In 2019, the Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) organised a workshop with 25 participants (Svalbard alumni) in conjunction with the Svalbard Science Conference. This was the first step in engaging early career graduates from across disciplines who had a connection with research relating to Svalbard. What became clear from this two-day workshop was that there was a severe lack of coordinated opportunities for social science¬–focused research concerning Svalbard’s ever-increasing role in international affairs and Arctic geopolitics.
In 2021, we (the FNI, together with Nord University, UiT: The Arctic University of Norway and The Arctic Institute) are proposing an extension of this early career network, as well as some additional measures, to address this gap in Svalbard research.
Building on the participant list from 2019 and adding Svalbard-engaged, early-to-mid-career-scholars from the field of international relations, we will start with (1) a workshop/side-event at the FNI titled ‘Svalbard and Geopolitics’ in conjunction with the SSF in November 2021; this will be open to all conference participants. Thereafter, (2) we will build on the gathered group to formalise a network using TAI’s online platform, on which the participants can share news, information and opportunities of relevance regarding the geopolitics of Svalbard. Finally, (3) in autumn 2022, we will invite the network to a workshop and a public seminar in Svalbard. This will allow the network to consolidate further; the participants can communicate their work to a general local public, and they will be able to gain new insights into the political situation occurring in Svalbard.
In sum, these measures add up to one step leading to a more informed scholarly debate about Svalbard’s geopolitical characteristics and challenges. The specifics of Svalbard and related politics are often misunderstood, and because its role in international affairs is on the rise, this effort is both timely and relevant.