At Greenland Science Week, researchers from across fields met to foster new collaborations | Polarjournal
More than 300 scientists have gathered in Nuuk fort he Greenland Science Week conference. Image : Emil Nørgaard Stach

Usually, researchers are segmented into their respective fields of study. Last week at the Greenland Science Week conference in Nuuk, more than 300 scientists met across a different segmentation: their shared geography. This led to a transfer of knowledge across fields and, the organizers hope, to new interdisciplinary collaborations. 

Law professors, geologists, medical researchers, astronomers, anthropologists, and a lot of different branches of biology. The list of specialities among the scientists gathered in the Katuaq Cultural Center in Nuuk on November 8th and 9th was long. 

More than 50 of them had been given a chance to present their research to the rest in short segments during the Greenland Science Conference, part of the longer program of the Greenland Science Week. 

Múte B. Egede, Greenland’s head of state, welcomed the participants to the conference. Image : Emil Nørgaard Stach

But, while their fields of research differed widely, all participants had one thing in common: their research, in one way or another, was centered on Greenland. This led to an important transfer of knowledge across fields and meetings between people who would not otherwise meet. 

“Of course, the conference and all its talks and presentations were an important part of the week. But for me, the highlight was the coffee breaks. The small conversations and collaborations that start here are really what makes Greenland Science Week special,” Mie Winding, head of The Greenland Climate Research Centre, who were among the organizers of Greenland Science Week, told Polar Journal.

Collaboration on Nuup Kangerlua

Greenland Science Week is a biennial science conference taking place mainly in Nuuk, but with events happening in the towns of Kangerlussuaq, Sarfannguit, and Sisimiut as well. This year, more than 300 people from 16 different countries took part in the conference. 

And during previous editions of the conference, some of the informal coffee-break encounters did in fact turn into large, cross-field research projects. 

“An example of a collaboration that started at a previous conference is the use of Nuup Kangerlua (Nuuk’s fjord) both in the past, present and future. Through Greenland Science Week, we (The Greenland Climate Research Centre) suddenly had a chance to talk to the National Museum of Greenland and other stakeholders in town. This allowed us to view the fjord not only biologically but also from the point of view of history and tourism,” Mie Winding said.  

Synergy, progress, and breakthrough research

Time will tell which new research projects will blossom from the seeds planted at Greenland Science Week 2023. Mie Winding, in her interview with Polar Journal, gave an inkling of a project that may grow larger in the months and years to come. 

In a post on LinkedIn, accompanied by a photo of her and four other researchers, she highlighted the differences in their fields of research. “Climate change, vision problems, tourism, foreign and security policy, and anthropology… You wouldn’t think that we had anything in common… BUT. This photo represents the essence of Greenland Science Week for me.”

“Research across disciplines, respect, collaboration, laughs, community. These are all people I enjoy working with. People I respect deeply! People whose research I respect and admire. People who all focus on the right dissemination of their research and who find it important that research returns to society. We share a passion for Greenland, knowledge, and dissemination. We are all part of the administrative group of Greenland Science Week because we believe that research across disciplines can create synergy, progress, breakthrough research, and can break down siloed research. As a society, we are facing lots of challenges and together we can find solutions. Moving forward, we have to think outside the box! This is something Greenland Science Week is creating a platform for!”, she wrote before emphasizing the positive outcomes that come from cross-field collaboration such as the creation of synergy, progress, breakthrough research, and the breaking down of siloed research.

To Polar Journal, Mie Winding explained her LinkedIn post like this: “These are all researchers I respect a lot and researchers I enjoy working with. I may not start a collaboration on children’s eyesight anytime soon, but learning about each other’s research is really important nonetheless.”

But, while she did not plan to collaborate with child vision researcher Nick Duelund, who won the Paasisavut research dissemination competition earlier this year, she revealed that future collaborations with two other researchers on the photo may, in fact, be on the horizon. Namely, tourism researcher Carina Ren and anthropologist Rikke Becker Larsen, both of Aalborg University in Denmark. 

Whatever the outcome of that possible collaboration, Mie Winding is sure that new, interesting research projects will emerge from Greenland Science Week 2023.

“It is at conferences like these that first encounters that later turn into big research projects happen,” she said.  

The next Greenland Science Week will take place in 2025. 

Ole Ellekrog, PolarJournal

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