Polar Research Process

Programme level support

The programme level refers to larger national or international operational initiatives that include projects by several research groups. The programme can be inter-, multi- or transdisciplinary. The Swedish Polar Research Secretariat provides the operational resources, alone or through an international partnership. The programmes can, for example, revolve around a broad scientific question that unites the field work of several research projects to contribute to the knowledge base. They can also be linked through common geographical areas of interests.

In 2020, the Polar Research Secretariat launches a new approach to programme level support under the name Polar Research Process.

Polar Research Process

The Polar Research Process (PRP) will become a regular recurring process within the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat’s (SPRS) support at the programme level. The purpose of the support at the programme level is for SPRS to be able to plan and offer participation in larger and more complex field operations, based on the interests of the Swedish research community. 

The PRP has seven stages and means that field operations are tied to large-scale research themes that are developed by researchers together and in collaboration with the SPRS. The purpose of these research themes is to increase the scope and interest in Swedish polar research, to encourage collaboration across disciplinary boundaries and to increase the availability and use of field data. 

To further increase the utilization of Swedish polar research, a synthesis report with a clear link between research and society will be produced at the end of the process. In addition to the support through PRP, researchers, as before, can also apply for operational support at the project level, the scope of which corresponds to the need for an individual researcher or research group project. 

Questions and answers regarding the Polar Research Process

What is the Polar Research Process?

The Polar Research Process (PRP) is a regular recurring process within the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat’s (SPRS) support at the programme level. The purpose of the support at the programme level is for SPRS to be able to plan and offer participation in larger and more complex field operations, based on the interests of the Swedish research community.

The PRP means that field operations are tied to large-scale research themes that are developed by researchers together and in collaboration with the SPRS.

What support can I seek from the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat within the PRP?

We do not provide grant funding, however, other types of support are offered. Within the framework of the research theme decided within the PRP, the SPRS provides access to polar research infrastructure through the icebreaker (I/B) OdenAbisko Scientific Research Station and the Wasa and Svea research stations in Antarctica. Also, it is possible to receive operational support in the form of transport, personnel, equipment, food, security training and communication in the field.

I/B Oden – for ship-based research, I/B Oden is the most important platform. It is a very capable icebreaker that has been to the North Pole on numerous occasions. All basic infrastructure is provided and managed by the crew and the SPRS’s staff, such as winches, cranes and more. Some sampling equipment is also provided, such as CTD and some sensors. Specific measuring instruments and research equipment are provided by the research projects in close collaboration with the SPRS. To access I/B Oden within the PRP, your project must fit in within the current research theme and the geographical location Oden is planned for.

Abisko Scientific Research Station – an easily accessible station where researchers can work in a subarctic environment with varied nature, both in topography and geology, as well as in climate. In Abisko, continuous climate measurements are made that researchers can access. There are also several research cabins in the Abisko area.

Wasa and Svea – research stations in Queen Maud Land in Antarctica. At Wasa there are, among other things, snowmobiles and transportable living quarters (arks) that can be used for fieldwork.

Does my project need to be part of a research theme to qualify for I/B Oden?

No, there is still the opportunity to go with I/B Oden via project applications. However, there is probably a greater chance to get access to I/B Oden if your project fits into a research theme within the PRP. The theme also dictates which geographical location I/B Oden goes to during an expedition.

How is the PRP linked to timetable Oden?

For IB Oden, long planning horizons apply. Therefore, both preliminary and decided expeditions are planned for several years to come. It is envisaged that the research themes decided within the PRP should constitute the main planning for timetable Oden. However, in the Oden timetable, it is possible to include expeditions outside the PRP, such as those carried out in the form of service exports where another country leads the expedition.

Is there a timetable for the Wasa research station in Antarctica?

Yes, timetable for Wasa (and Oden) can be found on the page Timetable for expeditions.

Who can apply for support from the SPRS?

Researchers and doctoral students who are affiliated with Swedish universities, research institutes and authorities with research assignments can seek support for research projects that promote Swedish polar research.

What is meant by research theme in the PRP?

A research theme describes the overall focus of the research projects that are included in the current theme. Several field operations are linked to a research theme that is developed by researchers together with the SPRS. The intention is to encourage collaboration across disciplinary boundaries and that the research will result in a synthesis report that describes the benefits for society.

How is a research theme determined?

First, an open call is held where researchers are asked to submit broad thematic research proposals within the PRP. These are further developed together with other researchers during one or more workshops. Finally, the thematic proposals are ranked by an expert group appointed by the SPRS. Nominations for the expert group are made both by the SPRS and the research funding bodies. The expert group can consist of both national and international researchers as well as the SPRS’s staff who are able to assess the feasibility within the framework of available infrastructure.

What do we mean by fieldwork and non-fieldwork-based research, respectively?

Fieldwork based polar research means that the researcher is out in the field and takes samples, measurements or doing observations. For fieldwork research, the SPRS can provide support in the form of infrastructure, logistics, personnel, and equipment. We also offer different courses for researchers who are going out into the field.

Non-fieldwork research is done in the lab or at the computer, then our support is more about research outreach and giving access to our network, both nationally and internationally.

Can I seek support outside of PRP?

Yes, you can apply support for a research project that is not part of a research theme within the PRP. Read more about support at project level and support to a minor extent (SIMO). You can also apply to conduct research at the Abisko Scientific Research StationAccess Abisko is a special initiative where researchers can come to Abisko to conduct research within a research theme for a three-year period, the purpose of which is to promote collaboration between research groups.

How is it ensured that the emphasis of “research to policy” does not lose the curiosity-driven research?

An important result of PFP is that it should lead to scientific articles. The synthesis report provides a scientific basis for decision-makers, which may include references to further research.

How long does it take between step 1 (theme suggestions) and 5 and 6 (field and non-field research)?

It is years between these steps. How many years depends on the priority order (step 2) for a theme. The first expedition within the PRP is intended to be held in 2022, that is, two years after the announcement of a thematic proposal.

What is the difference between step 5 (field research expedition) and step 6 (non-field research)?

Step 5 includes research that needs our infrastructure to be implemented. Step 6 includes research that desires collaboration within the theme but is not in direct need of being in the field under the direction of the SPRS.

How are research project selected based on excellence?

Excellence for each research project will be ensured as approved projects have received funding through research funding bodies who use peer-review in their selection. The SPRS decides the thematic proposals based on the assessment of expert groups in which the participants in 2020 were nominated by VR, Formas and the Space Agency.

How does the Secretariat ensure that there is no conflict of interest in the expert groups that rank themes?

We apply rules regarding conflicts of interest that are in line with the rules that research funding bodies apply in assessment processes. For example, we have looked at the rules used by Formas (assessment process) and SSF (policy regarding policy conflicts of interest).

Does the Secretariat offer communication support for selected research themes?

The Secretariat has two communicators who help with outreach in our channels, mainly social media, our newsletter Polarnytt and the web (polar.se). We collaborate with communicators at other universities and institutes to spread news. Sometimes we write press releases, these often refers to news about expeditions. We can also help with simpler video and image editing if the material can be used in our channels. We do not offer photography or filming during an expedition, nor do we have camera, video equipment or drone for lending.

As far as the synthesis report is concerned, we provide an editor, finance the lead author, and arrange the activities necessary for the writing process.