Honor for polar research: AWI and MOSAiC win Arctic Circle Prize | Polarjournal
AWI Director Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius (left) and MOSAiC Expedition Leader Prof. Dr. Markus Rex accepted the Arctic Circle Award on behalf of AWI and MOSAiC at this year’s Arctic Circle meeting. Image: Lisa Grosfeld

The Arctic is an incredibly complex system that is influenced by numerous factors, both internal and external. It is also a very fragile system, despite its roughness. However, in order to protect this system efficiently, it must be understood for policy makers to create measures that will then be supported and implemented by society. The MOSAiC expedition of the Alfred Wegener Institute AWI was initiated and carried out for an extensive deepening of this understanding about the Arctic. And that has now been honored at the largest non-political meeting on the Arctic.

AWI and the MOSAiC expedition itself were awarded the third Arctic Circle Prize at the Arctic Circle meeting in Reykjavik this year. On behalf of AWI and the expedition, AWI Director Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius and MOSAiC Expedition Leader Prof. Dr. Markus Rex accepted the award from Arctic Circle Chairman H.E. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. The award recognizes the extraordinary contribution of the expedition itself and the AWI, which had spearheaded it, to a better understanding of the Arctic and the impacts of climate change in the region. “The Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany is a pioneer in international Arctic research,” H.E. Ólafur Grímsson said in his speech. “With the MOSAiC expedition, it has coordinated and led an unprecedented project that takes Arctic research to a new level. It combines excellent research with providing targeted knowledge for our social, political and economic actions.”

The award to AWI is at the same time an award for international polar research.

Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius, Head of AWI

This is the first time that science and an institution have been honored by awarding the prize to AWI and the MOSAiC expedition. The two previous prizes had each been awarded to a politician. The first time the Arctic Circle Prize was awarded was in 2016 to the former Secretary General of the UN, H.E. Ban Ki-moon. He was thus honored for his role in the Paris climate conference, to which he had invited the states and at the end of which the climate agreement had been reached. Three years later, another politician, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, followed as a laureate. He was also honored with the award for his efforts at the Paris Climate Conference, his chairmanship of the Arctic Council and ocean protection campaigns. The AWI and MOSAiC thus join an illustrious company. “It is a great honour for us to be included among the Arctic Circle Award winners,” said Prof. Dr. Boetius. The fact that the award now highlights research around the Arctic has special significance for both. “The award to AWI is at the same time an award for international polar research. Our role is to show how interconnected we are with the Arctic region in our human history and our future, and how much there is to gain on the path to sustainable stewardship of our planet Earth.”

For the Arctic Circle, which has been advocating for Arctic issues through dialogue among all stakeholders since 2013, the award to AWI and MOSAiC is a logical consequence of the efforts of both to increase knowledge and understanding about the Arctic. This is because the prize is awarded for outstanding contributions that help to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for the Arctic and all its inhabitants. And the MOSAiC expedition, which continuously collected data on a wide variety of research fields for more than a year in the Arctic, probably falls into this category. “The MOSAiC expedition was the moon landing for the Arctic, the largest polar expedition in history,” the organization wrote in its statement on the choice. And Prof. Dr. Rex, who had led the expedition and accepted the award on behalf of all participants, said: “Together, we have pushed the boundaries of polar research with this gigantic project. We now have a better understanding of the Arctic and its role in global climate change than ever before. (…) We are proud and grateful that the Arctic Circle recognizes these achievements.”

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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