How can we reinvent polar research in France? | Polarjournal
“We start from the principle that it is essential to involve the people who live in the Arctic regions right from the conception of the research project”, Anne Choquet, teacher-researcher in polar law. Image: Julie Boiveau / ISBlue

This week in Brest, a meeting of researchers shows that the scientific community is rethinking its approach to polar issues.

“Of course, researchers need to cooperate with other researchers, but they also need to work with society, other institutions and companies…” explained Anne Choquet, a professor and researcher in polar law at the Institut Universitaire Européen de la Mer, yesterday on the sidelines of a research meeting on Arctic maritime resources in Brest (France). “I work a lot on tourism, if I don’t talk to the tourism operators it’s not enough.”

Last year, Anne Choquet and her colleagues from the Amure laboratory at the Institut Universitaire Européen de la Mer launched an unprecedented initiative in France. They seek to “federate different types of players”, “have different profiles”: “associations, companies, the general public”, she recalls during the discussion. Polar research in France is undergoing a major change of direction.

“There is a growing recognition of the need to involve the users and sovereigns of these spaces,” says Melina Kourantidou, organizer of the meeting and an economist specializing in Arctic fisheries at the Amure laboratory. “We’re trying to change the way research used to be set up, ideally we’d have to formulate questions by listening to people’s needs, a transdisciplinary mode, but it’s a challenge.”

“In line with what we discussed during the workshop, it all depends on the position you take, whether from an academic, entrepreneurial or community point of view. For example, on the one hand, cruise ships bring in money, but on the other, they disrupt small communities. Sometimes, when a large ship arrives in Greenland or Canada, there are no toilets for people getting off the ship. Companies are sometimes forced to open small stores to cater for their customers. This doesn’t really correspond to the local culture and resources, and there’s something artificial about it that needs to be resolved, in addition to the environmental problems. One of the challenges is to reconcile the stakeholders in conflict with the problems that tourism can generate”, says Melina Kourantidou, economist at the Amure laboratory. Image: Camille Lin

At this meeting, the word transdisciplinary was not always defined in the same way, whether you were an economist, a political scientist, a biologist or a physicist. What’s not easy to define for researchers is not easy to define for non-scientists either. “In Brest alone, there are institutions involved in research, logistics, marine cartography, associations and technology companies, each with their own habits,” adds Anne Choquet.

This chair aims to create discussions that would never have taken place otherwise, and to understand the difficulties faced by companies so as to integrate them into the academic approach. “For example, when it comes to tourism, it’s all about cooperation between associations that might be tempted to say ‘we’re banning tourism’, researchers who observe and study these activities over a long period of time, and economic players who have a commercial approach,” she explains.

France is one of the Arctic Council’s observer countries. It is interested in the policies that are being put in place, and has certain interests in fishing, oil exploitation and tourism, as well as scientific and academic diplomacy. In maritime law, French expertise is an asset for building a sustainable model in the Arctic. But for a non-Arctic country, it need to forge links to work properly with local communities and include their interests.

“The difficulty is access to the field and the legitimacy of the research. There’s this idea of overgrazing that’s becoming more and more common, and we’re seeing villages and communities where several teams asking the same questions come and go over the course of the year, so it’s essential to behave more responsibly and create relationships of trust over the long term”, Anne Choquet reminds us.

Camille Lin, Polar Journal AG

Brest’s harbor is a benchmark for ship repair, and Ponant cruise ships make technical stops between Antarctica and the Arctic, as do ice-breaking LNG carriers. This natural coastal shelter is home to the French Navy’s nuclear submarines and the oceanographic vessels of the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer), which sail up to Greenland. The French Polar Institute also pilots its actions from this city. Image: Lesbats Stephane / Ifremer

Learn more about this topic:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
error: Content is protected !!
Share This