SIOS - Large-scale project for international cooperation on infrastructure in Svalbard to continue
After four-years of preparations efforts are now underway to launch a new phase of the Svalbard Integrated Earth Observing System (SIOS), the large-scale collaborative research infrastructure project in Svalbard. The objective of the project is to gain a better understanding of the major environmental and climate-related challenges.
"The Arctic is where many of the major, more serious effects of environmental and climate change first become visible, and Svalbard is the most accessible area in the Arctic with well-developed research infrastructure. This is why it is important to continue the SIOS project," states Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council of Norway.
"I am also very pleased that the research institutions with infrastructure in Svalbard are willing to enter into more binding cooperation. That will enable more scientists to gain better access both to the infrastructure and to research findings, which is essential given that this is research that will have global significance," Mr Hallén adds.
A priority area in Norway and Europe
The SIOS project has been given high priority at the national level and is included on the Norwegian Roadmap for Research Infrastructure. SIOS is also included on the roadmap of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), and is thus identified as a large-scale research infrastructure of pan-European interest and of critical importance to Arctic research.
Since 2010, SIOS has received funding under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme. During the preparatory phase, a scientific and technical case for establishing SIOS was developed. Specific plans have been drawn up for how to organise the SIOS Knowledge Centre in Svalbard with detailed implementation plans and a plan for joint funding based on membership fees from all partner institutions.
In November, the Ministry of Education and Research announced that SIOS activities would be continued in an interim phase project.
During the interim phase, Norwegian and international partners of SIOS will prepare for the establishment of an SIOS Knowledge Centre and will create pilot versions of the core services that the centre will be delivering to the international polar research community. These services will include a shared system for facilitating access to observational data from Svalbard on the climate, environment and Earth, as well as better and more coordinated access to research infrastructure and logistics. The granting committee for research infrastructure at the Research Council approved the allocation of NOK 35 million to the interim project 5 May 2015.
The SIOS Knowledge Centre will primarily contribute to the establishment of a well-integrated observation system for Earth system modelling in Svalbard in which each partner contributes its existing nationally funded observations and monitoring programmes.
Svalbard is the most accessible area in the Arctic with well-developed research infrastructure, says Arvid Hallen. "With its global framework, SIOS will play an important role in the establishment of an integrated observation system for researchers in Earth System Science in our part of the Arctic," explains Mr Hallén.
Arvid Hallén believes that the SIOS Knowledge Centre will become an important arena for infrastructure cooperation for research actors on Svalbard that have permanent or campaign-based research infrastructure located there and in the adjacent ocean areas.
A national and international collaborative effort
Ten Norwegian institutions have been active participants in the SIOS preparatory phase. "The efforts of the Norwegian polar research community have been vital in getting plans for the SIOS Knowledge Centre into place," says the Director General. "The University Centre in Svalbard, the Norwegian Polar Institute and the Norwegian Space Centre have participated in the preparatory phase steering group, which has been particularly valuable."
Cooperation with international institutions has also been a key part of the project. "With partners from 14 countries and many non-European participants such as China, Japan, Korea and India, the SIOS project has faced some major challenges. The widespread participation shows that the SIOS research infrastructure is of global interest," Mr Hallén adds.
Laying the foundation for implementation
The interim phase project kicks off this spring. The consortium will be headed by two institutions with a permanent presence in Longyearbyen: the University Centre in Svalbard and the Norwegian Polar Institute. Several other Norwegian institutions, including the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, will play a key role in the project. And there are nine international institutions that have made a binding commitment to continue their participation.
"We anticipate that the Government will approve the establishment of SIOS, which means the organisation can be formally launched in autumn 2016. Until that time, the interim phase project will carry on where the previous phase left off, continuing to lay the foundation for establishing SIOS and developing pilot versions for some of the services the centre will be delivering," Director General Hallén concludes.
For more information about SIOS, see www.sios-svalbard.org.
Norwegian institutions participating in the preparatory phase:
- Research Council of Norway (RCN ' coordinator)
- Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI)
- University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS)
- Norwegian Space Centre (NSC)
- University of Bergen (UiB)
- UIT ' The Arctic University of Norway
- Norwegian Meteorological Institute (MET Norway)
- Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center (NERSC)
- Institute of Marine Research (IMR)
- Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU)
- Andøya Space Center (ASC)
The following organisations have made a binding commitment to participate in the next phase:
- Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Germany
- National Research Council (CNR), Italy
- Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI)/University of Helsinki, Finland
- Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)-British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the UK
- Polar Research Institute of China (PRIC), China
- French Polar Institute Paul-Emile Victor (IPEV), France
- National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR), Japan
- Institute of Geophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences (IGPAS), Poland
- Stockholm University (SU), Sweden