EC was instrumental for the implementation of the latter’s polar research agenda related. The European Polar research community has strongly benefited from this close cooperation which is reflected in numerous polar calls in Horizon 2020. Informed policy advice as performed in EU-PolarNet allowed the EC and other decision-makers to identify and support relevant research themes, and to develop and implement effective policies in response.
A main impact was to find out what are the societal needs for future polar research and how to ensure that society is involved in future research and benefits from it. D4.15 shows how societies in Polar regions and beyond should be included in polar research and how they will be influenced by new solutions driven by research and ways to tackle the changes they are currently facing.
The EPRP development process revealed the importance of exchange and interaction with stakeholders to define research priorities directly beneficial to society. Judging from the communication events that have already been organised to present the EPRP, one can anticipate that the potential of the EPRP in terms of providing answers to current society needs and expectations can be very high. The actual impact will of course depend on the European capacity to implement the EPRP. The interest which was demonstrated by the national funding agencies and the EC representatives during the EPRP webinar suggests that the impact of the EPRP may extend beyond the identification of research questions, by proposing ways to mobilise energy for their actual implementation at the national and European levels.