Kick-off for Svalbard Arctic Earth Observing System (SIOS)

Kick-off for Svalbard Arctic Earth Observing System (SIOS)

Top image: The UNIS aurora station, the Kjell Henriksen Observatory, is one of the research infrastructures which forms the basis for the SIOS observation platform. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS. 

The Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System (SIOS) is now underway. The EU has funded 4 million Euros for the preparatory phase, which officially kicked off in October. UNIS is one of the key partners in this project, in charge of the future SIOS Knowledge centre.

19 November 2010
Text: Eva Therese Jenssen

The overall goal of SIOS is to establish an Arctic Earth Observing System in and around Svalbard that integrates the studies of geophysical, chemical and biological processes from all research and monitoring platforms.

The SIOS initiative is part of the roadmap for the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). With EUR 4 million secured from EU for the preparatory phase, and additional funding from the Norwegian Research Council, the project was launched with a kick-off conference in Oslo last month. The preparatory phase will run from October 2010 through 2013.

Why Svalbard?
The SIOS initiative was launched back in 2008 by UNIS, the Norwegian Polar Institute and the Research Council of Norway. Two years on, SIOS is in the preparatory phase, where an overview of the existing research infrastructure in Svalbard is the main objective, alongside establishing frameworks for organization, administration and funding.

Climate change impact will be most distinct in the High Arctic and the ecosystems are believed to be the most vulnerable to climatic changes. Svalbard has year-round access for scientists, with Longyearbyen being the node for research activities. UNIS is a natural organization in such respect, providing both research and education, logistics and fieldwork in the natural sciences for people from more than 25 nations.

Svalbard has over the years attracted research organizations from all over the world and the archipelago hosts today extensive research infrastructure. This infrastructure forms the basis for the observation platform that SIOS aims to be.

In the preparatory phase, a survey of all relevant infrastructure on Svalbard will be done, and identification of what is lacking in order to establish observation systems for marine, ice, atmospheric and terrestrial conditions.

New knowledge centre
The primary objective of SIOS is to develop an optimized observational infrastructure which can support advanced Earth System models and provide near-real-time information on Arctic change.

– Efficiency, international cooperation, new knowledge and minimal impact on a vulnerable environment. This is how senior advisor at UNIS, Ragnhild Rønneberg, sums up the objective of the SIOS project.

– The ambition of SIOS is to ensure more efficient research, including more efficient use of research infrastructure, says Rønneberg who works full time with the SIOS project.

– Our goal is to improve cooperation between scientists nationally and internationally, and to ensure sharing of knowledge and data. It is important that scientists do not repeat each others research in Svalbard, and thereby we can lessen the impact on the vulnerable environment in Svalbard, Rønneberg says.

– No scientist should arrive in Svalbard and go into the field unless they have ensured that their research has not already been done by others, and they must guarantee that their data is made available to other researchers.

Part of the project is to provide a basis for establishing a joint knowledge centre in Longyearbyen. UNIS will be in charge of the integration of this work along with all the other partners of SIOS. However, Alfred Wegner Institute (AWI), University of Groningen, the Research Council of Norway and Svalbard Science forum have specific tasks in the work and will work more closely with UNIS than the others in this respect..

– The goal is to provide good educational opportunities in a fantastic research environment, and establish a centre where new and innovative knowledge is produced, and we are very pleased with the strong position of UNIS in the SIOS project, Rønneberg says.

Beyond Norway and EU
The SIOS project has broad support, with 26 partner institutions from 14 countries.
SIOS has received overwhelming support from the Norwegian research community – and all research institutions with a presence in Svalbard are partners in the project.

But this is not only a Norwegian project, major research organizations both within and outside the EU, are involved.

– The exciting aspect of SIOS is that it is an EU project, but it also encompasses countries outside Europe, with Russia, China, Japan, and the U.S. also onboard, says Rønneberg.

The project is divided into nine work packages. Norwegian institutions have responsibility for six of them, while Germany, Poland and Italy are responsible for the others.

SIOS – institutions
Full partner

Research Council of Norway NO
Norwegian Polar Institute NO
The University Centre in Svalbard NO
Alfred Wegener Institute DE
Institute of Geophysics – Polish Academy of Sciences PL
National Research Council of Italy IT
Natural Environment Research Council UK
Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute of Roshydromet RU
Norwegian Space Centre NO
Aarhus University – National Environmental Research Institute DK
Finnish Meteorological Institute FI
University of Groningen NL
Polar Research Institute of China CN
French Polar Research Institute FR
Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute – Korea Polar Research Institute KR
Polar Geophysical Institute – Russian Academy of Sciences RU
Institute of Oceanology – Polish Academy of Sciences PL
Stockholm University SE
University of Bergen NO
University of Tromsø NO
Norwegian Meteorological Institute NO
Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center NO
Institute of Marine Research NO
Norwegian Institute for Air Research NO
Andøya Rocket Range NO
Research Organization of Information and Systems – National Institute for Polar Research JP


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